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Look before you Leap2A

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We were engaged in January 2012 by JISC to carry out a review of the current status of implementations of the Leap2A specification. Leap2A is a spec for e-portfolio data exchange.

With the excellent help of practitioners from Pebble Learning, Nottingham’s CIePD, University of Glasgow, ULCC and others we summarised the benefits. Leap2A:
• enables data exchange;
• promotes use of e-portfolios by learners;
• promotes high quality data;
• eases upgrade and migration;
• promotes interoperability; and
• encourages innovative service development.

We made some recommendations to JISC for activities in the short, medium and long term, which will have to await the publication of the report. We also came up with some use cases, which I’d like to share in this blog post.

In some senses the “problem” with Leap2A, if there is one, is an implication of the relative lack of take-up of e-portfolios; they’re not yet mainstream, so practice has tended to be within relatively small communities. If there’s not a huge amount of usage, then a spec for exchanging the data won’t get much usage either.

We felt that there were some useful use cases in any event. Improving the current use case of data transfer from one system to another, so that it becomes seamless from the point of view of the learner is a fairly obvious one – currently Leap2A based data exchange is mainly via separate export and import routines, and not always under learner control.

There’s also aggregation – the requirement to import several extracts from different portfolio systems into a common system, for example so that an employer or university can review learner
activities across many different e-portfolio types from within one common interface. Nottingham’s CIePD is currently experimenting with this type of usage.

I also wonder whether there is mileage in what I’ve termed “wrapped data transfer”. The requirement here is to map and export selected information from an e-portfolio into an externally-provided wrapper or template. For example a professional individual transferring CPD or other relevant information automatically to a professional body, mapping evidence and experience to the context indicated in the template, or an applicant selecting specific information for transfer into an application form. I suspect that this linked to competence specifications too (see our earlier work on the InteropAbility spec).

This use case depends on some form of (preferably standardised) template – possibly akin to a HEAR template. The e-portfolio would need some form of template service that will render the template in its interface for the learner to drag-and-drop stuff into. Although this type of use case requires (i) data exchange, (ii) template, (iii) data selection, there might be the possibility in the longer term of a seamless dialogue between systems, so that eventually we get to continuous update processes, rather than ad hoc single activities.


Written by benthamfish

March 6, 2012 at 9:20 am

Posted in Leap2A

Leap2A Review

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When JISC asked us to carry out a review of Leap2a usage, I was quite keen. In the current financial climate, all work is fair game, and the project looked interesting and very focused, even if the time scale was tight.

Leap2a is an interoperability specification for data in the ePortfolio domain. It was developed and implemented by a range of practitioner organisations (some academic, some commercial) under the auspices of JISC funding and CETIS supervision. The spec was designed, developed and delivered over 3 phases of projects, which included testing for its efficacy in practical environments. Major ePortfolio products, such as PebblePad and Mahara provided Leap2a functionality. This work was completed in 2009.

But what’s the uptake in terms of usage by real people? This was one of the primary questions for our investigation.  Our method has been to draw up a list organisations using Leap2a and simply to ask them. We’re using a  series of semi-structured telephone interviews, then reviewing and analysing the responses in an attempt to gain some understanding of both qualitative and quantitative usage.

The draft report  is due out by Friday 10 February, and I’m hoping that wider publication will follow on shortly thereafter.  Watch this space!

Written by benthamfish

February 8, 2012 at 4:30 pm

Posted in Leap2A

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