E-portfolios and badges for the common good

I learned several things at the e-portfolio and identity conference (ePIC) 2014 that I attended 9th and 10th July.

1. People agree it’s political

The response to my presentation (What will we need to learn and have evidence for? on Slideshare) reassured me that many of the excellent people at the conference shared something like my sense that the world of learning, education, e-portfolios and open badges is more political now than it has ever been in the past history of this conference. It is not simply well-meaning educators helping “their” learners to a richer, more fulfilling education, learning and life (a great aim though that remains). It is, to me, increasingly about what kind of society we want.

Future Learners, new Opportunities and Technology

The wider CETIS community has often appreciated meeting up, with others sharing the same “special interests”, in “SIG” meetings. That kind of meeting took place, including old “Portfolio” SIG participants, on 11th Dec in Nottingham, and many interesting points came up.

The people who came to the meeting would not all use the label “portfolio”. We billed the meeting as exploring issues from the viewpoint of the learner, so neither institutions, nor providers of learning resources, were the focus. The e-portfolio community has indeed had the learner at the centre of thinking, but this meeting had many ideas that were not specifically “portfolio”.

Indeed, the main attraction of the day was Doug Belshaw talking, and leading a workshop, on the Mozilla Open Badges concept and technology. Badges are not in themselves portfolios, though they do seem to fit well into the same “ecosystem”, which perhaps may come gradually to supplant the current system of the established educational institutions monopolising the award of degrees, with those being necessary for many jobs. And Doug converted people! Several attendees who had not previously been convinced of the value of badges now saw the light. That can only be good.

For those with doubts, Doug also announced that the Mozilla team had agreed to introduce a couple more pieces of metadata into the Open Badges specification. That is definitely worth looking at closely, to see if we can use that extra information to fill gaps that have been perceived. One of these new metadata elements looks like it will naturally link to a definition of skill, competence, or similar, in the style of InLOC, which of course I think is an excellent idea!

The “lightning talks” model worked well, with 10 speakers given only 5 minutes each to speak. The presentations remain listed on the meeting web page, with a link to the slides. Topics included:

  • board games
  • peer assessment
  • students producing content
  • placement and employability

My own contribution was an outline argument of the case that InLOC is positioned to unlock a chain of events, via the vital link of employers taking non-institutional credentials seriously, towards “reinvigorating the e-portfolio landscape”.

So learner-focused learning technology community is alive and well, and doing many good things.

In parallel with the badges workshop, a small group including me talked over more subtle issues. For me, a key point is the need to think through the bigger picture of how badges may be used in practice. How will we differentiate between the likely plethora of badges that will be created and displayed? How will employers, for example, distinguish the ones that are both relevant to their interests, and issued by reputable people or bodies? Looking at the same question another way, what does it take to be the issuer of badges that are genuinely useful, and that will really help the labour market move on? Employers are no more going to wade through scores of badges than they currently wade through the less vital sections of an e-portfolio.

We could see a possible key idea here as “badging the badgers”. If we think through what is needed to be responsible for issuing badges that are really useful, we could turn that into a badge. And a very significant badge it would be, too!

The local arrangements were ably looked after by the Nottingham CIePD group, which seems to be the most active and highly-regarded current such group in UK HE. Ever since, under Angela Smallwood, Nottingham pioneered the ePARs system, they have consistently been in the forefront of developments in this area of learning technology. I hope that they, as well as other groups, will be able to continue work in this area, and continue to act as focal points for the learner-centric learning technology community.

Reviewing the future for Leap2

JISC commissioned a Leap2A review report (PDF), carried out early in 2012, that has now been published. It is available along with other relevant materials from the e-Portfolio interoperability JISC page. For anyone following the fortunes of Leap2A, it is highly worthwhile reading. Naturally, not all possible questions were answered (or asked), and I’d like to take up some of these, with implications for the future direction of Leap2 more generally.

The summary recommendations were as follows — these are very welcome!

