At last week’s CIPD Early Careers and Apprenticeships Conference in London, 90 per cent of attendees said their organisations were not yet spending their full apprenticeship levy – despite the fact that, from May 2019, their levy funds will start to expire.
Attendees cited many reasons for this: the dramatic yet rushed change to how apprenticeships are funded and regulated in the UK; the challenges for directors of L&D and HR of getting line manager approval; issues with end point assessments and new standards still not being available. But one consistent barrier across all organisations was having to provide 20 per cent off-the-job training for every apprenticeship. This can be a daunting prospect, but there are increasingly flexible ways that the off-the-job requirement can be met, particularly where employers are using a blended learning approach that meets their needs.
As illustrated in the Department for Education’s guidance ‘Apprenticeship Off-the-Job Training: Policy background and examples’, there are three distinct styles of blended learning:
1. On Demand
The first example considers an ‘on demand’ style, giving learners the flexibility to access “high-quality videos, animations, check learning questions, quizzes, case studies and external resources” when it suits them. Designed to fit around their work commitments, this on-demand content would be supported by face-to-face sessions to consolidate learning.
2. Live Online
In contrast to the on-demand style, the ‘live online’ approach requires the apprentice to “participate in a dedicated weekly virtual forum with peers, where she can also access virtual seminars, academic resources and case studies, share experiences with peers and perform project work”.
The final example considers the benefits of an e-portfolio where the apprentice “builds up a portfolio of evidence through his assignments, reflective journal log, workplace observations and projects”.
So what – if anything – ties these examples of blended learning together?
While the styles are notably different, each example clearly states the learner, their needs and their subject matter. As you would hope, these factors are the driver behind creating the right type of blended learning that allows apprentices to thrive.
Organisations should consider these factors when choosing a delivery model. The beauty of blended learning is that there is no one-size-fits-all solution, giving employers the flexibility to both fulfil their organisation’s needs and access the full potential of their apprenticeship levy.
Mark Mckenna is managing director of Mindful Education.
Mindful Education specialises in media-rich professional courses and apprenticeships, delivered in partnership with colleges across the UK.