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Skills Profiling Web Service

The purpose of the project was to implement and demonstrate use of a skills profiling web service using open standards in a medical context. This service can be dropped into e-learning systems (user agents) to allow personal skills audits and skills-based reflections on educational or work-based activities. The project uses the LUSID PDP system to produce the service and demonstrates consumption of this service by the open-source Bodington VLE. Throughout the development process we consulted with teachers and domain experts to ensure that the results would actually be usable in practise.

Before any meaningful development work could be started started, it was necessary to define the structure of a skills framework that is suitable for use in HE. This work was based on an existing skills framework in use by LUSID which then was modified to take into account the work by other bodies in this area, for example, subject benchmarks, General Medical Council's Tomorrow's Doctors (2003) scheme, and the agreement on common educational purposes and learning outcomes which has already been achieved by the Northern Medical School SSC Consortium.

A sizable document outlining the mapping exercise has been produced, together with a shorter more digestible summary document which would make a better starting point for interested parties. Both documents can be found in the panel to the right of this text.

LUSID has been used to create an instance of the framework. This has been realised using open standards (IMS RDCEO and IMS VDEX). This implementation is also available in the RHS panel. The original LUSID framework has been enhanced as part of the project by the addition of a selection of Medical Skills which has been agreed upon by the medical schools involved in this project.

The skills profiling service developed here is also delivered using open standards (IMS Content Packaging, IMS QTI v2 and XHTML) and uses the skills framework as a basis to profile the skills knowledge of the learner in such a way that any personal development records (PDRs) created by learners can be moved or understood by other applications. This survey can be used to build a 'competency and knowledge map' or skills-based reflection on a proposed, ongoing or completed activity. Details of the profiling service are contained within the LUSID webapp.

Bodington has been extended so that teachers can use the service to specify the intended skills coverage of a given activity (as part of the logbook tool) so the student can monitor what skills a particular activity should evidence. (This is particularly pertinent to a clinical environment where students must demonstrate and record evidence of competency in a number of activities in order to progress.) The learner can use the collation (e-portfolio) facilities of Bodington to present the logbooks for review by tutors and peers.

In addition, tutors can export their tutees' competency maps or skills-based reflections into an analysis tool such as Microsoft Excel and use advanced data manipulation techniques such as pivot tables to monitor progress across a tutor group, or even a whole cohort, and identify students who may be struggling to cope.

In the future, it is envisaged that an individual could supply their competency map (which references the skills framework) to a PDP web service so that remedial advice can be given (for example, guidance / reading lists / skills development tools).

In our case Bodington has been chosen as a demonstrator, but any VLE or LMS could be extended in much the same way.

In another strand of this project, Bodington has also been extended to support a number of pre-defined and configurable resource 'patterns' (collections of blank VLE content) which teachers can easily share and 'drop into' their courses. Future versions of Bodington will contain a best-practice 'Building' filled with patterns and using such resources will be as simple as clicking on a link. The Shibboleth capabilities of Bodington will mean that any institution which uses Bodington will have access to the contents all 'best practise' resources at any institution that is prepared to share.

As a further part of the project, LUSID has been 'open-sourced' - this means that any institution can now visit the LUSID Source Forge site, download and install LUSID and use it as part of their own learning system. The format of the profiling survey is delivered by LUSID in terms of IMS QTI but could just as easily be rendered using another open standard such as XFORMS. Adding alternative functionality such as this is relatively easy now that the ground work has been put in place.