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Monday, July 13, 2009

Final Report - Personal Learning Environments and Personal Development Planning

Final Report - Personal Learning Environments and Personal Development Planning

Final Report 1. Title of project Personal Learning Environments and Personal Development Planning 2. Project director/s Alan Cann1, Jon Scott1, Jo Badge1, Richard Mobbs2, Steve Rooney3 3. Department(s)/Unit(s) 1 School of Biological Sciences, 2IT Services, 3Student Support and Development Service 4. Keywords Personal learning environments, virtual learning environments, personal development planning, ePortfolios 5. Abstract The aim of this project was to develop an institutional exemplar of a personal and shared virtual space for students' learning, research and networking using Web 2.0 technologies independent of any institutional services. This will provide users with the skills to maintain such environments as the major component of their personal development planning (PDP) and as part of a lifelong learning agenda. The space was built around a range of freely available Web 2.0 tools and services, complemented by the Blackboard Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) and other student support information repositories. 6. Pedagogic Background to the Project University of Leicester students are transients within our system, usually staying for three or four years full-time study, possibly longer if they are studying part-time or move on to post-graduate training. What they learn is relevant to their lifelong learning skills and future career progression and, as such, students will benefit from having continued access to a virtual study network based on their undergraduate and career experience. Resources for their formal learning not only originate from their university teachers but also from informal virtual sources of various kinds (e.g., comments by members of the public on a fieldwork photo uploaded onto a photosharing site such as Flickr, information from the student union, etc). Integrating formal and informal sources into a symbiotic whole to benefit the students is a worthwhile objective in its own right. At present, the School of Biological Sciences implements PDP as a paper-based exercise, supported by the personal tutor system, which students are encouraged but not compelled to take part in. This exercise terminates when, or frequently before, students graduate, so there is no guaranteed benefit in terms of lifelong learning. To complement this application, we submitted an application for funding to the HEA Subject Centre for Biosciences to introduce all first year Biological Sciences students to the concept of a PLE at the very start of their university career. Their progress and engagement was monitored and encouraged by regular summative assessment of individual e-portfolios. In the pilot project, we will use the personal tutor system to assess what proportion of second and third year students continue to maintain their eportfolio to document the development of their PLE as part of the School PDP programme without the lever of formal assessment. This information will be used in subsequent years to decide strategies to roll out the programme to all students throughout their degrees. This NTI project complemented an external grant award which was made and sought to use the experience within the School of Biological Sciences could be used as a model to roll out similar approaches across the whole University.