As EAT-PDP nears the finishing line, it’s pleasing to see our predictions come true regarding the potential uses and enthusiasm surrounding our MyFolio offering. It was recognised in our early evaluation of the Mahara platform that both the features it provides and the entities it maintains would be of interest to different user groups and stakeholders respectively, perhaps even outside of the institution. However, MyFolio was introduced to solve a particular problem in providing an area for self reflection and development and it is important that in whichever direction the offering is taken, it continues to fulfil this need.
On occasion – following a conference, paper, change in strategic direction or alike – initiatives that extend or re-purpose a tool are undertaken without the level of investigation EAT-PDP has performed, with time or speed to delivery constraints likely cited as a reason. These initiatives are often interrupted by concerns over capacity implications, strategic focus, maintenance issues, to name but a few. Our project has preempted these scenarios in an effort to understand the environment and prepare our answers to challenging questions in advance. As a result, when the initiatives have been raised, our teams can refer to the investigation and confidently determine whether the initiative is possible at inception.
An example of the above is highlighted by the recent student catalogue development. The tool is a great example of how the information gathered by MyFolio can be re-purposed for another use. However, we understand through our studies the affect that this might have on the primary goal of the the offering, which is to provide an area for honest and private personal learning. Understanding where the search catalogue fits as part of the wider offering and with our strategic focus naturally brings concerns to the surface, but importantly with associated studies leading to answers. We understand that while exposing information to a search catalogue may be an end result of a student’s self reflection, it must not detract from the process of self reflection itself. This tells us that the search catalogue and its usage must be well communicated with our users, so that they continue to self reflect effectively without distraction or concerns for the general availability of their reflections.
To be able to perform these studies the project has had to fund a part time analyst for 15 months and sufficient time from our key stakeholder groups. This is not an inexpensive task, which is why JISC funded projects play such an important role in spreading the cost of learning. The EAT-PDP project has been committed to documenting as much as possible both through this blog and reports (available this summer) so that the rest of the sector may benefit from our research.