by Paul Maharg on 25/11/2005

On Wednesday, at the Dept for Constitutional Affairs, Consultative Conference, giving a version of a paper on learning outcomes I gave to the LPC conference earlier this year.  Such an amorphous subject to be covered in so short a time, and a huge research field.  All I could really do was give an overview of some salient issues, and some examples from our work in the GGSL Diploma. 

As always, I’m struck by the way that a constructivist approach in the virtual community follows through many of the points of realist education.  Situated learning could be seen as an update on Llewellyn’s situation sense, where the emphasis is on acting within context, and understanding that practice context. 

Interesting and perceptive points were raised by Hugh Grimes, Caroline Maughan, Alison Bone and others.  Caroline’s (about what happens when virtual firms on the Diploma can’t work together) was in part answered by our take on the Practice Management module, whereby the Practice Management tutor takes on board the role of practice manager for the virtual firm, and manages problems as these arise within the firm.  I forgot to say in reply to Caroline that if all else fails, we ask firms to undertake mediation.  Often the reason why working relations in student firms breaks down is a breakdown in trust and confidence in each other.  If the firm is to work together, they need to rebuild the relationships, and mediation can be a turning-point in this process. 

I made mention of portfolios as one way forward for assessment of transactional learning.  One of the speakers later in the day alluded to the costs associated with the assessment of portfolios, citing the potential set-up cost to his firm as being over £400K.  I wondered what model of portfolio he had in mind, and how that was costed.  Our portfolio project in the ggsl, albeit at a fairly early stage, comes up with nothing like that cost.  The literature on portfolio design supports a wide range of approaches.  In an e-portfolio approach it’s true that functional specs and ways of capturing experience using social software and much else, can streamline the processes involved, but that the capital costs of design & implementation are high. Nevertheless, a true picture of ROI, if that’s possible for something like a portfolio, has to include benefits to organisation as a whole in terms of quality of work achieved, streamlined work processes (surely portfolios are a form of knowledge management?) and much else.

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