Personal Control of Personal Data


(This blog covers the development of a research paper and is made available under a creative commons licence to share to copy, distribute and transmit the work and to Remix, to adapt the work, see

A major employability ePortfolio project for Nedcar found that if workers were not able to control their personal information they would not exploit the full potential of the networks and systems provided for them. To realise the benefits technology offers requires a new relationship of trust between workers and employers.

What are implications for the new forms higher education UK universities are asked to develop with employees and their sponsers, employers? In particular how do we enable learners to control the use of their personal data?

I began by looking at the role of a professional body before asking how these patterns could be used to professionalise non-professional staff.

July 07 – June 06
Last summer I began mapping HE conventions to MIAP CDD, the UK government standard and at the same time drew Intalio diagrams from HR-XML 2.x and 3.0 specifications.

Looking back on why previous work had not delivered useful benefits (LIP/LEAP) I thought that I had looked too narrowly at a specification as an implementation without taking proper account of context. Drawing on European HR work emphasised the need to put technical work into context. From late 07 I was identifying possible joint ePortfolio work with Australia and was impressed by their emphasis on defining key research questions within their initial scoping of standards and implementations.

From late 07 I developed some trial materials which consulted on through CETIS and with experts in other contexts. By April 08 I was assembling a set of past papers which I was upgrading to communicate a set of technical possibilities within the context of Research Literature.

Research Hypothesis
Writing in 1991 Anthony Giddens, a prominent sociologist, presents Late Modern Society as being highly individualistic and reflexive and focused on personal development. 15 years later Yochai Benkler provides a technical and ostensibly economic view of the impact of the internet, especially its role in enabling isolated individuals to collaborate in a new economic form of peer production.

Both these approaches are valuable but fundamentally deficient because they are a-historical in some significant areas and take insufficient account of capital in a liberal economy.

Traditional capital intensive forms of production are in steep decline in the developed world but how may an individual or a group of individuals benefit from new forms of peer production?

The cost of the technology required to exploit the internet is very low by contrast to traditional physical capital intensive forms of production. But individuals need skills and capabilities (human capital) to participate in this new economy.

Benkler is right to emphasise the importance of networks, which can provide the social capital adult learners in UK need to acquire and deploy essential skills and knowledge. But learners will be expected to pay some of the costs of the education this requires. Therefore they also require a means of receiving a monetary return on the work they produce.
Providing individuals with these skills and capabilities also requires a means by which individuals can exploit the value they add to the economy. This would provide a means of re-igniting the social progression that was a feature of the late, capital intensive economy which has stalled.
Research Questions: What interventions are needed to allow individuals, especially those without HE qualifications, to develop their use of the internet:

1. as a means of enhancing their skills, knowledge and personal development?
2. as an instrument of social production from which they can benefit financially to advance their place within an increasingly egalitarian society?
3. What is the role of the University in effecting this transformation?

One of the tasks in my workplan for JISC is the production of a major Research Paper. I am developing four stand alone papers for consultation which can then be amended, consolidated and published as four parts of a single coherent argument of about 30 pages for initial release in October 2008:
Delivering the Leitch Agenda: How Technology can add Value to the Delivery of Higher Education in Employment:
PART 1 Personal Control of Personal Information, the role of a Professional Body

First Draft complete
In order to address the Research Questions I looked for ICT patterns that could be re-factored to address the underlying issues:

• I had been on the advisory board of an ePortfolio project for Medics in Newcastle
• Adam Cooper had identified the use of digitally signed documents as a means of putting the individual in control of their personal data.

I re-factored the patterns in these areas and applied them to see what value they could add to a major implementation of ePortfolio for teacher development in Northern Ireland supported by Becta which I had been tracking. I provided a paper for their invitation conference: Personal Control of Personal Information. I will be reviewing this in more detail with Nigel Ecclesfield of Becta and colleagues in DEEWR.

PART 2 Professionalising non-professional staff: the role of a university
(in development)
Problem: how may non-professional workers be offered the benefits that the networks and systems offered by a profession makes available to its members?
Members of professional bodies typically have higher educational attainment and status than non-professional staff. An obvious intervention for Governments and the Commission is to increase the skills of the workforce and therefore the capacity of the economy to generate wealth. The paper will look specifically at the UK strategy to provide higher skills to workers in the context of the Lisbon Agenda.

