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Case Study Focus:

  • Business
  • Degree apprenticeships

Learning focus:  

  • Evidencing competency
  • Reflection

Design focus:

  • PebblePad Workbooks & Templates
  • VLE/LMS integration

Taking it to the next level – adapting an existing approach

Newcastle Business School (NBS) has a global reputation for delivering some of the best business management education in the UK. NBS has been awarded double accreditation from the Association of Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB international) placing it in the top 1% of business schools worldwide. NBS won the prestigious Times Higher Education (THE) Business School of the Year award in 2015. This project took an existing use of PebblePad in the Degree Apprenticeship programme and looked at better ways to utilise the advantages of the system.

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PebblePad had already been introduced at the commencement of all Degree Apprenticeships within the Newcastle Business School. Towards the end of the 2018/19 academic year the PebblePad workbook had been used over a two-year period and the first cohort had just been introduced to their End-Point-Assessment workbook. It was an ideal time to reflect upon the progress so far and make any changes that were necessary to improve the way that PebblePad was being used. 



The 'Degree Apprentice Learning Journey' Ambition 

The existing use of PebblePad in the NBS Degree Apprenticeships was set up to support apprentices in their record-keeping and reflections on development. A workbook was used to collect custom PebblePad templates, used by the apprentices to record reflections on workplace learning, off the-job training and meetings. A second workbook supported the End Point Assessment (EPA) portfolio. While the overall picture from reviewing the process was positive, some problems were identified in relation to apprenticeship engagement with the process:

  • In many cases the apprentices were not completing their records.

  • There was an emphasis on reflective practice rather than the collection of evidence.

  • There was a significant work requirement to complete the EPA portfolio post-graduation. 

The overall aim of the redevelopment was to increase engagement and to reduce the workload required to complete the EPA process.


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PebblePad began to describe itself as a Learning Journey Platform rather than a portfolio platform and this change in thinking is echoed in the complete philosophical shift in the way in which PebblePad is now used in our Degree Apprenticeship programme.

The Solution

What was initially expected to be a few minor changes to the workbook developed into a complete philosophical shift in the way in which PebblePad was used. The apprentice’s journey was mapped out - from day one until the submission of the EPA portfolio. The journey focuses on the structured development of the range of knowledge, skills and behaviours (KSB’s). KSB’s are written into an apprenticeship ‘standard’ and must be demonstrated and evidenced in the workplace rather than in academic writing.

Each year of the programme has a workplace development module and once the journey had been mapped out, it started to inform the taught content of these modules. The focus had changed from the completion of a PebblePad workbook to a logical sequence of self-analysis, personal development and evidence gathering marked by supportive workshops and individual meetings.

  Our PebbleVision video, while not specifically about this case study, provides a brief overview of the pedagogical and pebblegogical   practices discussed here in this case study. 

The Individual Learning Plan (ILP) was introduced on all new and existing degree apprenticeship programmes in NBS. The ILP is a PebblePad workbook supported by a number of templates that take the apprentice through the processes of self-assessment, identification, planning form gathering and recording of evidence, and assessment and feedback. This process is repeated until all required evidence has been correctly recorded and assessed. Importantly, this process is commenced at the beginning of the apprenticeship and will be completed before graduation.

Integration with BackBoard Ultra allows the apprentice to access the relevant template from a Blackboard module with a single click and once completed, the template will automatically appear in the correct section of the ILP and is instantly available for assessors to review.


The PebblePad Difference

The use of deep-linking in Ultra and cascading tags in PebblePad significantly improved the user experience in relation to accessing and completing templates. The improved user experience reduced the incidence of problems experienced and the complexity of written guides.

PebblePad has helped the Newcastle Business School achieve these benefits ...

  • The improved workflow and user experience has reduced the support requirements.

  • The ability to customise and ensure that the design of the workbook (ILP) and the various templates meet the needs of the apprentice is a significant factor in the success.

  • The use of deep-linking from the Virtual Learning Environment (if available) significantly simplifies and improves the user experience.

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