Sustaining an APEL Toolkit for Modeling Institutional Processes

The University of Plymouth investigated the process for Accreditation of Prior Experiential Learning (APEL) and developed a toolkit called the PINEAPPLE Core that built a process model for APEL and guided college staff through the process of assessing a claim. They also developed several resources and case studies that could be used by other institutions to investigate their own APEL processes.

To further test and inform the development of the toolkit and resources a pilot was undertaken with the University of Staffordshire to see how they could be applied to model their APEL processes. The institutional policies at Staffordshire were found to be very different to those at Plymouth on the integration of a competence based APEL tool. However they were able to create processes to mirror the existing APEL routes and incorporate an additional route based on the new tool.

This pilot with Staffordshire revealed that the challenge was not putting the process in to APEL tool but understanding the precise detail of APEL at a micro level within the institution.  No matter how carefully guidance, regulations etc. are written there seem to be assumptions, ambiguities and omissions that are put in place by the staff implementing APEL policies and processes.

The pilot showed that the APEL process builder and the resources that the project has developed can be used wholly or partially by other institutions. As a result the tools and resource were further developed to be made more usable by other institutions.

Interested has been raised in using the toolkit through several presentations and workshops. Sustainability and support has been addressed by the institution for at least the next 12 months. Further information on the APEL Toolkit and resources can be found at


Supporting institutional development (maturity) in providing work based learning

The University of Bradford developed a model to review institutional process and delivery as part of the Workforce Engagement in Lifelong Learning (WELL) Project

The benefits realisation project took this idea a step further providing a model for HE providers to assess their maturity in embedding Work Based Learning programmes. The ‘Work Based Learning Maturity Toolkit’ can be applied at institutional, faculty and programme levels and includes a range of maturity criteria, level statements and indicators for assessing WBL maturity see The focus has been on Higher Education institutions rather than Further Education colleges who are seen to have a greater maturity already.

The toolkit was developed and piloted by a consortium including the Universities of Bradford, Middlesex & Westminster and UWIC,  Craven College and ELRAH (Edinburgh, Lothians , Fife and Borders Regional Articulation Hub) coordinated by Peter Chatterton.

The criteria for the toolkit were written by the consortium through an interactive process, drawing on institutional experience and lessons from the Lifelong Learning and Workforce Development programme. Then each of the consortium members under took to pilot the toolkit in their own institution and provide feedback for further development of the toolkit.  

The outcomes from the pilots were also presented at a workshop attended by over 60 participants at the University of Westminster in June 2011. Institutions have been encouraged to form peer support groups (sometimes called a CAMEL group) as part of the methodology and sustainability of the toolkit.

The toolkit includes a set of resources hosted on the web site and a video introduction; see that provides sufficient information to guide an institution through using the toolkit.

The WBL Maturity toolkit has brought together many of the lessons from the across the JISC programmes and other institutional or national initiatives around work based learning for the first time in one place.

This project demonstrates how several institutions can work together in gathering resources to provide a toolkit that can be of generic use to many institutions. The project has explored engaging existing communities such as the Higher Education Academy work based learning programmes to ensure longer term sustainability and support for the toolkit. Although the intention is that it should be seen as useful and usable by institutions, which will ensure its long term sustainability.

Supporting an e-portfolio for work based learning community of practice

The E-portfolio Community of Practice (ePCoP) Project led by the University of Wolverhampton are hosted a series of six online discussions hosted at and facilitated by Sarah Chesney.

The aim was to develop and foster a community of practice for e-portfolio pedagogies for work-based and life-long learning through a synthesis of existing practice focusing on identifying the key principles from that practice that can be applied elsewhere.

Several resources from the project were promoted including an animation of a narrated journey of a typical work-based learner ( ) and an example of a diagram of a learning design relevant to work-based learning based on the key principles articulated during the project (available at: These resources and the community of practice are also being integrated into the JISC infoKit on portfolios.

18 institutional were also contacted to discuss the requirements of the community and to raise awareness. The community was also disseminated through several events and workshop.

The community has attracted a high level of interest and participation from HE, FE and commercial e-portfolio developers, as well as participants from the UK, Europe, USA, Australia and New Zealand.

The online discussions also provided an opportunity for other institutions to disseminate their activities and enter into debate around the opportunities and issues related to using e-portfolios for work based learning.

