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JISC calls for new round of MLE and Lifelong Learning projects

The UK's JISC has just sent round Circular 01/03, which calls for project proposals in the field of MLEs and lifelong learning. Successful projects will be part of phase 2 of a programme that explores how digitised learner information can be made interoperable, how it impacts within and across organisations and tests the personal development planning section of the UK's learner profile. Practically all projects are expected to use IMS LIP.

Since the Circular concerns phase 2 of an existing programme, blue sky, single organisation projects aren't really targeted. Instead, JISC is looking for consortia that have already committed to supporting lifelong learning in their MLEs. The clearest indicator of that direction is the fact that any single project will receive a maximum of 50,000 per year, and then only if it continues over most of the two year funding period. The whole budget for this call is 900,000 over two years.

Another consequence of this call being about phase 2, is that the findings of the first lot will have to be taken into account and carried further. The main sources there, would be the MLE in Higher Education programme projects, and the interoperability in FE projects and their celtic SWaNI follow-up. The central piece of technology, though, is the UK Learner Profile Version 1.1- a mapping of the UK HE Transcript to IMS LIP. This work is managed by the CETIS LIP special interest group and the Centre for Recording Achievement, and is in essence a nacent standard for capturing and exchanging both summative, CV style information about a learner as well as a place for learners to store much more wideranging information about their personal achievements, aims and objectives (i.e. as a Personal Development Record). The ultimate aim of the transscript is to function as the basis for all UK --and possibly EU-- interchange of personal learning data from schools to colleges to employers and any other institution where people learn.

The specific themes for the new JISC call include assessing the organisational and teaching and learning impact of using MLEs across a consortium of institutions. It is about implementing MLE type things like student performance tracking, administrative integration and providing access to courses and then reporting about the impact of these measures on teaching and learning.

Theme two is about technical interoperability. Successful projects will investigate the issues surrounding the interchange of learner data from, say, a college to a funding body, or from Schools to LearnDirect or from a University to an employer. The more, the merrier. While a data specification between the partners will have to be produced, the format is not specified.

The data interchange format is definitely specified in themes three and four: the planning and implementation of a learner profile. Theme three is about the formative Professional Development Record section of the Learner Profile spec., theme four about the development of systems for the summative section. These would have to originate in more than one institution.

Given the rather intensely private nature of a Learner Profile, all projects will have to demonstrate a sound approach to data protection. Also, the JISC will be looking closely at things like the impact on the general FE/HE sector of the projects and their attention to the dissemination of findings.

The circular can be discussed at a JISC town meeting on Monday 10 February 2003 at the Royal Statistical Society, London. Much more information is available in the circular and accompanying letter on the JISC website.

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