Jisc case studies wiki Case studies / Co-generative Toolkits (Co-genT)
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Co-generative Toolkits (Co-genT)

Lead Contact: Michele Hills

JISC Programme: Institutional Innovation Programme, Lifelong Learning and Workforce Development

Lead Institution and Partners: University of Gloucestershire, Lead

Core partners: University of Winchester, University of Worcester, Western Vocational Lifelong Learning Network and Pebble Learning

Later consortium partners included: University of Wales Institute, Cardiff; University of Central Lancashire; University of Wales: Newport; University of Bedfordshire, University College Falmouth and the University of Bradford.


Project Dates: March 2009 - March 2011


Case study tags: e-portfoliosuniversity of gloucestershiree-portfolios for application,e-portfolios for assessmentemployer perspectives on e-portfolioslifelong learning drivers for e-portfoliose-portfolios for supporting learning processesonline learning


Background and context

What is the background to the e-portfolio initiative?

The LLLWFD programme was phase 3 of the JISC Institutional Innovation Programme.

The context of the programme was the Leitch Review of Skills and the Government's subsequent publication of Innovation Nation and the World Class Skills implementation plan that challenged institutions to deliver work-based learning and higher level skills for work, including demand-led continuing professional development modules.

The programme was aimed at development and implementation of appropriate technologies and processes to enable HE-level learning services to meet the needs of learners in the workplace, and of their employers.


The Co-genT project has created an online resource using PebblePad which supports the development of co-generated higher education courses by universities and employers.

Universities have to comply with specific quality assurance processes in order to gain formal approval for a named course leading to a higher education award. The result of this can be that the co-generated curriculum is written in a way which will resonate with university staff, but which will not necessarily have much meaning to an employer, or - more importantly - to employees who may be learners in a higher education course.

The Co-genT Toolkit is available on the website.

During the funding period, the partner organisations - University of Winchester, University of Worcester, and the Western Vocational Lifelong Learning Network (WVLLN) - were involved in a number of projects making use of the Co-generative Toolkit:

  • The University of Winchester team has started to use the Co-generative Toolkit in the development of curricula with employers
  • The University of Worcester team has primarily used the Toolkit for curriculum development activities, particularly in Education
  • The WVLLN used the Co-generative Toolkit to help adults who were considering entering higher education. In particular, the Toolkit was used to build confidence in the adults that their achievements (either from the workplace or from other activities) matched higher education expectations


What were the aims and objectives of the initiative?

The overarching aim of the project was to establish methodologies to support the planning, design, implementation, assessment and review of demand-led curriculum developments.

One of the primary aims of the project was to create a resource which would allow for the development of courses 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.

Having developed this resource, what the project has found is that the Toolkit is far more flexible than was conceived originally 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 specific objectives were to develop and deliver:

  1. A database of learning opportunities to enable demand-led curricula
  2. A vocabulary that maps and aligns academic and professional standards of the learning opportunities
  3. The integration of the Effective Lifelong Learning Inventory (ELLI) with an e-portfolio system
  4. A simple configurable Toolkit which enables selected skills, attributes and outcomesto be automatically translated into learning profiles for curriculum design and personalised pathways for curriculum delivery
  5. Ways of making learners' formal and informal learning explicit to employers and educators

ELLI is the Effective Lifelong Learning Inventory, and was developed in the Graduate School of Education at the University of Bristol. The aim of this part of the project was to develop a method for accessing ELLI profiles through PebblePad, so that learners would be able to complete the questionnaire and be able to reflect or act upon the ELLI profile that was generated. Working in collaboration with the Learning Warehouse (custodians of the ELLI research data) a connection has been made to allow students from universities with a licence to use the ELLI tool to complete the questionnaire and to generate a profile, which becomes an asset within a student's PebblePad account.


How was the initiative implemented?

