This year, the focus is all on apprenticeships. Classroom FE is going to be cut drastically as part of the governments ambitious plans to deliver 3 million apprenticeships within the next 5 years.
Retention will be a key driver for all providers, perhaps more so now than in previous years. Providers will no doubt turn to technology to ensure that learners are tracked and progression is monitored. We will see an influx in the use of commercial e-portfolios, e-assessment tools and a whole plethora of new web technologies not yet coded.
The market will be extremely competitive as software houses up and down the country try take their slice of the e-apprentice pie.
But where does this leave the humble VLE? Will Moodle and other Open Source platforms still have a place amongst commercial tools dedicated towards apprenticeships? (Tools that come preloaded with assessment criteria, outcomes and standards).
The short answer is YES. Open source can still play an important role in this space. But it requires some initial heavy lifting from the provider, however it will save lots of money if you are prepared to “roll your own“. No, it’s not as easy as buying an off-the-shelf solution, but in the long run, it’s worth it and gives providers flexibility and complete control.
Moodle can track progression using grades and demonstrate competencies using learner outcomes and badges, it can even track attendance and serve as an e-portfolio. Its open database allows for unlimited reporting capabilities so learners can be tracked and providers can be notified when learners are in danger of dropping out.
When optimised for mobile, it’s an invaluable tool in the workplace for on-demand learning and evidence gathering. Another Open Source tool, Big Blue Button could be integrated and used for assessor visits to reduce travel time and associated costs, and for regular checkups with learners, again all centrally tracked and stored in Moodle.
By using a suite of integrated Open Source tools it’s possible to build a platform that is tailored for apprenticeships and bespoke to your organisation. There will only be a finite amount of apprenticeship funding available, so reducing operating and license costs by maximising free open source tools just might help stretch the budget that bit further. So before you go in search of the next best tool, don’t forget to evaluate what’s right in front of you. All it takes is some careful planning and structured delivery.