The MyPlan project aimed to contribute to the JISC e-Learning programme by developing, deploying and evaluating new techniques and tools that allow personalised planning of lifelong learning. The project brought together stakeholders from a broad range of institutions all of whom are committed to providing lifelong learning opportunities which enhance career development and widen participation. These stakeholders contributed to the formulation of user and technical requirements, and the evaluation of the tools developed by the project. The project had three major aims:
(i) development and evaluation of learner models and an ontology for learner modelling in a lifelong learning context;
(ii) development, deployment and evaluation of personalised functionalities for the creation, searching and recommendation of learning pathways;
(iii) development and integration of a game-based application into the system, to give learners better understanding of the possible implications of different career decisions and educational choices.
The project ran for 27 months, starting on 1st September 2006 and ending on 30th November 2008. It produced two successive versions of new personalised functionalities for lifelong learners. The software developed is in the form of components and services that extend the existing L4All system. A key feature of the project were our frequent engagements with users (several student groups from FE/HE institutions) and user stakeholders (the tutors of these groups, the project Advisory Group and project Partners, the JISC programme manager). These engagements were invaluable in informing the design of the system, and the aims and methodology of the evaluation sessions.
The project has developed and evaluated new techniques and tools to support personalised planning of lifelong learning. A personal space for lifelong learners such as this contrasts with many other learning environments, which provide learners with resources and learning management tools that relate to their study at a single institution. The project’s deliverables (available from the project website) report on the design and development of the new techniques and tools produced by the project, and on several evaluation sessions that were undertaken with groups of FE/HE learners.
With respect to the project’s first aim, we developed a Lifelong Learner Ontology (LLO) that aims to capture the key attributes relating to lifelong learners. We also designed an architecture to support interoperability of learner models across different service-oriented educational systems, which leverages the LLO and other heterogeneous data integration technologies. We developed several usage scenarios in order to validate successive versions of the LLO.
With respect to the project’s second aim, we developed a method, based on string similarity measures, for identifying the degree of similarity between the timelines of two users. This method underlies the new “people like me” and “what next” functionalities that we developed. We also completely redesigned the L4All system’s interface. Much positive feedback about the enhanced L4All system was received from students participating in the evaluation sessions.
With respect to the project’s third aim, a review of current games applications and related activities being used to support lifelong learners was undertaken, the requirements for a game-based application to fit the user groups targeted by the MyPlan project were identified, and a study of using Second Life for supporting FE/HE learners with their career and education choices was undertaken. A list of practical guidelines for tutors aiming to use Second Life emerged from this study.
Lifelong learners constitute a diverse student population. Personalised technologies such as those developed by this project can assist lifelong learners to formulate and manage their learning plans under varying circumstances and settings. The use of an ontology-based approach to support personalised planning of lifelong learning provides a holistic view for the learner of their learning and career trajectories, and also an integrated view of all aspects of a learner’s information that will enable different systems to provide more effective support learners in the formulation of their learning and career goals and information needs.