  1. JISC should continue to engage with vendors in HE who have not yet implemented Leap2A.
  2. Engagement should focus on communities of practice that are using or are likely to use e-portfolios, and situations where e-portfolio data transfer is likely to have a strong business case.
  3. JISC should continue to support small-scale tightly focused developments that are likely to show immediate impact.
  4. JISC should consider the production of case studies from PebblePad and Mahara that demonstrate the business case in favour of Leap2A.
  5. JISC should consider the best way of encouraging system vendors to provide seamless import services.
  6. JISC should consider constructing a standardisation roadmap via an appropriate BSI or CEN route.

That tallies reasonably with the outcome of the meeting back in November last year, where we reckoned that Leap2A needs: more adoption; more evidence of utility; to be taken more into the professional world; good governance; more examples; and for the practitioner community to build around it models of lifelong development that will justify its existence.

Working backwards up the list for the Leap2A review report, recommendation 6 is one for the long term. It could perhaps be read in the context of the newly formed CETIS position on the recent Government Open Standards Consultation. There we note:

Established public standards bodies (such as ISO, BSI and CEN), while doing valuable work, have some aspects that would benefit from modernisation to bring them more into line with organisations such as W3C and OASIS.

The point then elaborated is that the community really needs open standards that are freely available as well as royalty-free and unencumbered. The de jure standards bodies normally still charge for copies of their standards, as part of their business model, which we see as outdated. If we can circumvent that issue, then BSI and CEN would become more attractive options.

It is the previous recommendation, number 5 in the list above, that I will focus on more, though. Here is the fuller version of that recommendation (appearing as paragraph 81).

One of the challenges identified in this review is to increase the usability of data exchange with the Leap2A specification, by removing the current necessity for separate export and import. This report RECOMMENDS that JISC considers the best way of encouraging system vendors to provide seamless data exchange services between their products, perhaps based on converging practice in the use of interoperability and discovery technologies (for example future use of RDF). It is recognised that this type of data exchange may require co-ordinated agreement on interoperability approaches across HEIs, FECs and vendors, so that e-portfolio data can be made available through web services, stressing ease of access to the learner community. In an era of increasing quantities of open and linked data, this recommendation seems timely. The current initiatives around courses information — XCRI-CAP, Key Information Sets (KIS) and HEAR — may suggest some suitable technical approaches, even though a large scale and expensive initiative is not recommended in the current financially constrained circumstances.

As an ideal, that makes perfect sense from the point of view of an institution transferring a learner’s portfolio information to another institution. However, seamless transfer is inherently limited by the compatibility (or lack of it) between the information stored in each system. There is also a different scenario, that has always been in people’s minds when working on Leap2A. It is that learners themselves may want to be able to download their own information, to keep for use, at an uncertain time in the future, in various ways that are not necessarily predictable by the institutions that have been hosting their information. In any case, the predominant culture in the e-portfolio community is that all the information should be learner-ownable, if not actually learner-owned. This is reflected in the report’s paragraph 22, dealing with current usage from PebblePad.

The implication of the Leap2A functionality is that data transfer is a process of several steps under the learner’s control, so the learner has to be well-motivated to carry it out. In addition Leap2A is one of several different import/export possibilities, and it may be less well understood than other options. It should perhaps be stressed here that PebblePad supports extensive data transfer methods other than Leap2A, including zip archives, native PebblePad transfers of whole or partial data between accounts, and similarly full or partial export to HTML.

This is followed up in the report’s paragraph 36, part of the “Challenges and Issues” section.

There also appears to be a gap in promoting the usefulness of data transfer specifically to students. For example in the Mahara and PebblePad e-portfolios there is an option to export to a Leap2A zip file or to a website/HTML, without any explanation of what Leap2A is or why it might be valuable to export to that format. With a recognisable HTML format as the other option, it is reasonable to assume that students will pick the format that they understand. Similarly it was suggested that students are most likely to export into the default format, which in more than one case is not the Leap2A specification.