Topics included

  • the challenges of creating a community of practice
  • ‘Principles for an e-portfolio based pedagogy for SMEs’
  • e-portfolios and constructive alignment

A workshop brought together several institutions and professional bodies to share their experiences of using e-portfolios , a report on the workshop is available at

The community has succeeded in raising interest amongst practitioners, both in the UK and abroad, in continuing the community.

Resourcing support for the course information standard

Several institutions were interested in using the course information standard XCRI and requested a single source of information to provide a support base for implementation that could embed good practice in the management and exchange of course advertising information across the education sector for the benefit of learners seeking the right opportunity, and providers recruiting students.

Alan Paull worked with the University of Liverpool,  CETIS the University of Nottingham and several institutions who had implemented XCRI to develop a resource base and promote it to the sector.

A web site called the XCRI Knowledge Base was created that brought together existing resources and examples on implementing XCRI.  The extended XCRI Knowledge Base (  additionally provides information to policy and managerial staff as well as technical, on what XCRI offers educational institutions and guidance on implementation. Case studies give an insight into the experience of institutions and consortia in securing approval for XCRI implementation and on the implementation process itself, including the technical, process and cultural issues. The project also developed a self-assessment tool – the XCRI Self-Assessment Readiness Framework, for use by staff in HEIs and FECs (

The Knowledge Base was developed iteratively using feedback from user testing via three institutional workshops and individual sessions.  The resulting web site has been developed with an understanding of the needs of the user community and ownership by the existing community of interest around XCRI.

This project met a requirement in the sector to collate the lessons and examples across a whole series of JISC projects and initiatives, providing a useful resource base that could be used by projects and institutions. It was important because it brought together examples across several institutions showing different approaches and applications XRCI. It has also meant that this work can now be sustained and updated in the future.

Supporting an open source portfolio for CPD and the use of professional frameworks

The CPD-Eng project at the University of Hull working with MyKnowledgeMap developed a tool, called MyShowCase, to allow evidence to be collated and presented (showcased) to professional bodies or institutions to demonstrate CPD. The original tool was linked with the University of Hull learning environment.

The benefits realisation project developed the tool so it could be used by a wide audience of universities, colleges, individual users and organisations.  To achieve this, an open source version was developed that could be integrated with the Moodle VLE and also a standalone version on a web that could be accessed by anyone. See for downloads or use the online version.

A mobile interface has also been developed to allow evidence to be collected and also showcased via smart phones and other mobile devices.

The MyShowCase tool was piloted by several institutions and organisations (e.g. Foundation degree Forward with BT). An evaluation was also undertaken and the feedback and evidence used to further develop the MyShowCase tool. An overview event held in May 2011 contains a summary of this and comments received by participants.

The MyShowCase tool provides a move away from institutional based learning and portfolio tools, although it still links to these tools, it also interacts with the social networking tools such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube that have seen a rapid growth in use  over the past few years.  It is the independence from institutional systems and the integration with social networking that makes this tool attractive to users. However the professional bodies and institutions feel less comfortable with this new way of gathering evidence.  The greatest strength is in linking with professional bodies and it is seeing an increasing user base internationally.

Two communities around MyShowcase one looking at an open source developers’ community and the other on uses of MyShowcase or similar tools, are also being developed and can be accessed from the website see

In terms of benefits realisation this project has shown how product originally developed for an institution requirement can be re-purposed and developed for use by a wider sector of users. Comments from users suggest that MyShowcase is coming together to create the right product at right time, using social networking and a cloud approach, ahead of e-portfolio type applications.

Collaborating in the development of a toolkit on vocabularies

The University of Winchester and the University of Gloucester led a benefits realisation project to test and support take-up of a Co-generative Toolkit which enables and facilitates dialogue with employers to generate curricula. The toolkit has been designed by Pebble Learning and can be found at

The toolkit was piloted at six institutions and it became apparent as the Toolkit was developing that the tool itself could be used for a number of purposes, whether by staff, students or employers. To support this requirement, a new set of tools on Describability were developed, as a tool to be used with course teams to develop with learning outcomes.  The new tools are open access and will in time be given a URL outside the Pebble domain.

