How to deliver online apprenticeship training during the coronavirus pandemic

Delivering online apprenticeship training

The coronavirus pandemic has had a transformative effect on the global economy, regardless of what industry or trade you work in - apprenticeships and training providers are no different. Almost every single business has had to fundamentally reconsider the way they go about work whether that be through physical measures implemented to enforce social distancing, wearing PPE in the workplace or simply through working from home (in our case, delivering online apprenticeship training). Some businesses lend well to this transformation where others unfortunately don't (just look at the impact upon the hospitality sector).

At Apprentify, the past 3 months could have been much worse. As a small business we were probably more likely to fold under these stressful times. I'd be lying if I said it hadn't crossed my mind! However, as the weeks have gone on I've come to really appreciate the model of work we've employed since day one and - whilst not immune to coronavirus - how thick skinned we have been to it's impact due to reacting quickly to the situation.

As part of our Curriculum team, our first consideration when the lockdown hit was how to adapt our training to suit "the new normal". Turns out, we didn't have to make wholesale changes where others did. We've been delivering online apprenticeship training and remote classrooms since day one which helped no end. We have however learned along the way some critical lessons to take our remote training from a good place to an even better one.

Here are my top tips for how to deliver online apprenticeship training in the (now saturated) online training market throughout the next few weeks and months.

Online apprenticeship training - 4 Top Tips

#1 Be empathetic to your learners

If you're reading this, chances are you work in the apprenticeship sector or are delivering online apprenticeship training. That means you almost certainly have learners who've been either made redundant or they've been furloughed. Furlough has been a testing time for all those affected - sometimes free time is too much (who'd have thunk it!) - if you're fortunate enough to have work as a distraction from the world as it is, have you ever sat back and truly considered what impact furlough has had upon your apprentices? Yes, they can continue their learning but that in itself isn't the carrot at the end of the stick that you think. Make sure your teams or delivery staff are regularly contacting your learners - and not always to chase them for overdue work! The impact upon our mental health and wellbeing will be the source of studies for years to come, so make sure you're doing your part to adapt your delivery model and style.

#2 Alter your delivery to what they need now

"The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry" is one of my favourite sayings. Adapted from a Robert Burns poem (not taken from the John Steinbeck novel of GCSE English fame), it highlights how even our best plans and intentions can often be rendered totally redundant. In our lifetimes, we've never been privy to something quite as "awry" as the impact of coronavirus. Your scheme of work - important as it is - can be flexible for the needs of your learner. You might have a masterclass session on SEO coming up, but is that what the learner needs right now? Are they in crisis management mode and need some support on maximising efficiency dealing with customer enquiries? Are they covering for the work of others who have been furloughed or made redundant?

Revisit your apprenticeship standard and don't be afraid to rethink your lesson plans. The impact you have now will never be forgotten - by employer or apprentice.

#3 Develop resilience through setting standards

I appreciate the irony in writing this in a pair of tracksuit bottoms (and a polo shirt, just incase someone calls me on Microsoft Teams!) but right now it's easy for your apprentices to let themselves go. That could be by forgetting to upload evidence to their ePortfolio, but perhaps it could be something more damaging. Keep their standards high by setting your standards high.

#4 Make your training more memorable than before

This isn't a time for stubborn pride. Right now, your training needs to have even more impact than it did 3 months ago. For those still in work, the phrase "time is money" has never been more real. For those furloughed, your training sessions might be the only human contact they have all day. You just don't know the impact those few hours with you and with their peers might have.

My advice is to really nail down your understanding of what learners need beforehand. Understanding their starting point, what their skills gaps are and gathering data from your delivery staff and apprentice line managers - reach out for quantitative and qualitative feedback and data to shape your courses and training. Have you something free you can offer them to add value?

Make your delivery count!

Right now, everyone needs ROI from their training more than ever. For trainers and apprenticeship providers this gives us a unique opportunity to add value to companies - adapting your delivery for online systems and platforms, whilst challenging, could well position you as the trainer they come back to once the world has returned to something like normal.

How to use technology to create 'Outstanding' classrooms! [3 top tips.]

Technology is no longer a "nice to have" in a classroom environment.

We are long past the days of classrooms merely containing a projector, your stock PowerPoint and whiteboards as our primary education tools. The modern pupil doesn't just have the distraction of technology to overcome, but expects to use technology in their education. Used properly, technology can support your delivery so effectively that it increases engagement, retention of information and overall quality of their experience. Technology in the classroom encourages student collaboration in group activities and is an excellent way of freshening up activities such as assessment for learning.

I've spoken previously about Apprentify putting technology first in our Digital Marketer apprenticeship, but with a few months behind our first cohort now I wanted to reflect upon how to use tech to create an 'Outstanding' classroom.

 

Encourage Collaboration

Using any kind of classroom, your students should engage in both individual and group activities to develop a wide set of skills. Research activities can be an effective way of getting a class to dip their toes into a topic and then collaborate in a shared project. Tools like Google Docs with it's shared editing features in the browser allows students to collaborate on work in real time and consolidate the research they've performed with others. Not only are you developing the skill of online research, but also developing wider skills in project management and professional contribution to a project.

Did you know?: Google Docs allows you to comment on individual sections and leave annotations in work for students to review. You can also tag students using their Google account so they receive notifications informing them the feedback is directly intended for them.