The obvious way to create a simpler interface for learners is to have just one format for export. What could that format be? It should be noted first that separate files that are attached to or included with a portfolio will always remain separate. The issue is the format of the core data, which in normal Leap2A exports is represented by a file named “leap2a.xml”.

  1. It could be plain HTML, but in this case the case for Leap2A would be lost, as there is no easy way for plain HTML to be imported into another portfolio system without a complex and time-consuming process of choosing where each single piece of information should be put in the new system.
  2. It could be Leap2A as it is, but the question then would be, would this satisfy users’ needs? Users’ own requirements for the use of exports is not spelled out in the report, and it does not appear to have been systematically investigated anywhere, but it would be reasonable to expect that one use case would be that users want to display the information so that it can be cut and pasted elsewhere. Leap2A supports the display of media files within text, and formatting of text, only through the inclusion of XHTML within the content of entries, in just the same way as Atom does. It is not unreasonable to conclude that limiting exports to plain Leap2A would not fully serve user export needs, and therefore it is and will continue to be unreasonable to expect portfolio systems to limit users to Leap2A export only.
  3. If there were a format that fully met the requirements both for ease of viewing and cut-and-paste, and for relatively easy and straightforward importing to another portfolio system (comparable to Leap2A currently), it might then be reasonable to expect portfolio systems to have this as their only export format. Then, users would not have to choose, would not be confused, and the files which they could view easily and fully through a browser on their own computer system would also be able to be imported to another portfolio system to save the same time and effort that is currently saved through the use of Leap2A.

So, on to the question, what could that format be? What follows explains just what the options are for this, and how it would work.

The idea for microformats apparently originated in 2000. The first sentence of the Wikipedia article summarises nicely:

A microformat (sometimes abbreviated µF) is a web-based approach to semantic markup which seeks to re-use existing HTML/XHTML tags to convey metadata and other attributes in web pages and other contexts that support (X)HTML, such as RSS. This approach allows software to process information intended for end-users (such as contact information, geographic coordinates, calendar events, and the like) automatically.

In 2004, a more sophisticated approach to similar ends was proposed in RDFa. Wikipedia has “RDFa (or Resource Description Framework –in– attributes) is a W3C Recommendation that adds a set of attribute-level extensions to XHTML for embedding rich metadata within Web documents.”

In 2009 the WHATWG were developing Microdata towards its current form. The Microformats community sees Microdata as having grown out of Microformats ideas. Wikipedia writes “Microdata is a WHATWG HTML specification used to nest semantics within existing content on web pages. Search engines, web crawlers, and browsers can extract and process Microdata from a web page and use it to provide a richer browsing experience for users.”

Wikipedia quotes the Schema.org originators (launched on 2 June 2011 by Bing, Google and Yahoo!) as stating that it was launched to “create and support a common set of schemas for structured data markup on web pages”. It provides a hierarchical vocabulary, in some cases drawing on Microformats work, that can be used within the RDFa as well as Microdata formats.

Is it possible to represent Leap2A information in this kind of way? Initial exploratory work on Leap2R has suggested that it is indeed possible to identify a set of classes and properties that could be used more or less as they are with RDFa, or could be correlated with the schema.org hierarchy for use with Microdata. However, the solution needs detail adding and working through.

In principle, using RDFa or Microdata, any portfolio information could be output as HTML, with the extra information currently represented by Leap2A added into the HTML attributes, which is not directly displayed, and so does not interfere with human reading of the HTML. Thus, this kind of representation could fully serve all the purposes currently served by HTML export of Leap2A. It seems highly likely that practical ways of doing this can be devised that can convey the complete structure currently given by Leap2A. The requirements currently satisfied by Leap2A would be satisfied by this new format, which might perhaps be called “Leap2H5″, for Leap2 information in HTML5, or maybe alternatively “Leap2XR”, for Leap2 information in XHTML+RDFa (in place of Leap2A, meaning Leap2 information in Atom).

