Just4me: functional requirements to support informal self-directed learning in a personal ubiquitous environment

Ingrid Noguera1, Iolanda Garcia1, Begoña Gros1, Xavier Mas1, and Teresa Sancho1
eLearn Center, Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain {inoguerafr,igarciago,bgros,xmas,tsancho}@uoc.edu Abstract. The aim of this paper is to present the results of the first phase of a project called Just4me. The aim of this project is to design, implement and analyze the use of a personal ubiquitous learning environment in order to develop a prototype that can be commercially exploited. In the phase of the environment conceptualization, we have reviewed literature about the state of the art, and we have analysed research projects and platforms on the field of personal learning environments and lifelong learning. As part of the functional requirements’ analysis we have also conducted a questionnaire to medical professionals, the pilot target group, to know their pedagogical and technological needs in collecting, using and organizing contents and tools that they use to learn in different contexts (professional, social and formative). We expect to develop a pathway on how to use personal learning environments and to provide a platform able to operate and to be integrated with other environments, tools and resources. Keywords: self-directed learning, personal learning environments, informal learning, lifelong learning, ubiquitous learning, online platforms.
1

1. Introduction
Just4me project is funded by INNPACTO Program (Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation), and developed by a consortium constituted by Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, several technology and software engineering companies and the Official Medical Association of Barcelona (COMB). The aim is to develop a platform that provides a personal ubiquitous learning environment for the lifelong learner and integrates tools that might be of help to self plan and self structure learning pathways. The pilot system will be applied to medical professionals. The innovation of our proposal is mainly based on the idea of ubiquitous access to the platform from mobiles devices, and also on the integration of learning tools and patterns to direct learning across the continuum between informal and formalized learning scenarios and contents. In this paper we tackle the issue of functional requirements that might support informal self-directed learning taking also into account mobility factors (related with ubiquitous learning). The project is in the stage of conceptualization and specification of functional requirements of the environment. With this purpose a literature review has been carried out focused on the concepts of informal and self-directed learning from a sociocultural perspective. This approach incorporates both dimensions of autonomous and social learning in the framework of a continuum from informal towards “formalized learning”. In this sense, we have explored an built on Cross “learning mixer” [4], according to which learning processes always consists of a mixture of formal and informal components that are determined along different criteria. Selfdirected learning has been defined as “a process in which individuals take the initiative, with or without the help of others, in diagnosing their learning needs, formulating learning goals, identifying human and material resources for learning, choosing and implementing appropriate learning strategies and evaluating learning outcomes" [9]. We understand it as a process that

occurs throughout life, in a lifelong learning scope, and not confined to the different educational institutions and collectives in which individuals participate.

2. Rationale and aims of the project
The evolution of virtual training systems caused the explosion of management platforms for learning processes (LMS or Learning Management Systems) that today are widely widespread among academic institutions offering online training. These platforms or LMS manage the content support and learning activities, but still by establishing the same roles to students and teachers than in traditional education [12]. Personal learning environments (PLE) represent a new approach regarding the use of learning technologies. These environments, unlike the management systems predominantly used in universities as learning platforms (LMS), are based on the approach of student-centered learning through the use of applications and social software tools [1]. Just4me intends to provide a ubiquitous personal learning environment for the lifelong learner that integrates tools to facilitate self-directed learning. The learning support tools must be customizable and adaptable to different learning styles and needs. The platform should be close to everyday technologies, and in turn, help those who learn to structure the knowledge that they acquire along their academic, social and professional path. Just4me wants to overcome the idea of closed classroom and bring to society the use of technology for the informal learning. The project development is based on the following specific objectives: Determine functional and technological requirements for the design of a ubiquitous personal learning environment based on a self-directed learning process. Make a pilot implementation of the designed environment in the context of continuing vocational online training (COMB- Official Medical Association of Barcelona), within the framework of formal and informal learning situations. Analyze the pedagogical effectiveness of the environment and the role of the different learning process components (planning, content, social presence and support and selfassessment) in shaping the personal environment and their use by practitioners. Identify and describe emerging usage profiles among practitioners. Identify and describe uses associated with mobility (access via mobile devices).

3. Project methodology
In the first phase, we have focused the attention on the conceptualization and specification of functional requirements of the environment. With this purpose we have collected information through three actions: a) we have reviewed the main current research about the conceptualization and implementation of personal learning environments (i.e. [1-3], [5-8], [11] and [1314]), b) we have explored the prominent projects regarding the development and implementation of PLEs in professional and cooperative contexts, higher education institutions and open environments for lifelong learning in three different contexts: professional and corporative contexts (EPERe-PORT Project, MATURE Project

Services, Aristotele project, APOSDLE Project), higher education institutions (JISC CETIS PLE Project, Leicester PLE Project, PLE Project at University of South Australia, Responsive Open Learning Environments, PELICANS, TU GRAZ, SAPO Campus, Dipro 2.0 Project), and open environments for lifelong learning (Hort Digital, Ten Competence Project, Grapple Project, MyPlan Project). c) we have conducted a questionnaire with seven multiple-choice questions addressed to medical professionals (N=26) concerning web 2.0 tools, resources useful to learn, strategies for organizing information, integration of different tools and services, and main features of a PLE. The second phase is based on the development of the pilot usable in multiple platforms (i.e. desktop, laptop, netbook, smartphone, iPhone, etc.) in order to allow everyone to adapt different applications to its personal, social and educational needs accessing from different devices. During the third phase, we will conduct a pilot test in order to identify and describe future trends of online learning models and, on the other hand, to revise the techno-pedagogical model of continuous professional training for health professionals (COMB) and the educational institution involved (Universitat Oberta de Catalunya -UOC-), devoted to online higher education.

