Apprenticeship Delivery and Assessment – Some Recent Views

Two young people going through an engineering apprenticeship assessment with a more senior teacher.

While many of the UK government’s apprenticeship reforms are being welcomed, these changes are altering the vocational landscape in ways that are not yet predictable and there is uncertainty around how assessments will be run and funded. This was very apparent from presentations on the subject given at a recent Assessment Tomorrow conference, which TestReach was pleased to sponsor.

The one-day conference explored the use of technology to support, enhance and manage assessment and qualifications, and analysed the impact of these reforms on Assessment Organisations, professional bodies, learners, providers and the vocational sector. Seismic changes in the apprenticeship system, coupled with simultaneous advances in technology are altering the way Apprenticeship Assessment Organisations, providers and others approach both formal and informal assessment.

Mark Dawe, Chief Executive of the AELP (Association of Employment and Learning Providers) put forward the position that the apprenticeship changes in the UK would transform the brand of apprenticeships. Instead of employers demanding University degrees, he believes graduate recruitment will reduce in favour of apprenticeships. Dawe also expressed surprise at the lack of technology being used in this sector and felt it was time to encourage AELP members to look at the range of technology available. He felt this would help address the expectations of ever-improving assessment standards, against a backdrop of funding decreases, as without going online it is increasingly difficult to maintain quality. He pointed out that there is a big challenge facing organisations regarding exam delivery methods and that many types of assessment are actually suited to being delivered remotely. “Without technology to support a blended learning and blended assessment approach, it won’t work” he added.

John Winkley, Director of Alphaplus Consultancy, noted that organisations still running MCQ tests on paper, should have abandoned that method of delivery at least 10 years ago and that it was time to “marry the technology.” Analysing the advantages of technology for assessment, Winkley pointed out that the most important benefit was the ability to give immediate feedback, closely followed by increasing the geographical reach of exams. Next he noted ease of marking, consistency and accuracy, and then flexibility and convenience. He continued by saying, “The main focus is making qualifications and assessment work better through the use of technology, but the big platforms are still difficult to deploy flexibly.” On this point, he said that organisations should be looking at options that offer remote invigilation, remote authentication and BYOD (Bring your own device).

Martyn Roads, Assessment Consultant with JISC, felt that “a lot of end-point assessments could be done remotely, but digital environments might make some learners uncomfortable.” This is an interesting point for technology providers, who must ensure that their exam and assessment solutions are intuitive and easy-to-use. It is also essential that exam-takers are given the means to familiarise themselves with the technology and the processes involved well in advance, to reduce anxiety levels on exam day.

It was great to hear some very interesting presentations and view points over the course of the day. Our big take away is that if technology is to help with apprenticeship assessment and delivery, systems need to have the flexibility to be used for formative assessment and end-point assessments, and have a simple interface that does not make candidates uncomfortable. If the system is flexible in this way, secure, provides fast results and feedback, and is cost-effective to use (irrespective of numbers of candidates taking part) this would provide a lot of value to AAOs and other training organisations. If suppliers can meet these needs, it will inevitably increase the use of technology in apprenticeship delivery, which based on views expressed at the event, would be a welcome advancement.

One area which is greatly simplified by use of technology is the speed of marking and results. Follow this link to learn more about the benefits of online marking.