Thus, in principle it appears perfectly possible to have a single format that simultaneously does the job both of HTML and Leap2A, and so could serve as a plausible principal export and import format, removing that key obstacle identified in paragraph 36 of the Leap2A review report. The practical details may be worked out in due course.

There is another clear motivation in using schema.org metadata to mark up portfolio information. If a web page uses schema.org semantics, whether publicly displayed on a portfolio system or on a user’s own site, Google and others state that the major search engines will create rich snippets to appear under the search result, explaining the content of the page. This means, potentially, that portfolio presentations would be more easily recognised by, for instance, employers looking for potential employees. In time, it might also mean that the search process itself was made more accurate. If portfolio systems were to adopt export and import using schema.org in HTML, it could also be used for all display of portfolio information through their systems. This would open the way to effective export of small amounts of portfolio information simply by saving a web page displayed through normal e-portfolio system operation; and could also serve as an even more effective and straightforward method for transferring small amounts of portfolio information between systems.

Having recently floated this idea of agreeing Leap2 semantics in schema.org with European collaborators, it looks like gaining substantial support. This opens up yet another very promising possibility: existing European portfolio related formats could be harmonised through this new format, that is not biased towards any of the existing ones — as well as Leap2A, there is the Dutch NTA 2035 (derived from IMS ePortfolio), and also the Europass CV format. (There is more about this strand of unfunded work through MELOI.) All of these are currently expressed using XML, but none have yet grasped the potential of schema.org in HTML through microdata or RDFa. To restate the main point here, this means having the semantics of portfolio information embedded in machine-processable ways, without interfering with the human-readable HTML.

I don’t want to be over-optimistic, as currently money tends only to go towards initiatives with a clear business case, but I am hopeful that in the medium term, people will recognise that this is an exciting and powerful potential development. When any development of Leap2 gets funded, I’m suggesting that this is what to go for, and if anyone has spare resource to work on Leap2 in the meanwhile, this is what I recommend.

What’s in a Word(le)? Lifelong Learning and Work Based Learner experiences…

Overview of the work completed in the JISC Lifelong Learning and Workforce Development Programme

I’ve recently come to the end of working with the team supporting the JISC Lifelong Learning and Workforce Development Programme (LLLWFD) which ran from 1 March 2009 to 31 March 2011 and funded 13 projects.

I was involved in this work as part of our programme support of JISC activities, and the main support was provided by the Support Synthesis and Benefits Realisation (SSBR) team, who have been busily collating and digesting all the outputs and findings from the programme. I had the opportunity to provide feedback on draft final reports from the various projects in the programme, which surfaced the issues uncovered in the period of activity. There will be much more coming out of the programme in the next few months (and when it does I will announce it).

Several of the projects continued their work in the guise of a Benefits Realisation (BR) project, which basically applies the findings of the initial work and sees if they apply in another, perhaps wider setting or institution.

For anyone interested in work based learning, I would encourage you to have a look at these projects and their findings. I’ve provided summaries and links below; the project summaries are derived from the Final Reports from each project, and I have included a focus on the technologies and standards used.

Main focus

Lifelong Learning summaries wordle

Lifelong Learning summaries wordle

The wordle above is made up from all the project summaries and I think nicely highlights aspects of the programme, with it’s main focus obviously being Lifelong Learning and Work Based Learning, but with some diverse concerns investigated.

Lifelong Learning Technologies wordle

Lifelong Learning Technologies wordle

The technologies wordle above shows the technologies and standards used across the Programme. The Programme was not hugely technical in that it did not develop a great deal of new software or applications, but that was never the intention. It is in the deployment and effective use of existing technologies that a richer picture has emerged. The Programme work resulted in many interesting uses of technologies and successful integration of these with work based learners, in addition to exposing common issues that can occur in such initiatives and are more widely applicable, both to other institutions and also for campus based learners.