The toolkit has been used in many more ways than was originally intended

  • Academics have used it for developing new courses, verification of level before validation, supporting programme review.
  • Learners have found it useful to find out what lecturers mean by “words” used in learning outcomes, essay questions, job descriptions.
  • Academic development units have used it to support teaching of the Post graduate certificate in teaching in higher education.
  • Working with employers to develop new courses to meet their specific needs.


The pilot institutions found several potential benefits of the toolkit. One institution reported that using the tool for programme review had saved one academic 3 hrs in the process.  When used with a group of employees it raised their aspiration to undertake HE courses. Employers, admissions tutors also saw it as useful for APR, applications etc. Working with employers it was found to clarify the use of language and aid to understanding at an earlier stage of the development of a course. Employers also found it helped produce a set of objectives they could use to gain support from their senior managers.

An open event was held in June 2011 to promote the toolkit and the experiences of the pilot institutions. A community around users of the toolkit was envisaged following this event.  

The timing of the BR project was useful as some of the feedback from the users of the Toolkit in the universities and organisations helped to further develop the usability and layout of the Toolkit. The pilots have successful informed development of the cogent tools and provide some useful case studies of how it can be used. The pilots have led to improvements in the tools and all the institutions involved were planning to go and pilot the latest version.

As a result a new version on the toolkit was developed allowing selection with frameworks and levels within the core. It is also possible to add in “institutional” vocabularies as well.  Cogent are also adding in some national occupational standards and looking at frameworks that relate to subject areas or disciplines.

There is a need to consider how it relates to learning design, e-Portfolios, VLE, competencies work, XCRI, etc.  and link with other JISC programmes such as the Curriculum Design programme.

Building Capacity around course mapping tools

The University of Middlsex, MUSKET project undertook a road show of institutional visits to seven Universities, including Glasgow and Cardiff. The purpose was to share the MUSKET outputs (which include a set of XCRI-based tools on transformation and mapping curriculum to address employer requirements) with a range of stakeholders involved in work based learning and allow other projects to share their tools and requirements around work based learning and accreditation of prior learning.

The workshop explored the issues around course descriptions and how they can be used to address two focus areas of the Middlesex project

  • assisting employers in accrediting their in-house training with universities through work based learning.
  • helping universities and students to compare courses from 2 diff education institutions for credit transfer by finding the percentage of similarity between courses.

Course descriptions are inconsistent in several ways including the format in which they are held and the language used in describing outcomes and descriptions. This makes reliable matching with other requirements a difficult process, which can be time consuming and costly for an institution looking to a accredit employer’s in-house training or match courses /learner experience as part of a claim for prior learning.

The  three MUSKET  Tools are designed to support this process

  • Transform tool. Coverts a course description (word template or other) into XCRI format.
  • UML course visual representation tool.  Provides a description of the course structure within an institution, credits per year, options, units etc – this is required for the semantic comparison.  XML representation of module.
  • Semantic similarity tool – that produces a report of similarity of courses.

The tools are designed to support the decision making process when matching courses with employer needs, APEL claims or credit transfer.  Staff would still be required to make the final decisions however the tools would be able to speed up the process and ensure the relevant information was presented to the staff member having to make a decision.

The topics varied at the workshops and considered several issues such providing more consistent course descriptions such as better templates, conformance to XCRI standards, approaches to writing more useable learning outcomes using vocabularies (such as the Co-genT tools). 

Two further workshops were also hosted at Middlesex to further explore issues and feedback on outcomes from the road show events.  These activities helped to build capacity and share expertise across the sector. It has led to several new collaborations and discussions between institutions around the use of the course information specification XCRI and related tools to support institutions around course design and APEL.


Supporting an open source solution for Mobile information

 The Open Mobile project at Oxford University developed a set of open source software to be adopted and adapted by other institutions who wish to develop a mobile solution for their institution. The software and community of developers can accessed through .

 The original software emerged from an Oxford led open mobile project that provided access to information and geo-location resources for students at the University, Mobile Oxford. However the Mobile Oxford software had been developed for one institution and needed to be modified to allow other institutions to make effective use of the available open source software.

