Wednesday, 31 January 2007


The last project meeting got quite a lot agreed in the end with regards to project tools to be used. The last project used a WIKI for communication but soon was unweildy and became difficult to find anything, I think the main problem was with the management as it really needed more time than any one person could spend on it. This time we have started looking at online tools that can be pulled together in an online environment such as Google Personalised Homepage (GPH), I have been using this successfully for some time for management of my own time as it means one place to go no matter where I am. We have hit some issues, such as colleges blocking some of the more useful tools, or stopping staff from installing new browsers available such as Flock. Although investigation showed that although Flock is a good community tool its remit was too wide for the project and did not work/ layout was messy with some of the tools we wanted to use.

I have been pleased with the take up of the use of GPH by the team as it means that we can personalise the tools we use and get them all together in one place. At the moment I am the only one with a blog but I am hoping the others will set up their own. The main problem now is how to share documents, as we don't need the collaborative aspect of Google Documents and we need to display folder structures so we can't use Google Groups Beta. A lot of the free tools out there seem to be limited or can't be added nicely to GPH, or other personalised environments. I would love a plugin to GPH for DriveHQ that works like the gadget.

Monday, 22 January 2007


Bit of an eventful week with the wind causing everyone to be evacuated from the Beaconside campus on Thursday afternoon. Fortunately I was in Wolverhampton on the Friday for an AimHigher event as the campus was closed until Monday. The AimHigher event had a keynote speech by Stephen Gardner (Director of Work based learning National LSC) and the questions asked by the group raised the same issues as we have been hearing within this project, problems with getting employer involvement, issues with funding for employers, businesses too small to afford to send employees to be trained, employers scared of losing highly trained staff, students have a lack of understanding progression from non traditional level 1, 2, and 3, students reluctant to raise training with employer for fear they should be seen to want to leave. Some of these issues are already being addressed with websites such as AimHigher's getupgo and the alps sites. I think it's going to be important to link to these external sites to help guide learners, and potential learners. Perhaps there should be a FAQ area in the portal for each type of person we are trying to help with links to other sites.

Monday, 15 January 2007

New Year

Well the new year is now in full swing. I have been focusing on finalising the last SURF WBL project with only some of the time spent working on the new WBL-Way project. I seem to be spending my time organising meetings for it at the moment. I did have an interesting conversation with one of my colleagues with regards to requirements of employers and award leaders involved in foundation degrees. It seems the main point raised was the fact that it would be good to give employers access to the same materials that the learners see, another point raised was to give them an idea of employers already involved in foundation degrees (something prospective students are also interested in) within their area. Work has continued with disseminating the two projects and a great forum for this was the TENCompetence conference held in Manchester at the end of last week. I have also been contacted by the RSC London team to visit in March to present at their HE in FE forum. This week I am at an AimHigher West Midlands meeting in Wolverhampton.

TENCompetence raised a number of thoughts:

  • That the learner should be in control of their environment, and that universities should be the "middle man" in providing access to tools, and to manage the complexity of technologies out there, and learners themselves appreciated the fact that they could take skills learnt in using existing tools across subjects. Mark Johnson spoke about this at the conference in more detail.
  • Shared materials across institutions providing the same course showed a decrease in the drop out rate of over 40% to 10% with the use of a single source of materials shared across the institutions. Each lecturer used the source materials rather than their own materials. (John Casey)