UsPaCe will allow learners to take more control of what they feel will help them. They will be able to personalise their learning experience using the iGoogle interface which will allow the selection of channelled material that they feel is relevant. Material might come from tutors or from social tagging using Del.icio.us.
As learners will be undertaking work based learning, their flexibility, in terms of the amount and timing of opportunities to engage in learning activities will be influenced by work commitments. Mediawiki will provide a space for asynchronous collaborative working with peers.
ELGG will be used to enable support from peers and from learners who have already progressed to Honours degrees. Allowing graduates from Foundation degrees to maintain a connection with the world of education would benefit both them and existing learners as they would be able to keep abreast of learning opportunities and offer the benefit of their experience.
UsPaCe will primarily support learners in work based learning whilst undertaking Foundation Degrees. As a group, they have different learning and support needs partly as a function of their generally non-traditional routes to HE and partly because of the differing nature of delivery between Foundation and Bachelor degrees. As it is not tied to any institution’s learning delivery platform, UsPaCe will facilitate a smoother progression between the two. For this reason the project will pilot the above with six modules in four of its partner FECs.
Tutors at both types of institution will need to be enabled to select and channel potentially useful learning content to learners, as well as supporting them through the social networking component (ELGG). This project will mine existing content from the HEFCE FDTL 3 funded SPAT project , and the JISC funded SHELL-FISH and SURF WBL projects as well as encouraging contributions from partners.
A significant challenge for Foundation degrees identified by the University of Plymouth Colleges (UPC) partnership is finding sufficient workplace mentors. One method of alleviating this problem is to enable existing, committed mentors to support more learners. UsPaCe will specifically seek to make available support materials, such as the support materials developed by the SURF WBL project, and pilot the use of social networking as a means of supporting this group by FEC tutors.
The project team believe that the integration of these Web 2.0 technologies would be an important development in eLearning as it will build on learners’ use of applications with which they are already comfortable and familiar. It will not be yet another online environment with which they will have to get to grips. Furthermore, this model would overcome many of the difficulties in providing cross-institutional delivery and seamless lifelong learning environments.
The UsPaCe project has identified what it believes to be core functionality for supporting Foundation degree students, but it could be extended to add more services and/or to address the needs of other groups of learners.