Jisc case studies wiki Case studies / Personal Development Planning for Cross-Institutional Lifelong Learning (PDP4XL2)
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Personal Development Planning for Cross-Institutional Lifelong Learning (PDP4XL2)

Lead Contact: Janet Hanson, Project Director (jhanson@bournemouth.ac.uk); Amina Uddin, Project Manager (auddin@bournemouth.ac.uk)

JISC Programme: JISC e-Learning Capital Programme

Lead Institution and Partners: Bournemouth University: Arts Institute, Open University, University of Gloucestershire, Yeovil College/University Centre Yeovil, South Wiltshire Health and Social Care Academy with Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust, Phosphorix


Project Dates: October 2006 - September 2008


Case study tags: online learninge-portfolios,bournemouth universityemployer perspectives on e-portfolioslearner perspectives on e-portfolioslifelong learning drivers for e-portfoliose-portfolios considerations - open sourcee-portfolios for cpd and pdppractitioner perspectives on e-portfoliose-portfolios for supporting learning processesprofessional body perspectives on e-portfolios


Background & Context


What is the background to the e-portfolio initiative?


Interoperability and ease of data transfer are key issues in the successful development of lifelong learning, but equally important is a positive attitude towards personal development planning (PDP) on the part of learners, academic staff, employers and professional organisations, together with a willingness to use technology in the PDP process to generate the transferable records that support lifelong learning.


PDP4XL2 built on the outputs of and achievements of the South West region's distributed e-learning project PDP4Life.


What were the aims and objectives of the initiative?


The aim of the project was to explore attitudes to PDP and e-portfolios, held by health and creative industry students and professionals and to contribute to the knowledge base on interoperability of learner records and data transfer across boundaries in support of lifelong learning in the South West.


The use of employer feedback to inform PDP tools and processes was an important part of the project, as were the information, advice and guidance (IAG) processes of the South West Lifelong Learning Network (SWLLN).


How was the initiative implemented?


The project was led by Bournemouth University in collaboration with other institutions - Arts Institute at Bournemouth; Dartington College of Arts; Open University; University of Gloucestershire; Yeovil College/University Centre Yeovil; South Wiltshire Health and Social Care Academy with Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust and Phosphorix.

There were 2 main strands of development- technical and user studies.


The technical strand involved 3 elements:


  • the development of the features supporting PDP within the ioPortal
  • an investigation into the structures of other e-portfolio tools, including PebblePad
  • the applications within the VLEs Blackboard and Moodle, and the trial transfer of PDP records between each of these and ioPortal


User studies of attitudes to PDP and use of e-portfolios were undertaken with university students and staff, professionals in the workplace and lifelong learners using the methodology of the focus group and the case study.


Feedback from user studies informed the final specification of amendments to the ioPortal.


Each of the partners contributed to a specific aspect within these two strands.


An independent evaluation was undertaken towards the end of the project by an external evaluator with the scope of this investigation being to undertake an impact analysis of participation in the project in order to identify how engagement had affected attainment of project aims, individual participants, their organisations and other stakeholders.


Technology Used


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


The project centred around the piloting of the ioPortal tool alongside Blackboard and Moodle software.


Success Factors


What are the key outcomes of the initiative?


Lifelong Learning


Many of the project partners had developed localised frameworks for PDP systems but the project prompted them to consider how the need for interoperability must be addressed if progression and lifelong learning across the SW region are to be achieved. The views of their students and academic staff about PDP and its associated records and outputs informed a specification for a lifelong learning record that has the potential to underpin their local development without the need to impose a one-size-fits-all template on individual institutions.


Employer perspectives and engagement with PDP and e-portfolios:


The main finding was that Creative Industry employers seek individuality and personality in job applications, particularly for the large companies, and most are positive that PDP can help the applicant to clarify their goals and express them in this respect.


However, very few employers believed they have the time to view an applicant's e-portfolio. Overall, there was a very high value attached to the process of PDP, as well as to the concept of e-portfolios as a tool within this learning process.


Learner perspectives and engagement with PDP and e-portfolios:


Throughout their studies learners at the Arts Institute engaged with the reflective aspects of PDP but were unsure as to whether they would continue with this after completing. One reason given was that they would not be near a computer when they learned something.


Learners like being able to customise the view and allow access to their e-portfolio to prospective employers but would prefer a more open system that allowed prospective employers to discover them.


Occupational Therapy students were encouraged to use the e-portfolio tool as part of Bournemouth University's VLE (Blackboard) but they found that the tool did not support reflection and PDP but acted more as a repository.


Implications for design of e-portfolio tools:


Learners want easy-to-use systems that allow a multitude of file formats for the assets. They do not want to be restricted by templates. NHS employees are concerned about possible fraud and require assurances that the system is secure.