When the development of a vocabulary was first considered, it was in relation to aligning academic and professional standards. Early discussions suggested the use of National Occupational Standards (NOS) for highlighting relevant employer-related terminology, and for providing the context within which this terminology is used. A useful discussion with the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) altered the development plan for the vocabulary. It was possible to use existing descriptors from approved academic qualification frameworks and to develop learning outcomes and programme specifications which were clearly mapped against these descriptors. Frameworks used included:

The development of the Vocabulary and Outcome Builders provided an opportunity for an initial evaluation of the Toolkit. The initial evaluation highlighted a number of recommendations for further development. These and other developments were incorporated into the second version of the Toolkit. A user guide to using the Co-generative Toolkit was published in April 2010:


Technology Used


What technologies and/or e-tools were available to you or did you seek to develop?

The Co-genT Toolkit was developed using PebblePad.


Success Factors


What are the key outcomes of the initiative?

One of the primary areas of impact has been the recognition that learning outcomes can - and should - be written in a language which is recognised by the learner. Although this was discussed in relation to work-based learners, it should be considered whether this applies to all students. By providing a system which captures the mapping of learning outcomes against recognised level descriptors, the project has provided a Toolkit which has the potential to provide greater transparency to learners as to what they will need to do in order to demonstrate achievements from their learning. The Toolkit also provides a process which helps curriculum developers to consider what supports and resources are required to enable a learner to demonstrate that they have met the intended learning outcomes.

What follow-up activity will be/has been carried out as a result of the project?

Dissemination: see below

The Toolkit will continue to be developed and managed by the University of Gloucestershire. The intention is to move the Toolkit to a permanent non-institutional website (i.e. one which does not explicitly represent one of the project partners).

Following testing and evaluation of the Toolkit, a meeting of the Benefits Realisation partners in January 2011 identified a number of recommendations for further changes to the Toolkit, primarily relating to the initial interface for the Vocabulary Builder and the development of other ways of accessing this information.

These recommendations, along with others identified by the main project team and the developers at Pebble Learning, resulted in the revised Toolkit which was launched in February 2011 which includes three ways to view the list of terms in the Vocabulary Builder. The revision also includes an improved search facility, which allows users to pick any combination of frameworks and to search for words within the list, description of terms and the level descriptors (see Figure 14). There is also a 'short list' of words, which has been determined primarily by the work carried out by the WVLLN.

In addition, work on the following developments will be conducted as a result of feedback and evaluation:

  • Providing information about the purpose and use of the Toolkit. This will include information which addresses some of the misconceptions outlined in Section 3.2.3.
  • Writing user guides which are aimed at employers.
  • Writing additional user guides for different purposes (e.g. APEL, EBTA).
  • Adding terminology from some of the NOS descriptors, and performing a mapping process of some of these descriptors against higher education level descriptors.
  • Enhancing the Toolkit for EBTA purposes, to meet the requirements and recommendations arising from the fdf evaluation (Appendix D).
  • Potential links with other projects and initiatives (e.g. XCRI).
  • A version of the Toolkit has been set up for New Zealand (following the departure of the Core Team Leader to the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology), and it will be interesting to gain the perspective of another higher education system in order to consider future transferability of the Toolkit.
  • Enhancement of the Describability site.
  • Use of the Toolkit with students. This could include matching achievement against the recognised descriptors, which may feed into national initiatives such as the Higher Education Achievement Report (HEAR), and could be piloted as part of the Employable Gloucestershire Graduate Scheme (EGGS) being developed at the University of Gloucestershire (http://resources.glos.ac.uk/tli/eggs/). Additional research on students’ perceptions of words used in higher education, following up on the initial work undertaken by the University of Winchester (Appendix A), should be pursued.
  • The use of the Toolkit in supporting academic quality assurance processes, such as validations, external examiner evaluations.

Lessons Learned

What are the lessons learned from the project?