Many projects set out with an initial hypothesis which more often than not was proven. But it is often the journey that project staff and students go along that is the real outcome, and that can be quite difficult to capture. Also pertinent to future work are the things that didn’t go well, or not quite as expected, as is often the case through nobody’s fault. Economic climate, change in personnel, sod’s law; all have an impact. It is really useful (and interesting from my point of view when reading through the reports) to have an honest account of ‘what didn’t work’ – and these are often the pitfalls that others can try to avoid if they know about them.

Work based learners are indeed a group of learners that often require a rethink from the traditional norm. But it is a growing market, and one that we need to be geared up for. Naturally, projects set out to correct a genuine need or concern, and some have implemented their developments into standard practice, which is the desired effect as nobody like to see a worthy project run as a pilot and then end.


The main issues coming out of the Programme from a technologies stance can be summarised as:

1) Identity management – including employer access to institutional systems & different levels of access
2) Course information – needs to be held in a consistent format to allow interoperability (with XCRI being the suggested way forward)
3) Learner Access to information at a time when it suits them (in line with lifelong learning principles)

The project information below also links to a PROD page. PROD is a CETIS directory and monitoring tool for JISC funded projects. It lets you search for and quickly gather information about any of the projects in the system. It is used by CETIS to update our information about current and past projects that we support, with the comments on there being largely from a technologies slant. It is a development area in permanent beta stage but it may be of interest to look at the CETIS PROD page listing all the LLLWFD projects

Project Summaries

Each summary below includes:
Project Acronym & Longname, Lead Institution, Project website, Project Summary (derived from Final Report) Standards & Technologies, PROD entry for Project (CETIS)

Culture Campus Liverpool Portal, University of Liverpool
The project aimed to offer an enhanced and expanded service of information about CPD provision from HE and local cultural organisations to the creative/cultural industries – the Liverpool Culture Campus Portal, involving a large number of partners. The project started out with a challenging set of objectives, the main achievement being the development of a portal for the cultural sector to display CPD offerings which can accept automatic feeds which are XCRI-CAP compliant. Lessons have been learned throughout this process about the business process developments to achieve this, together with the necessary developments in technological systems and organising of information.
Technologies & Standards: XCRI
Prod entry: http://prod.cetis.org.uk/projects/CCliP

Co-generative Toolkit, University of Gloucestershire
Project website: http://resources.glos.ac.uk/tli/lets/projects/cogent/index.cfm
The project created an online resource that supports the development of co- generated higher education courses by universities and employers; using language and terminology which is familiar to employers – and the employees who would be acting as learners – whilst also satisfying the quality assurance requirements of higher education institutions.
The Toolkit produced contains four separate elements: Vocabulary Builder; Outcome Builder; Task Builder and Design Builder. These elements combined support the development of courses and allow learners to provide evidence to demonstrate that they have met the learning requirements of the course.
The Toolkit developed was far more flexible than was originally conceived and can be adapted for use with other higher education process, such as: accreditation of prior experiential learning (APEL); employer- based training accreditation (EBTA); quality assurance processes (e.g. validation); and general staff development (e.g. the creation of appropriate intended learning outcomes) The tool integrates with PebblePad.
Technologies & Standards: PebblePad, LEAP2A, ELLI, WSRP, IMS Enterprise, HR-XML
Prod entry: http://prod.cetis.org.uk/projects/cogent

Personalised systems supporting IPD and CPD within a professional framework, University of Hull
Project website: http://www.hull.ac.uk/cpd-eng/
This project aimed to integrate systems that support personalised initial/qualifying professional development (IPD) and continuing professional development (CPD), applicable to professional competency frameworks and enabling work-based learners to control and share their digital artefacts.
A Moodle plugin (MyShowcase) plug-in was created and piloted in HE and also FE institutions, with interest from various other sectors. It allows users to integrate learning evidence from a range of online sources to showcase for CPD, career planning, and lifelong-learning. Users can bring together Web 2.0 feeds and a range of other digital content to create rich evidence streams of their online content.
Technologies & Standards: LEAP2A, ePortfolio, XCRI, PebblePad, Sakai, Moodle, Skype, MyShowcase
Prod entry: http://prod.cetis.org.uk/projects/CPD-Eng

