Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Plane holts on runway

The launch of the pilot turned out to be a bit disappointing with a few technical problems that could not be resolved as quickly as we hoped. Fortunately the pilot launch coincided with half term and it turned out difficult to contact employers due to them taking time off, or staff needed to initiate contact had time off. This week I am hoping for a more successful story as the technical team work at fixing the last few bugs, and employers start to see the system. Release features are going to be limited but with the technical team still working hard the features will soon be growing. To begin with tools such as forums and calendars will be up and running along with linking to learner information from the university systems and courses run through SURF and Staffordshire University. At this point there is no link to college systems.

The one thing that is bugging me the most at this point is that Staffordshire University give access to tutors teaching Staffordshire awards at partner colleges access to University systems such as email & MyPortal, as they are funded by the university. Unfortunately support staff at the colleges don't not get the same level of access and as such are limited in their access to the support point at this stage, even at a most basic level this raises the question - how can support staff at partner colleges fully support learners on Staffordshire awards at those colleges when they can't use the systems themselves? From a technical perspective is it possible to get lifeRay to look at different LDAP systems to validate support staff rather than use just the university LDAP?

In the meantime I am working with Sam putting the final touches to our Project Update document for JISC - although time is running out on us to get it in before the deadline as Mark will need to take a look before it goes. We also have the monthly project meeting this week so any feedback and comments on the site can be collated there.

Thursday, 18 October 2007


As we move towards the pilot phase of the project I have been talking about the experiences we have had to date with the Information Services team. Staffordshire Uni has these events where we showcase what we have been up to for the last year. It was very interesting, not only to hear peoples own views on how communication has been "managed" within work based learning and how useful the support point would be (always good to know!) but also to help clarify and summarise the experiences of the project to date. Namely:

  • Communication between institutions and employers is limited
  • Employers often feel that the institution is being paid to do a job - so why are they being asked to get involved?
  • Often we assume tutors know which employer a learner is associated with, and this is not always the case
  • Mentors are often forgotten after the start of a course
  • Setting up a foundation degree can be a long and complicated experience

Everything appears to be flying towards a positive start to the pilot with the techies working hard at resolving a number of issues around lifeRay including the difference between private / public in a community and also how to link to different communities.

Friday, 5 October 2007

Pilot at airport but not ready to fly!

Over the next few weeks I will be trying all the cliche's for pilot and flying that I can! This is because the project has reached that important stage of running the pilot. Yesterdays meeting made something clear, employers interested in doing the pilot under two main conditions:

  • They did not want to meet other employers! this was due to a fear that employers would loose their 'edge' if others knew what they were doing
  • They did not want to have to go to partner colleges for any events

This has made planning the pilot rather interesting, and time consuming for the project partners. As the development team work hard to meet the project deadlines for the pilot the rest of the project team are writing a short pilot plan, including a script for the "welcome" meeting so there is a consistant feel to it.

I have started writing the project update for JISC with the help of Sam (technical) and Mark (budget). It is good to see that the project is still running within the planned timescales, however this relies heavily now on the technical teams achievements. Some items that we would like to have released for the first stage of the pilot will be added as the support point develops due to the small size of our development team.

You will be the first to know when the pilot goes live, and the features available.