Although sociologists see a potential conflict between membership bodies such as professions and other workers there is evidence of increased cooperation between social groups within European states in the face of globalisation especially in states like the UK, where there are significant structural deficits in the skills of the workforce.
The paper reviews Health Care, where from the 1990s colleagues in nursing and ancillary disciplines in the UK have taken over a number of functions previously provided exclusively by doctors and assumed strategic managerial positions. This in turn freed doctors to concentrate on the high level functions they have trained for: a highly efficient economic model which is socially progressive:

• What was the role of higher education and ePortfolio in initiating and sustaining this transition?
• How could these successful initiatives be adapted for lower status workers more generally to the benefit of the economy and social progression?

In the 19th Century a range of educational institutions were established for workers in the UK which laid a basis for significant social change by providing learning opportunities and networks. The foundation of universities in industrial cities was a key part of this transformation of the economy and society.
The paper focuses on the potential role of universities in providing learning opportunities and networks to all members of society, in particular:

• the use of authenticated documents to accredit the value of previous experience in terms of formal achievement
• the control over their personal data required by learners to make full and extensive use of networks and systems
• the control of personal data required by learners to realise the economic value of the skills and experience in the market.

PART 3 The Value of Networks for the delivery of HE in employment
(Diagrams out for consultation with HR ICT colleagues)
Diagrams have been developed from HR-XML but how closely do these accord with current UK practice? Outline use cases and mappings against MIAP CDD have been prepared. Draft HR-XML interfaces are scheduled for completion by 2008 08 16. The focus is on choreographed progress review / IAG in education and employment.
A very useful draft NIACE paper on APL commissioned by JISC provides an excellent definition of the problem with APL. Without any intervention APL may become an auditing exercise: it is important to see APEL within the context of an experiential learning cycle.
This raises the wider question of how the services delivered across networks should be choreographed to provide rich learning experiences of long term benefit rather than only fixing short term needs for example specific skills for specific tasks with a short shelf life.
Here I think there may be some useful Australian exemplars, but these will not be ready for October. I will note the need and work this up as a potential area for collaboration.
PART 4 Methodology
(outline draft and raw materials from working docs)
• Sets out the technical methodology used in the paper, reviews current research in this area and the research that needs to be undertaken.

A fundamental issue arising from a current evaluation of a JISC programme and from this work is the need to identify clear business cases for work involving several organisations in order that the needs of different stakeholders are understood and reconciled.

Peter Rees Jones
2008 07 12

One thought on “Personal Control of Personal Data

  1. Peter,
    I like how you write and appreciate where you are coming from. However, I have several concerns about your paper, primarily that of your perspective being singularly HE-centric.

    I have been researching the development of e-Portfolios (initially for the schools sector) and have presented a funded paper to Nigel Ecclesfield of Becta. Partly in response to Clive Church’s last blog the relationships between Secondary schools and FE in terms of the 14-19 Diplomas require immediate solutions. In this context the requirements of data transfer are confused by the sophisticated systems already in place with the Local Authorities using extant VLEs. In my view, therefore, the e-Portfolio can be a very simple system without the requirements of excessive data handling.

    Secondly, as you must be aware, the HE sector, strong as its voice might be, is only a very small and transitional percentage of the learning population. I doubt that any solution devised ‘in house’ can demand the universal coinage that an e-Portfolio requires.

    Thirdly, my admittedly limited access to details leads me to understand that Industry has a very narrow perception of e-Portfolio concepts, limited to staff development and re-training etc. However, the vast majority of the UK workforce does not have access to on-line staff development and certainly would not fund the support of personal development not related to on-the-job training. Again, the UK has a very large proportion of SMEs which do not have the resources envisaged.

    Fourthly, the Adult Education sector, addressing Leitch etc appears to have a very myopic view of their responsibilities and are certainly not meeting the existing demands of its clients, nevermind the expectations for up-skilling that our government requires. I have presented a paper to NIACE on this topic (see: developments.pdf )

    for more on e-Portfolios see:

    Kind Regards,

    Ray Tolley

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