 A pilot project was run with Oxford Brookes University (see full report), as it provided both an opportunity for them to explore the implementation of a mobile solution and at the same time test the Molly software in another institution. As a result the open mobile software has been greatly improved and should be much easier for others to adopt. Valuable support was also provided from the Oxford team

 The Oxford Brookes University pilot also highlighted several other lessons that are useful for others. At first the strategic ownership of the mobile service was located within Corporate Affairs as it was seen as a marketing tool, however as the pilot developed they realised the greatest benefits were for existing staff and students, hence the future service will be located with the Student Experience initiative. They also found that having established data feeds of information for an open mobile service is essential and that these feeds need to be standardised, and that where these did not exist already they would need to be developed.

 The pilot provided both a useful test bed for the software and also has enabled Oxford Brookes University to make an informed decision on its future development of a mobile service.

 The open source mobile platform (Molly) is now also working with other institutions and similar open mobile projects (e.g. Bristol’s Mobile Campus Assistant

iBorrow BR Report

Consultancy on large-scale deployment of netbooks

The iBorrow project at Canterbury Christ Church University piloted the use of a netbook loan scheme within a new learning centre as an alternative to fixed PC stations.  The approach attracted much attention and interest, as well as the 2009 UCISA Award for Excellence and a nomination the Times Higher Education Management Award.

A one day conference attracted over 90 participants from 48 Higher Education Institutions who were interested to find out more. The benefits realization project provided an opportunity for institutions to get some free consultancy advice around how they could also implement a similar or related scheme in their own institution.

A total of 19 institutions engaged with the original project and several of these have now successfully implemented similar schemes.  Here are a few examples from institutions.

“Since our initial contact with the iBorrow we have introduced our own self-service netbook loan scheme. This provides 60 issue-free netbooks to students (and staff) for use in the Library only”

 “We have launched our own netbook loan scheme in January 2011.  We have 50 x Samsung netbooks and 10 x Samsung laptops spread across 4 x cabinets.”

 “….piloting a self-service scheme with just 5 netbooks – this has been so successful we have just ordered another 16”

 However for other there are still challenges to be met

 “This is all budget-dependant but we are hoping to carry out a refurbishment of one of the floors of our Library to include more bookable group study space.”

 A report of the cost benefits of the iBorrow scheme is in production and should be available in the summer  from the project website.

 The importance influence of the benefits realization projects is that they don’t provide institutions for funding but with the help and support they need to take forward ideas in their own institution and gain the external verification of their ideas to convince senior managers. As one quote illustrates

 “… has been achieved with internal funding, however were glad of the input from the iBorrow to help us with our ideas”

 Funding to support innovation in education will always be useful but in spreading the lessons learned and supporting take-up, we need the type of benefits realisation activity that provides the support and advice to institutions that comes best from someone who has already done it in their institution.


ASSET BR Project Final Report

Promoting the use of media enhanced learning

The University of Reading project on using video feedback to enhance student learning joined up with several institutions with experience of using audio and video feedback, Media Enhanced Learning Special Interest Group and the HEA Centre for Bioscience to further promote their experiences to a wide audience of academics, learning technologists and managers across higher education.

Several workshop events were held attracting a large audience  and providing participants with an opportunity to learn about several approaches to using audio, video and other media (such as mobiles and response devices) to support student learning. They were given a useful opportunity to question the innovators and experience the technology for themselves through small group sessions and activities (see blog post on one event at

A series of 12 case studies have been written to provide a further resource and examples of practice in the effective use of this readily available media to enhance all forms of learning and feedback to students and these are hosted on the MEL-SIG website at .These will be disseminated at future events, including the international conference on effective learning in the biosciences (hosted by the HEA Centre for Bioscience).

Eight further dissemination events and meetings have been held across the UK to engage stakeholder support and promote the community, including events at Sheffield Hallam University , Roehampton University  and Leeds University .

The ASSET website has been redeveloped and renamed to reflect the collation of materials relating to the use of video in feedback. The updated website is available at

Data from the ASSET project have been analysed and two papers are currently under review in peer-reviewed pedagogic journals (‘Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education’ and ‘Computers in Education’); a third paper focusing on the technical development of the ASSET resource is currently being drafted and will shortly be submitted to a peer-reviewed journal.

The funding has enabled the establishment of a network of individuals committed to enhancing the feedback experience for both students and staff using a range of media. The group is now exploring future sustainability and opportunities to continue and grow the community around the use of media to support student feedback and learning.

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