The transfer of data from PebblePad into ioPortal was successful but in a limited capacity. Whilst it was possible to import an ePortfolio created on PebblePad into the ioPortal system, the imported ePortfolio is imported as a static HTML artefact. The imported ePortfolio cannot be edited using the ePortfolio wizard. PebblePad does however support the exporting (and importing) of ePortfolios using the IMS Eportfolio XML standard (http://www.imsglobal.org/ep/index.html). ioPortal could be extended to import and export its ePortfolios using the IMS Eportfolio standard. This would allow maximum interoperability between ioPortal and PebblePad for ePortfolios. This could be achieved using the ioMorph technology which facilitates transforms between XML standards.


Note - subsequent work by CETIS on LEAP2a means this could be implemented as an exchange standard.

The project has had a positive impact on many of those who participated in it as project partners. The evaluation report found that "All the participants in the project found their involvement with the project to be a positive experience and had benefitted from the engagement" (Ringan 2008:14). For many of them engagement had allowed them time to review the underpinning issues associated with PDP or e-portfolios.


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


A number of reports have been produced from the pilot studies along with other deliverables that were established for each partner.


The project has undertaken a number of dissemination activities, including the development of promotional publicity, press releases and a website hosted by Bournemouth University. In addition, partners have disseminated through conference presentations and papers using a range of regional and national networks. Presentations have been made at a number of events to further promote the project and its findings.


Recommendations for future work:


  1. Comparison of learner experiences of PDP and Portfolio development from both traditional and technology-based perspective would be useful in gaining further understanding of the learner perspective
  2. Assessing the impact of IT skills and tutor support on student ability to effectively engage with technology-enabled approaches to PDP and portfolio development
  3. Evaluation of potential links between e-PDP and e-portfolio tools and non-academic tools which may be beneficial - particularly with regard to Web 2.0 tools
  4. Developing effective processes whereby employer and other stakeholder perspectives on the use of PDP and portfolio can be embedded within the curriculum


Lessons Learned


What are the lessons learned from the project?


Project Management


Some 'missed opportunities' have been identified as a result of evaluation of the project, including:


  1. Individual project partners working in isolation on specific work packages reporting that they were unclear of the overall objectives of the project and their specific role in achieving this. Mechanisms for ensuring how activities and outcomes from each of the individual work streams could inform the work of other work streams and partners were, at best, not well understood or, at worst, seen to be missing entirely
  2. There appeared to be very limited attempts at a central level to synthesise or evaluate emerging research or evaluation data from the individual work streams as they progressed. Equally there appears to have been little consideration of how the emerging data could be used to inform the ongoing development or implementation of the overall project or individual work packages. This with a remit to analyse, evaluate and reflect on emerging results
  3. There was a disjoint between the staff in partner organisations who had been consulted during development of the bid and the actual staff engaged in delivering the project once it was approved. The strategic or institutional commitment and agreement of a partner's contribution by a senior member of staff was often poorly cascaded within that institution to the member(s) of staff actually responsible for delivering the project. There was a perception by many participants in the evaluation that they had been expected to 'hit the ground running' and deliver the project without really knowing what the project was about or what their specific role within it was


PDP and e-Portfolios


  1. Important to ensure that e-portfolio tools are appropriate for purpose within the specific context of each programme, group of learners; subject domain and wider stakeholder requirements
  2. Fundamental value of both PDP and portfolio development is in the process rather than in the product, and in ensuring that the process is appropriate within a particular context
  3. May require a sector wide recognition that there is no 'one size fits all' solution to ensuring the effective embedding of PDP or portfolio within the curriculum. In turn - recognition that range of different software tools, or differing versions or implementations of a single tool, may be required within a single institution to support range of contexts and approaches to PDP and portfolio within that institution
  4. Adequate support for staff and students has to be provided by the most appropriate staff within the institution to ensure maximum benefit experienced
  5. Re lifelong learning - more detailed consideration needs to be given to how learners across a diverse range of environments, with diverse skills sets and support provision can engage effectively with e-PDP and e-portfolio tools
  6. Technical and organisational systems and processes need to become much more flexible and mobile for learners


Further Resources


HIGHER EDUCATION ACADEMY (HEA), 2002. Guide for Busy Academics No.3. Using Personal Development Planning to help students gain employment.


JISC, 2008. Effective practice with e-portfolios. Bristol: JISC.


MALINS, J. AND MCKILLOP, C., 2005. Evaluating GraysNet: an online PDP tool for use in an art and design context. Art, Design & Communication in Higher Education 4(1) 31-47.


PDP Guidelines Advisory Group, 2008. Personal development planning: guidance for institutional policy and practice. (Draft). Centre for Recording Achievement.


Project website PDP4XL2 - http://www.bournemouth.ac.uk/asprojects/pdp4xl2/index.html


Project website PDP4Life - http://www.bournemouth.ac.uk/asprojects/pdp4life/index.html


PebblePad - http://www.pebblelearning.co.uk/


Blackboard - https://mybu.bournemouth.ac.uk/webapps/portal/frameset.jsp


ELGG - http://moodle.yeovil.ac.uk/elgg/


LearnHigher website - http://www.learnhigher.org.uk/


CEMP - http://www.cemp.ac.uk/