4. Expected results
First results have shown that the environment should be customizable and adaptable to different learning styles and needs. The platform should be close to everyday technologies, and in turn, be able to integrate and operate with other environments, tools and resources (with different levels of openness and formality/informality). It should also incorporate specific features and tools specially conceived to support learning: specialized learning materials and resources, time regulation and planning functionalities, personal portfolios, etc. It should help to structure and plan the knowledge that learners acquire along and across their academic, social and professional pathways. Finally it should recommend itineraries in order to create and to use the PLE. In relation with this issue we have explored the idea of recommender technology and analysed different strategies of use [10]. As a product of this project, we expect to: Provide a platform able to integrate and operate with other environments, tools and resources (with different levels of openness and formality). Incorporate specific features and tools for learning. Recommend itineraries in order to create and to use a PLE. Enable ubiquitous access from different devices. The expected results, in terms of environmental design and their usage, may be transferable to other learning contexts, hybrid or blended learning, both in the formal education sector, as in the non-formal and any discipline. We consider that this work might contribute to the reflection on the relationship between informal and online learning through a self-directed learning approach. On the base of this analysis it also advances the functional requirements of an ubiquitous PLE platform.

5. References
1. Attwell, G. (2007). The Personal Learning Environments - the future of eLearning? eLearning Papers, 2 (1). Retrieved January 5, 2012, from http://www.elearningeuropa.info/files/media/media11561.pdf 2. Buchem, I., Attwell, G., Torres, R. (2011). Understanding Personal Learning Environments: Literature review and synthesis through the Activity Theory lens. Proceedings of the The PLE Conference 2011, 11th -13th July 2011, Southampton, UK, pp. 1-33. Retrieved January 15, 2012, from http://www.scribd.com/doc/62804377/Understanding-Personal-LearningEnvironments. 3. Castañeda, L., Soto, J. (2010). Building Personal Learning Environments by using and mixing ICT tools in a professional way. Digital Education Review, 18, pp. 9-25. Retrieved January 3, 2012, from http://greav.ub.edu/der/index.php/der/article/view/163/302. 4. Cross, J. (2007). Informal learning: Rediscovering the natural pathways that inspire innovation and performance. San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer. 5. Fiedler, S., Väljataga, T. (2011). Personal learning environments: concept or technology? International Journal of Virtual and Personal Learning Environments, 2 (4), pp. 1-11. Retrieved January 20, 2012, from http://pleconference.citilab.eu/wpcontent/uploads/2010/07/ple2010_submission_45.pdf. 6. Fournier, H., Kop, R. (2010). Researching the design and development of a Personal Learning Environment. 2010 PLE Conference. Retrieved January 12, 2012, from http://pleconference.citilab.eu/cas/wpcontent/uploads/2010/06/ple2010_submission_88.pdf. 7. Ivanova, M., Ivanova, T. (2010). Involving students in managing their own learning. eLearning Papers, 21. Retrieved February 2, 2012, from http://www.elearningeuropa.info/files/media/media23712.pdf. 8. Klein, S., Zimmermann, V. (2009). Open learning environments for personalised learning. Paper presented at the Learning Technologies Conference 2009: The power of you, Queensland, Australia. Retrieved February 10, 2012, from http://www.learningtechnologies.com.au/files/Klein-Zimmermann_LT2009.pdf 9. Knowles, M. (1975). Self-Directed Learning: A Guide for Learners and Teachers. New York: Association Press. 10. Mödritischer, F., Krumay, B., El Helou, S., Gillet, D., Govaerts, S., Duval, E., Nussbaumer, A., Albert, D., Dahn, I., Ullrich, C. (2011). May I suggest? Three PLE recommender strategies in comparison. Proceedings of the PLE Conference 2011, 11th -13th July, 2011, Southampton, UK. Retrieved February 10, 2012, from http://wundt.unigraz.at/staff/nussbaumer/pubfiles/PLE2011-RecommenderStrategies.pdf 11. Palmér, M., Sire, S., Bogdanov, E., Gillet, D., Wild, F. (2009). Mapping Web Personal Learning Environments. Proceedings of the MUPPLE Workshop at the European Conference on Technology Enhanced Learning (EC-TEL), September 29, Nice, France, pp. 31-46. Retrieved December 15, 2011, from http://infoscience.epfl.ch/record/140942/files/mupple-ple-dimensions.pdf. 12. Schaffert, S., Hilzensauern, W. (2008). On the way towards Personal Learning Environments: Seven crucial aspects. eLearning Papers, 9. Retrieved May 10, 2009, from http://www.elearningeuropa.info/files/media/media15971.pdf. 13. Severance, C, Hardin, J., Whyte, A. (2008). The coming functionality mash-up in Personal Learning Environments. Interactive Learning Environments, 16 (1), pp. 47-62. Retrieved January 18, 2012, from http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10494820701772694. 14. Wilson, S., Liber, O., Beauvoir, P., Milligan, C., Johnson, M., Sharples, P. (2006). Personal Learning Environments: Challenging the dominant design of educational systems. Retrieved November 12, 2011, from http://hdl.handle.net/1820/727.