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Digital and Technology Solutions Degree Module Review

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Late 2019, my place of work offered employees the chance to undertake a modern apprenticeship. As an IT Professional, the opportunity presented to em was Digital and Technology Solutions or DTS for short. DTS is a degree level apprenticeship that looks to shape apprentices into professionals that can work in both Digital and Technology fields. Importantly for people like me, the apprenticeship doesn’t have an age cap, which permitted me to apply and secure a place. As the programme can be offered by various vendors that want to meet the apprenticeship standard (see here) various versions exist.

The programme of study I’ve undertaken is authored by QA Higher Education and has recently been through a re-validation cycle with their academic partner, the University of Roehampton. I’ve not bothered to review earlier modules as I was on the last cohort of the older programme. The current QA offering is viewable here.

The module that I’ve just completed (March 2022) is the kick-off module for Level 5 of the re-validated DTS Degree called Business Systems and Processes (BSP). The module focuses on IT Service Management (ITSM) and organisational business systems. It’s definitely been one of the most strategic modules so far, covering the following topics: –

  1. The organisation
  2. Stakeholder Analysis and Process measurement
  3. Project Definitions and the business case
  4. Documenting the “As-Is” state
  5. Documenting the “To-Be” state
  6. Analysing and validating requirements
  7. From business use cases to design
  8. Quality frameworks and future developments

The module assessment asks the student to demonstrate their understanding of the material through four tasks: –

  1. Module basics
  2. Documenting and explaining an existing process
  3. Detail two topics for improving this process and select one
  4. Compose an implementation plan for your preferred option

This module challenges the learner in ways that earlier level four modules do not. Its content is much more abstract and moves away from the technical grounding that the apprenticeship previously. BSP asks you to think about the wider systems ecology in your which work is done, and how current problems / processes can be modelled, captured and understood. You’ll then understand how this clarity can be built upon for making improvements and presenting them clearly. There was an opportunity to tie the content back to Software Development fundamentals, especially with UML or BPMN notation but thankfully this wasn’t taken.

For IT professionals that haven’t have much experience with ITSM frameworks, such as ITIL, COBIT, Lean or more, BSP offer a very macro-overview of how IT services are run, which might be challenging to some. Study that might help before this course is taken would be ITIL 4 Foundation as the concepts and the terminology overlap significantly.

For me personally, as an older apprentice, with several years of my career behind me, this module wasn’t altogether challenging, especially with my ITIL 4 Managing Practitioner background and experience. What I did gain from BSP was more insight into how to critically review and rate process maturity via frameworks such as CMMI or COBIT. BSP also emphasises the value of flow charts (whether BPMN or UML) during requirements elicitation and documentation. As with any experience the module has its strengths and weaknesses.

Module Good Points

  • One core text book, written by an established process analyst Paul Harmon, is an excellent resource that links to additional materials
  • Reading is evenly spread, which means you won’t encounter weeks where you need to read 5+ chapters
  • The academic staff / lecturers I worked with were definitely experts in the field and they ran engaging workshops
  • Draft assignment service was very useful for adjusting the final submission
  • Each week’s learning has two quizzes to further facilitate understanding of the topic at hand

Module weak points

  • Of the two weekly quizzes, I only found one to be of any use. The quiz that encourages students to build a weekly glossary is a very “parrot and repeat” process that lifts definitions from a book with no explanation. Personally, I found these offered little value to my learning
  • Mapping weekly learning to specific assessment tasks is hard to do. In earlier modules it was easy to plan ahead by matching assignment tasks to their counterpart weekly learning. In BPS the distribution of fundamental points across the entire term made preparation a bit more challenging

In all, the module fleshed out and expanded my knowledge and thoughts I’d gleaned elsewhere. It’s an appropriate introduction to Level five of the DTS degree, with a challenging but manageable assessment. On specific technical knowledge, learning of a BPMN standard, which is maintained by the Object Management Group will be useful. Locating a free modelling tool (Camunda) that easily models BPMN

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