 

Ensure Privacy

Any experienced educator will be aware of the importance of being able to read the classroom and identify students who are struggling with the content covered in the class, which allows for direct intervention and support. However, students often are reluctant to share their struggles with the class for fear of embarrassment - this can naturally hinder progress if students are unable to express their struggle to their teacher and leave the session with a knowledge gap. Technology can support this so effectively - tools like Microsoft Teams or Slack are superb additions to a classroom to speed up resource sharing, but they can also be used to allow students to message you privately if they don't feel comfortable discussing a topic in front of the rest of the group.

Did you know?: Slack and MS Teams have a wide variety of plugins available to enhance the experience further, including video conferencing tools through the browser which can facilitate instant conversations with students in interactive formats.

 

Create to Embed

Let's be honest - didactic teaching is just the worst. It doesn't matter how engaging, how passionate or how energetic your tutor is - it's impossible to follow a topic when someone just talks at your for long periods of time. An excellent teacher will loosen their grip on a session and allow the pupils to teach themselves at points rather than explaining a subject to within an inch of it's life in the hopes it sinks in. Use technology to embed the learning by asking students to create something new. Digital marketing is packed to the brim with tools that students can use for free! Tools like Funnelytics or Moqups are fantastic visual tools that bring to life concepts for students - these can be contributed on by groups as well as worked on individually, and allow for instant assessment and discussion around the work.

Did you know?: Funnelytics allows you to map online and offline features in your company's sales funnel which is a great activity to visualise a learner's business if they have a combination of activities in their sales funnel that aren't exclusively online.

 

With Ofsted launching their new Education Inspection Framework for September 2019, Apprentify have recently gone through a large piece of consultation about the changes it makes to our programme and the renewed focus on curriculum quality. Our programme is designed with employers in mind, and at the heart of our curriculum is encouraging new technologies and widening a student's learning beyond the core of the apprenticeship.

 

Get in touch with us to find out how our ground breaking programme could boost your sales.

Three ways Brexit will impact apprenticeships in 2020

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Unless you've been hiding under a rock for the past three years to avoid any mention of the word Brexit (possibly my personal least favourite portmanteau of all time!). You may have heard that the United Kingdom is leaving the European Union on the 29th March (which at time of writing is in ten days time). We think. Infact, we're not sure if or when Brexit will happen. Luckily, it seems the Houses of Parliament have it all under control so there's no reason to panic... (more…)

3 tips on how to build a Digital Marketing Apprenticeship

Three tips to build a Digital Marketing apprenticeship

A digital marketing apprenticeship is to this day one of the most popular and enticing apprenticeship standards on the market. According to the most recent data from the ESFA, 3890 starts have been reported on the Digital Marketer standard since it's release in 2016. What isn't there to like? A career building websites, getting websites ranked well through SEO and creating content for social makes digital marketing a very appealing choice for school and college leavers who are native to these platforms.

When setting up Apprentify, it was a no-brainer to run with this apprenticeship. Ex-marketers running a digital marketing apprenticeship with a commitment to doing things the right way jumped out at me straight away when I joined the business late last year. With the memories of the 3aaa demise fresh in my mind, I wanted to join a business where we could do things right and with the right people. Almost every day we see bad news stories coming out in the FE sector, and from day one we made the commitment to doing things right.

Now that we're up and running, it's given us an opportunity to take a small step back and ask "What have we learned along the way?" A popular apprenticeship standard means the market is saturated. Every provider would love to run a strong digital marketing apprenticeship for the reasons listed above. How have we tried to stand out in what is a fiercely competitive market?

Here's my top three tips in how to build an effective programme:

 

Top three tips

Tip #1: Go beyond the Standard

Yes, the apprenticeship resonates with young people. That's nowhere near enough! Employers don't care if your talented young people really really really want to work on Facebook all day. They care that this new hire into the business is going to bring ROI. The standard is fantastic and the vendor qualifications are valuable, but the shift to Standards from Frameworks was all about making apprenticeships employer led. Work with your clients to understand what the market needs and wants, and build a programme that resonates with them.

At Apprentify, we made the very early decision to design a Path to Mastery going beyond the Digital Marketer apprenticeship standard offering training and qualifications that add value to employers.

 

Tip #2: Invest in eLearning

Bud powers our digital marketing apprenticeship

Technology should be driving your apprenticeships, not embarrassing them. Gone are the days where apprenticeships are solely work based and classroom taught. Portfolios have been online for years now - why are training sessions not catching up? With a wide variety of eLearning platforms out there, there's no excuse for your apprenticeship not to invest in making learning that isn't only engaging but facilitated by technology.

Our Digital Marketer apprenticeship is delivered blended through webinar sessions and a cutting edge apprenticeship management system called Bud (shameless plug) - apprentices now have a one stop shop for all of their eLearning and portfolio requirements to deliver effective apprenticeships

 

Tip #3: Get certified

All our digital marketing delivery staff are Google Analytics qualifiedUnfortunately, Digital Marketing as an industry likes to talk a big game. Just a quick scan on LinkedIn and you'll find experts, gurus, ninjas and growth hackers galore. Ultimately, the variety of quality in Digital Marketers leads to - to this day - questions, cynicism and suspicion about their value. To prove value, make sure you have certifications to back up your sales message.

All of our delivery staff have achieved their Google Analytics Individual Qualification, a minimum of associate CIM membership as well as achieving Prevent & Safeguarding qualifications as well.

 

Summary

If you're looking to stand out in a saturated market, delivering the same product as the next person will only go so far. You might undercut on price or offer a delivery model that is slightly more aligned with their needs but focus on the quality of your own product and ask yourself if you're doing the Digital Marketer apprenticeship justice.