An e-Portfolio based Pedagogy for SMEs, University of Wolverhampton
Project website:http://www.wlv.ac.uk/ePPSME
The ePPSME project provided the HE sector with reusable models and resources for an e-portfolio based pedagogy to address the needs of SME based learners. The project adopted a participative action research approach through a series of design workshops and consecutive pilot study units to develop the use of an e-portfolio tool as a virtual learning environment and personal learning space to introduce and develop the learners’ reflective practice around targeted learning content.
Initial study units in the pilot subjects were based around a web-folio structure using three types of blog-based engagement: individual activity responses, group collaborative discussions, personal critical reflections. This approach ensures ease of use by utilising typical IT skills required for activities such as web-browsing and simple word-processing to avoid deterring learners who lack confidence in their IT competencies.
Technologies & Standards: PebblePad
Prod entry: http://prod.cetis.org.uk/projects/ane-portfo

Higher Education Lifelong Learning Opportunities, Leicester College
Project website: http://hello.lec.ac.uk/
The project aimed to tackle three important development issues:
a loss across the whole college of 65% of students’ social space, thus creating the need to provide an alternative in the form of a ‘virtual social space’. Also identified was a need to provide bespoke e-learning training opportunities for teachers and to actively engage with known pockets of inactivity with regard to e-learning across the college. Thirdly, to address a need expressed in Focus Groups to establish a ‘Higher Education (HE) identity’ among staff and students within an institution that is predominantly devoted to the delivery of Further Education (FE).
With a view to achieving these aims, two major developments were undertaken:
The use of a Moodle Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) to build a Higher Education Student Community Site. This innovation was of particular success with the part-time learners who were now able to carry out ‘keeping warm’ and formative assessment activities week to week, and to use the common room area for peer learning activities.
The adoption of Mahara, an open source e-portfolio tool to enable learners to build their own personal profiles, form groups and take ownership of their own space.
Technologies & Standards: Moodle, Mahara
Prod entry: http://prod.cetis.org.uk/projects/hello

Interactive Work-based Learning Environments, University of Westminster
Project website: https://sites.google.com/a/staff.westminster.ac.uk/iwoble/
The project exploited the institutional virtual learning environment (VLE, Blackboard) to establish simple models for the development of communities of support and guidance and to manage and administer the programmes; with a significant amount of administration being moved from paper based to online processes. In order to include employers within the institutional intranet and VLE the university’s identity management process was re-engineered to allow selective access to online systems.
Technologies & Standards: Blackboard, Netware, Elgg, Student blogs, Video
Prod entry: http://prod.cetis.org.uk/projects/interactiv

Middlesex University Skills and Education Planning Tool, Middlesex University
Project website: http://www.musket.mdx.ac.uk/
The project aimed to support employer engagement and workforce planning requirements by providing a tool intended to provide an integrated view of curriculum provision, both in employer based and higher education sectors of UK. This tool allows end users to import documents containing course descriptions from professional providers, employer specific training and HE, and provide a semantic similarity between the documents.
The work also investigated defining types of course information required to support employer-led learner route planning and the potential for exchange of this information (using a specification for the eXchange of Course-Related Information or ‘XCRI’) between various providers.
Technologies & Standards: XCRI-CAP, UML, Semantic Web, Jena2, OWL, Java API
Prod entry: http://prod.cetis.org.uk/projects/middlesexu

Partnership INvEstigations into Accredited Prior/Previous Learning, University of Plymouth
Project website: http://www.pineappleproject.org.uk/
This project developed a web-based tool to support staff through the management of an APEL claim. A desk study, staff survey, piloting and numerous formal and informal meetings led to the creation of the PINEAPPLE core builder which can be used to design and deliver an online APEL process for any institution. The project also produced a range of support materials that can be adapted for use in other contexts.
Technologies & Standards: AJAX, Javascript
Prod entry: http://prod.cetis.org.uk/projects/partnershi

