I’m going to be blamed for showing some favouritism because here’s another post about the University of Leeds. However, I’m unashamed to promote the great work and the prestigious TechWorld.COM “mobility project of the year” award achieved by Gareth Frith and his colleagues within the medical school and the partnership with the Assessment in Learning and Practice Settings (ALPS). ALPS is a collaborative Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL) with an impressive collection of Yorkshire universities.
Enough scene setting, what was the award for? Here is an extract from the project award notice which Gareth has kindly given me permission to reproduce.
Computing Awards 2008
Public Sector Project of the Year
ALPS: Yorkshire’s universities health and social care students benefit from mobile learning and assessment programme
The award winning Assessment and Learning in Practice Settings (ALPS), was created as a collaborative programme between five higher education institutions in the north of England. Its aim was to implement an innovative new method of mobile learning and assessment by providing 900 students from the health and social care faculties at the universities of Leeds, Leeds Metropolitan, Bradford, Huddersfield and York St John, with T-Mobile MDA Vario devices to support their learning and assessment whilst on work placements.
Practice placements for students’ training in health and social care careers, such as medicine, nursing, or social work are essential for the development of students’ skills and confidence in a practice work environment. ALPS recognised that these health and social care students need access to their university’s learning systems anywhere and at anytime to enable them to work efficiently with all of the information they need.
The technological aims of the £1 million ALPS programme were hugely ambitious and on a different scale to any other of its kind in the UK. Connecting such a large volume of mobile devices to five establishments with different IT systems and management, while ensuring both secure access to the systems and complete mobile network coverage across many work placement locations in the Yorkshire region, meant that ALPS had to pick the best mobile learning solution possible. There was also the added pressure from the strategic health authority, who were understandably concerned that, with the wrong solution, patient confidentiality could be compromised in such a project.
After a thorough procurement exercise in early 2007 to decide who would provide ALPS with the best mobile solution possible, T-Mobile was picked as provider of choice. Its partnership with MyKnowledgeMap and ecommnet provided ALPS with a cohesive team that was dedicated to help it achieve its ambitious objectives. T-Mobile was also transparent about technology costs and offered the best fixed-monthly price for unlimited Mobile Broadband usage.
ALPS began the implementation with a three-month pilot scheme, once this was successful, each of the participating universities, all of which had different email platforms, Virtual Learning Environments and Active Directories, were fully connected within a six-month time period.
Initially, ALPS invested in 900 MDA Vario handhelds, a PDA style device that offers high-speed Mobile Broadband connections, and an in-built web browser that ensures users can surf the internet like they would on a PC. Each of these devices was encrypted to make sure that all data, including that of the patient, was confidential and secure.
Improved teaching assessments:
University tutors have been able to upload assessment forms to the T-Mobile MDA Vario for their students to complete while taking part in their work placements. Each assessment is customised to the individual student so that they are relevant to courses and learning styles. Tutors are able to access the student questionnaires which cover core competences such as team work and communication, reflecting on these skills as they practice them in a work placement environment, rather than having to wait for these assessments when the students are back at the University campus. Finally, they can use the MDA Vario to log in to a secure area, connected to the university’s teaching systems, to record and store the student’s assessment.
Enhanced learning methods:
Using the Vario’s Mobile Broadband speed connection, students can access learning resources from a central virtual learning repository at high-speed, and can reflect on their work placement on a live blog built into the assessment programme.
The multimedia capabilities of the T-Mobile MDA Vario has also enabled users to upload their e-portfolios (including video and sound files) online, giving tutors real-time access to their students’ achievements. The e-portfolio records all of the student’s own educational and professional experience, acting as mobile curriculum vitae that can be accessed at anytime.
Return on investment and future growth
Within one year of the programme, T-Mobile and its partners have successfully enabled ALPS to role out the mobile learning and assessment programme to over 1,000 students. ALPS plans to add more e-learning material and roll out more mobile learning devices to additional health and social care students in West Yorkshire over the next three years. It also has immediate plans to implement newer devices, such as the Vario II and MDA Touch Plus.
Gareth Frith, Technology Enhanced Learning Manager for ALPS, comments: “The success of this implementation provides clear indication of the advantages mobile technologies can bring to all sectors where using a mobile device is far more practical than using a desktop PC. ALPS has been approached by other university Centres for Excellence in Teaching & Learning about its pioneering implementation, increasing interest across many different departments. Our partnership with T-Mobile has been a key part of this success, and we intend to continue to work closely with them to develop our plans for the future. ”