The UK's Biggest Mobile-learning Project

York (UK), July 2007 - The UK's largest-scale exercise in mobile education to date is helping 9,000 students throughout Yorkshire to assess their own competencies via their phones and related handheld devices. The Assessment and Learning in Practice Settings project (ALPS) aims to ensure that the graduates, studying sixteen different subjects from a wide range of health and social care courses, have the skills needed to be effective in the workplace.

Learning development specialist MyKnowledgeMap (MKM), T-Mobile, and mobile software specialist ecommnet are providing the online infrastructure to support ALPS, a partnership among the Universities of Leeds, Bradford, Huddersfield and Leeds Metropolitan, as well as York St John University College.

The major provider of learning systems for the project, York-based MKM, is creating a backbone system to handle the management, mapping, co-ordination, and analysis of the assessment data. T-Mobile will be providing airtime connectivity and mobile handheld smartphone and PDA devices. ecommnet is providing data security, mobile applications development, and core infrastructure management solutions for the project.

MKM is integrating a number of its products into the ALPS solution. A networked version of its Compendle system allows course leaders to compile and manage assessments using a range of existing repositories. A competency mapping system based on the company's new Capability Matrix skills-gap system enables tutors to match competencies with assessments. MKM's ePortfolio, integrated with a multi-function cohort management system, allows learners to compile a record of their learning.

All of these systems will integrate with the online learning environments that learners and tutors are accustomed to using. ALPS is to provide the students with a range of materials focused on helping them to assess their competencies, accessible any time, anywhere, via their phones or PDAs. Students will be able to complete assessment questionnaires via their devices, covering core competencies such as teamwork and communication.

They will also be encouraged to reflect on their skills as they practise them. Using the multimedia capabilities of their mobile phones, they will be able to record sound and video and to upload these to e-portfolios online as evidence of their achievements. Mobile technologies are vital to enable students learning in the workplace to access university learning systems when needed.

"Developing competence and confidence in a practice setting is vital for students training for a career in health and social care because there is a wide range of general and specific skills that can only be developed in the clinic, hospital, or workplace," says MKM managing director Rob Arntsen. "Accessing learning systems between dealing with patients matters most to these people, and that's where mobile technologies come in."