Shared Architecture for eMployer, Student and Organisational Networking, University of Nottingham
Project website: http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/eportfolio/samson/
Improved the effectiveness of postgraduate student placements as a means of HE engaging with new employers supported by technology, including web services.
Validated the technology developed with not one but two different eportfolio systems and demonstrated the savings that can be achieved through shared services, developing lightweight applications and integrations of existing applications or services.
Technologies & standards: XCRI, LEAP2A, OPUS, uPortal, Desire2Learn, iWebfolio, SAML, Shibboleth, OWL, RDF, BPEL, HR- XML, ZXID
Prod entry: http://prod.cetis.org.uk/projects/sharedarch

Supporting Mentors and Resource Transformation, Buckinghamshire New University
Project website: http://bucks.ac.uk/employees/employee_services/fdlc/smart_project.aspx
The SMART project was designed to support mentors to overcome some of the difficulties they face in assisting work-based students who are severely ‘time-pressured’, by providing a specifically designed, accessible and supporting interface for inexperienced users of technology. Further aims were to develop the mentor’s role and improve learner engagement while promoting inclusion and collaboration. The research included reference to a selection of ‘Use Case’ scenarios. These involved the interface of mentors with technological modalities for enhancing provision delivery as used within two challenging work-based education programmes currently offered. SMART incorporated various advanced technologies (Podcasts, Vodcasts, Blogs, Game environments, On-line tasks) in an innovative learning environment and assessed the impact on mentor engagement and mentor use of technology-enhanced Learning.
Technologies & standards: Blackboard, WebEx
Prod entry: http://prod.cetis.org.uk/projects/smart

Technology Enhanced Learning for Workforce Development, University of Wales Institute
Project website: http://www.uwic.ac.uk/ltdu/telp.htm
The project aimed to identify sustainable models for technology-supported delivery of workforce development provision, and associated strategy and policy implications via developmental activity undertaken in different contexts. Two different work-based learning processes, Learning in Work, and Learning through Work were identified, as were transferable models of technology-supported delivery. Case studied were created to capture the experience of work based learners and use of technologies. Several good practice and additional ‘how to’ guides were created covering technologies such as Adobe Connect, Adobe Presenter, Luminosity, PebblePad, Wimba Create, Wikis and Blogs. A Work-Based Learning Mentoring Handbook was also developed alongside repositories with other useful resources. The e-portfolios were developed using the Blackboard Campus Pack plug-in XPO-XL.
The solutions developed are embedded in the participating programme areas and the process of stimulating additional impact through wider adoption is in progress.
Technologies & standards: Blackboard, PebblePad, XCRI, Adobe Connect, Video conferencing, Adobe Presenter, Luminosity, Wimba Create, Wikis and Blogs
Prod entry: http://prod.cetis.org.uk/projects/telwfd

Technology Enabled Learning Support for Training and Accreditation Recognition, University of Central Lancashire
Project website: http://www.uclan.ac.uk/schools/lbs/about/facilities_resources/telstar.php
The Project has developed technology enabled resources and tools to support work-based learning, working closely with employers and learning providers to develop a learning framework that allows learners to gain accreditation of both certificated and experiential prior learning (APEL and APCL). The underlying framework and support processes can act as a template for other schools and industry sectors. The project used PebblePad software with work-based learners, with PebblePad Webfolios to support the APEL process and negotiated learning at module level. A level/credit estimator tool assists with admissions and a mapping tool to match employer courses to credit/level has also been developed. A web-based portal for work-based learning provides information and guidance on work-based learning for employers, employees and academics. Customisable Open Educational Resources have been created and released through the JORUM repository and project repository. Course materials created are all SCORM compliant and packaged using Wimba Create (formerly Course Genie) with mini lectures created using Adobe Presenter.
Technologies & standards: LEAP2A, Pebblepad, Adobe Presenter, Wimba Create, SCORM, JORUM
Prod entry: http://prod.cetis.org.uk/projects/telstar

