Electronic individual learning plans (e-ILPs) in Adult Education

Over the summer of 2012 I was approached to help support a project to explore the potential of the e-ILPs (electronic individual learning plans) in the context of adult education.

Adult education takes learning to learners. With distributed venues, often hired from other organisations, adult education is community focussed. It promotes the culture of lifelong learning and offers learners flexibility to fit in courses around their busy lives. These strengths mean that adult education is often the place that is able to pick up people who have fallen through the formal education system by providing a safe learning environment with a less intimidating non-vocational offer as an entry point. Adult education then enables learners to progress on to formal qualifications once their confidence has increased.

The characteristics of adult education are: part time learners, part time/hourly paid tutors, distributed community venues, and an older student population profile than you would typically find in a further education college.WP_000030

Adult education providers tend to use paper based ILPs, while the FE sector is more familiar with electronic versions of the ILP, where it has been a major success in several colleges. To date, the adult sector has very few examples of successful deployment of e-ILPs. Also engagement with VLEs more generally by both learners and tutors is lower in the adult sector than in further and higher education.

The Learning and Skills Improvement Service (LSIS) recognised this anomaly and kindly agreed to fund a project under it’s regional collaboration fund programme to explore the potential of e-ILPs to enrich the learning experience in the adult sector.

Electronic ILPs are designed to open up a new one to one channel of communication between the learner and the tutor. This adds pedagogical value that cannot be achieved by paper based ILPs. A student can raise an issue with their tutor at anytime, in confidence, and in the context of their own personalised learning goals as agreed through the ILP. Input can then be given by the tutor and amended or new goals added. All of this devolves a degree of both control and responsibility to the student for their own learning journey. It is the development of this responsibility for their own educational development that characterises the successful student.

The project was aimed at the art and design area of the curriculum as experience has shown that arts are often the more reluctant area of the curriculum to engage with technology. Hence if it could be successful in art it should work in other curriculum areas.

Five London based learning providers took part, Adult Education College Bexley, Croydon Adult Learning and Training, Newham Adult learning Service, Working Men’s College and Morley College.

Victor Dejean from LSIS provided strategic support for the project and Laurence Elliott from Morley College fulfilled the key role of project manager. The e-ILP block was installed and set-up by University of London Computer Centre who also host the Moodle VLE’s for these five colleges. Although not officially part of the project there was also input from Westminster Adult Education Service and City Literary Institute.

The project funded tutors to trial the e-ILPs with their learners. It provided training for tutors, online sharing of ideas and resources, and mobile technology to enable engagement with the eILP in the classroom. Surveys were conducted before and after to seek learner views. Each of the five colleges produced a short report on the their experience and a summary report was produced for LSIS. The next step is to disseminate the findings. This will be done via presentations at RSC London e-Factor 2013 event, exhibitions in each of the colleges, as well as through case studies online via the Excellence Gateway.

This research project does not claim to have a definitive answer to whether the e-ILP is suitable for the adult sector but we hope to be able to suggest some of the key questions to consider before your organisation adopts eILPs.
Do you have:-

  • a paper based ILP across the organisation
  •  a well used Moodle based VLE (virtual learning environment)
  • what level of staff ICT skills are there in your organisation
  • what level of support and understanding for this technology do you have by senior management
  • a Moodle administrator and curriculum lead to manage deployment
  • staff development support for technology enhanced learning
  • a clear vision of how this will benefit learners
  • planning to resolve questions such as which courses this would work best with
  • a plan for getting commitment from teaching staff
  • a plan for supporting learners to get the best from the eILP
  • activity to get curriculum and quality managers to support the initiative
  • a plan for MIS system integration
  • organisation wide commitment to continual development of online resources for leaners

To read the full project report see Case Study FINAL Edited 22-Apr-13

Key to the success of the project was the strong community of adult education providers in London and the existing relationships of trust prior to the start of the project. This community has developed over many years with networking at various events such as the Jisc RSC London adult education conference.