Conclusions drawn from the project work are as follows:

  • Staff in higher education should understand the impact of academic frameworks and level descriptors on curriculum development. It is important to recognise the linkages between all elements of curriculum development (e.g. programme specifications intended learning outcomes, teaching and learning methods, assessment, feedback mechanisms), through concepts such as constructive alignment, and the fact that level descriptors from recognised higher education frameworks underpin all these elements
  • Learning outcomes can be written in a language which is appropriate to the learner, provided that an appropriate mapping process has taken place to demonstrate how these outcomes relate to level descriptors within approved higher education frameworks
  • Students should be aware of level descriptors, and the impact that these have on their learning and development. The mapping process described above may be one way in which this could be achieved. In particular, students should be aware of the changes which occur between levels. This may be of growing importance as the impact of the national funding regime becomes apparent, and with a greater expectation of transparency on behalf of higher education institutions in terms of what is being provided for students
  • The aim of the Co-genT project was to produce an online Toolkit which would support the co-generation of curricula. Whilst the development of this resource has been achieved there have been additional lessons learnt from the evaluation:
    • The original purpose of the Toolkit was as a tool for dialogue between staff in higher education institutions and employers. It was anticipated that an academic would be using the Toolkit and using words from the Vocabulary Builder to discuss with an employer what the learners would be doing as part of the co-generated curriculum. What emerged from the evaluation was an expectation that an individual might want to use this on her/his own. This has had an impact on the appearance and functionality of the Toolkit, and has meant that different interfaces have been developed
    • The Toolkit originally consisted of level descriptors from levels 4-7 (i.e. first year undergraduate through to Masters). The work with adults thinking of entering higher education highlighted the need to include descriptors for level 3 (i.e. pre-higher education qualifications), so that the progression from pre-higher education achievements through to those relevant for higher education study would be clear

Further Resources

Project webpage: http://resources.glos.ac.uk/tli/lets/projects/cogent

Project webpage on the JISC website: http://www.jisc.ac.uk/whatwedo/programmes/elearning/workforcedev/cogent.aspx

Gloucestershire College HE Managers' Forum, Cheltenham, 16 June 2010: full project presentation, following an earlier demonstration of the Toolkit at the college

Invited presentation by Professor Stephen Hill at the Launch of the Government Response to the National Student Forum report 2009 (24 February 2010), which included a discussion of the Co-genT Toolkit

University of Gloucestershire Teaching and Learning Assessment Conference, 17 June 2010, (theme 'Pedagogical Implications of the Edgeless University'): Co-genT project stall

University of Worcester Teaching and Learning conference, 17 June 2010: project presentation

JISC employer engagement event, Birmingham, 27 May 2010: stall set up displaying project information; digital story added to the JISC YouTube channel

Guidelines on EBTA for HEIs: information included on how the Co-generative Tookit can assist EBTA trainers to identify academic levels

Cloudworks discussion on Constructive Alignment (part of the e-Portfolio Community of Practice Benefits Realisation project): http://cloudworks.ac.uk/cloud/view/4926

Frameworks Assembly, held at the University of Gloucestershire Oxstalls Campus on 26 January 2010. The assembly report is available at http://resources.glos.ac.uk/tli/lets/projects/cogent/.

Conference presentations and papers

Gravestock, P. & Hill, S. (2011) Co-genT: an interactive staff development tool, workshop presented at the JISC annual conference 'Financial Challenges - Digital Opportunities', Liverpool, UK, 14-15 March 2011.

Jenkins, M. & Gravestock, P. (2009) Supporting the co-generation of work-based learning designs, in Same Places, Different Spaces, proceedings of the ASCILITE conference, 7-9 December 2009, Auckland, NZ. Available at: http://www.ascilite.org.au/conferences/auckland09/procs/jenkins.pdf.

Jenkins, M. & Gravestock, P. (2010) Generating individual learner profiles for work-based learners, in Effective use of PebblePad: A collection of case studies from PebbleBash 2010, Shifnal, UK, 9-10 June 2010. Available at: http://www.pebblepad.co.uk/pp2010/cs06.pdf (accessed March 2011).

Jenkins, M., Gravestock, P. & Leeds, B. (2010) E-enabling Work-based Learners, workshop presented at the SOLSTICE conference 'Technology-enhanced Learning and the Student Experience', Edge Hill University, 3 June 2010.

Jenkins, M., Gravestock, P. & Sutherland, S. (2010) A co-generative toolkit: e-enabling work-based learning, demonstration at the ALT-C conference 'Into Something Rich and Strange', Nottingham, 9 September 2010.

YouTube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T99W3Ry5PvY