Workforce Engagement in Lifelong Learning, University of Bradford
Project website: http://www.brad.ac.uk/escalate/current-activities/jiscwell/
The WELL project designed, piloted, and evaluated a model for work-based learning (WBL) module/unit delivery and assessment which integrates technologies to support personalised learning whilst satisfying University accreditation and progression requirements. The model aims to aid sustainability of WBL courses, supporting continuous improvement by revealing key barriers and enablers in a programme’s learning and teaching process.
The team’s ‘Benefits Realisation’ project extends the WELL model by providing a model for HE providers to assess their maturity in embedding Work Based Learning programmes. Working at institutional, faculty and programme levels it includes a range of maturity criteria, level statements and indicators for assessing WBL maturity.
Technologies & standards: Elluminate, Pebblepad, Develop Me, Bradton, Blackboard
Prod entry: http://prod.cetis.org.uk/projects/well

List of projects (JISC page)

We’ve come a long way but …

I consider myself extremely fortunate indeed to work within an organisation, JISC CETIS, that is as progressive as it is, one that fosters a spirit of enquiry and in a collegiate environment where open, honest and frank exchanges are encouraged. Our funders, JISC in the words of Chief Executive Dr Malcolm Reed “are there to take the risks (with technology) institutions could not independently”. I’m involved with and support JISC activities that are highly innovative in the application of technologies within educational settings, professional, informed and enthusiastic colleagues surround me and work associates at the “bleeding edge” of education technology.

Independent of (but related to) my work in CETIS I have a senior board role with a large educational institution within the sector; this role exposes me to the “pragmatic challenges” facing institutions at a policy level and the role technology plays is supporting the “business” of the institution. The duality of the roles provides me with insight both into the benefits of the work we undertake for the sector and equally serves to highlight where impact in the sector is limited.

Two recent examples have emerged of the limitation of impact.

JISC recently published the highly regarded Designing Spaces for Effective Learning; which can be downloaded from http://www.jisc.ac.uk/media/documents/publications/learningspaces.pdf the publication highlights the good work being undertaken within the sector. The institution I am involved with used the principals highlighted to design a new learning space and indeed provided a case study to the JISC, which has been used in other JISC publications. To my dismay after a little over twelve months of usage the builders were in constructing walls and converting a large part of the space into a conventional “Student support Centre”. My initial enquiry as to why was largely treated with derision but further enquiry (Estates usage survey) revealed this (primary) space was not being utilized for teaching and learning.

Ofstead recently published policy guidelines relating to student safety (particularly in respect to the 14-19 agenda) and how these guidelines would be reflected in future inspections, the response of the institution (No doubt prompted by the MIS department) to lock down student (and tutor) access to all social software sites; problem solved at least from the regulatory perspective. Only a number of students had been using social web solutions as integral elements of their e-portfolio and reflective practice, from publicizing events on facebook through to using Blogs (wordpress) as reflective practice covering the period of study. Tutors I spoke to left with the problem of no access to students work for assessment purposes (Yes they could of course access the work via their own personal technology).

We encourage our students to use a variety of tools to support their learning; the concept of the Personal Learning Environment (PLE), has been developed around the notion of students own tools indeed government policy has gone to great lengths espousing the value of personalization as part of a rich learning experience. New work is also emerging around the concept of the distributed Virtual-learning environment.

I shouldn’t be surprised by either example they relate directly to the age-old adage that without supporting professional development and cultural change strategies our interventions, however well researched and intentioned, may be doomed to failure.

Neither am I critical of those responsible for the decisions to take action in either case; in both cases the decisions and action taken can be substantiated with “empirical evidence”.

As I say we have come a long way but…