Personalised eLearning in Further Education

Personalised eLearning in Further Education

Elfneh Udessa Bariso (College of North East London, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-884-0.ch007
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Electronic media can contribute to personalisation of learning both in formal and informal contexts. Efforts are made both at individual and organisational levels in Further Education to harness new technologies to enhance personal learning experiences. Personalised eLearning supports contents, activities and collaboration aimed at meeting the needs and wants of the learner (Hill, 2004 & 2008; Coryell & Chlup, 2007). However, some technology critics argue that there is very little research to support whether eLearning is an effective approach to minimise the exclusion of disadvantaged groups in society, e.g. learners of English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) (Webb, 2006). The author contends that use of technology could act as a barrier to participation in learning. This study was conducted to assess the extent to which eLearning resources promote integrative/explorative learner-centred Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL). This chapter reports on the findings of a qualitative action research project involving one-to-one interviews with learners (n=12) at the College of North East London (CONEL) on their deployment of various new technologies (virtual and personal learning environments) in ESOL studies during the academic year 2007/8. Additionally, three focus group interviews were held including six learner interviewees each (n=18). Semi-structured interviews were conducted with four colleagues who actively integrated CALL into delivery of their ESOL sessions. Data was also collected from programme reviews, course evaluation reports and a research diary. The results of the study suggest that new technologies promote personalised learning when applied with careful planning even among learners who appear to be technophobic or are reluctant to use e-resources. Barriers hindering the integration of e-resources into the curriculum are discussed and possible solutions are also suggested.
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Background: Widening Participation, Personalised Learning And Use Of New Technologies In Fe

In an attempt to widen participation in learning, the UK Government is aiming for 100% attendance in schools, FE or training until age of 19. The UK Government defines widening participation as “helping more people from under-represented groups, particularly low socioeconomic groups, to participate successfully in higher education” (Department for Education and Skills (DfES), 2006a, p.5). The Government is also aiming to achieve a 50% participation rate of under-30-year-olds who will have participated in some form of higher education by 2010.

One way of promoting widening participation is to personalise learning. The UK Government has launched various consultations and policy documents focusing on individual learners or potential learners to address non-participation, underachievement and skills gap at all levels. For instance, the FE white paper, Further Education: Raising Skills, Improving Life Chances (DfES, 2006a) argues that when learners participate in decisions affecting their learning experience, they are likely to participate more and play a more active role in the provider’s quality improvement process. The sector wide consultation paper, Personalising Further Education: Developing a Vision (DfES, 2006b), aimed to establish a shared vision as to what personalisation means in the FE sector and how the full benefits of personalised learning can be reaped by learners, providers, employers and the country as a whole. The document defined personalisation in an educational setting as “…working in partnership with the learner and employer – to tailor their learning experience and pathways, according to their needs and personal objectives – in a way which delivers success” (DfES, 2006b, p. 7). In this study personalisation is perceived, as a task of providing every learner with fulfilling learning opportunities to meet legitimate individual learning needs supported by appropriate resources that promote choice, tackle barriers and advance learner autonomy.

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