PDP for ICS Students

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PDP for ICS Students

Dr Janet Hughes and
Morna Simpson

School of Computing, University of Dundee

jhughes@computing.dundee.ac.uk
,
msimpson@computing.dundee.ac.uk


Keywords


Personal development planning; video;
podcast;
employability


Abstract

ICS students seeking employment need to consider the balance of transferable and subject
-
specific technical skills required for employability.

However reflection upon individual skills
gaps is often an uncomfortable experience for ICS students. This report describes work
within one university to encourage students to diagnose their personal skills gaps and to take
action to improve their chance
s of
employment
, particularly within the creative industries. A
web
-
based social networking system was designed to support students in this effort. Issues
were identified for staff setting up such a system and students participating in this type of
person
al development planning.


Aims

The project aimed to
:


1.

investigate the extent to which personal development planning can be
incorporated into ICS curricula

2.

develop awareness within students of the significance of transferable skills
relating to employabilit
y within the creative industries

3.

develop awareness of the distinction between transient and enduring skills

4.

develop an ICS version of the T
-
Skills model
-

broad generic skills coupled
together with deep specialist skills


which will improve students’ sel
f
-
marketing

5.

promote the use of a range of activities that encourage a reflective approach to
learning.


Outcomes


Key outcomes of this project are:


1.

a version of the Skillset

T
-
Skills model has been developed appropriate to ICS
students entering the creative industries


2.

a
Joomla!
! System has been developed that students, industry partners and
academics (by request) can register as a case study for universities wishing to
implant PDP support into their curricula


3.

teaching and learning guidelines have been developed as advice and
recommendations for other universities considering video podcast as a mode of
PDP implant into the ICS environment.

Deliverables

The project has r
esulted in the following deliverables:


1.

A system based upon an open source environment
Joomla!

that provides a case
study of implementing PDP into the ICS curriculum:
http://www2.idl.dundee.ac.uk
/placementpitch/
. The system
uses votes and views
(hit
-
rates
)

to indicate the success of developed materials


2.

A materials support pack: “Incorporating Personal Development Planning into
the ICS Curriculum” offering technical advice, a T
-
skills model for I
CS,
implementation guidance, and points for consideration for academic staff
considering inclusion of PDP experiences into the ICS curriculum. This includes
guidelines garnered from feedback from students, staff and external contacts
involved in the syste
m.


3.

Development Fund Overview Document


4.

A conference poster t
o publicise the project results
(1)


5.

A workshop to raise awareness of the use of the developed materials and to
allow academics to test the developed syst
em
(2)


Background

The motivation for the
“PDP for ICS S
tudents


project is to help students to make
choices in terms of their career progression, and to provide them with more
autonomy to be able to describe their skills.
Standard CVs t
end to be la
cklustre and
do not do justice to
what students are capable of. People often make claims in their
CVs that either undersell or overstate themselves.
The
project encourages
them

to
be creative when they are attempting to
depict

what it is they have been learning

and
what their skills are.
The PDP for ICS project
thereby
gives students a mechanism for
distinguishing themselves from other students in other institutions: students have the
opportunity to upload their work and advert
ise evidence of what they are capable of
doing.

It encourages students
to rationalise how their visual portfolio might be edited
for a particular niche within the industry; so, for example, if they are going for a
particular
software development company
,
they need to research that
company
and
be prepared to

do their homework

.



Being able to reflect on what makes students employable as an exercise is a valid,
relevant and useful process.

Students gain confidence in terms of being effective
when
marketin
g

themselves on video. The project is another way of supporting
students in articulating strengths, developing a career focus and goal, and building
their confidence.

Benefits

for Students

The project encourages the development of relationships between students and
industry, helping those students to identify potential long
-
term employment goals. As
a result, the project intends to be a natural way of assisting students to present
themselves

in a way not normally possible within the traditional CV format. It helps
them to reflect upon both their transferable and subject specific skills, and what skills
they need to build upon, to raise their profile and to raise their confidence in an
increas
ingly competitive environment.

Benefits

for Departments

The project offers departments an opportunity to show off the calibre of their students
and the quality of the materials they can produce


hence the system can help to
promote the department as a wh
ole as well as
its

students. Departments can also
share ideas about how the project can be implemented within existing curricula, as
well as to identify the approaches that departments take to encourage students to
take part.

Benefits

for Industry

Industr
y contacts
have the opportunity to present information on themes and issues
that are of great importance
to the creative i
ndustries. They
can therefore
market
their company directly to students through their profile page
,

where they can promote
their busin
ess and the opport
unities they can offer to first
-
time
candidates. They
also
have the opportunity to review all the “Pitches” from all
students
.


The obvious selling point to industry is the fact that they get to see the calibre of
students that they could

employ on a placement, and potentially on a full time basis
at the end of the student’s degree. Student presentations not only provide industry
with a way of identifying potential employees through the quality of their work, but
can also provide an insigh
t into their personalities. Additionally, the students
themselves will target those industries, and companies, that they wish to work for, so
it represents an important means of advertising one’s company to the academic
environment, and to encourage furthe
r collaboration between academia and industry.



Putting it into Practice

Joomla!


The system was built using an open
-
source Content Management System (CMS)
called
Joomla!

(1)
. Content Management Systems have grown in
popularity in recent
years as they can substantially reduce the amount of time required to develop a
website and offer a flexible, configurable and extensible platform on which the site
can run. A typical CMS system is database
-
driven
,

meaning that all the

website
content is held and requested from a database. The website pages themselves are
written in the server
-
side scripting language PHP. When a specific page is requested
from the website server, the PHP code in the page interfaces with the database,
integrates the requested content and serves the finished page to the user. The visual
appearance of the pages is managed using Cascading Style Sheets (CSS).


The
Joomla!

CMS, development of which was begun around 2000, is now one of the
most popular CMS s
ystems available, with an active community of users and
contributors. Because it is open
-
source and released under the GPL licence,
Joomla!

can be downloaded and used free of charge. New versions and patches are released
regularly.
Joomla!

has a core funct
ionality built around its content model. The website
developer must first decide on an underlying content structure, comprising a set of
Categories and sets of Sections within those Categories. Content authors can then
author content items and place them i
n the Content Sections. The way in which the
content is accessed and displayed is fully configurable by the developer and all
content is searchable.
Joomla!

also handles multiple u
sers, with registration
f
unctionality and one
-
dimensional access control bu
ilt in. This allows for users with
different levels of ‘rights’
,

ranging from ‘Super Administrator’ to ‘Guest’. There are
many other features, including

e
-
mail, user polls
, a comment system, news feeds and
banner advertising. Those features which are no
t required for a particular website
development can be easily disabled to ensure that site shows only the necessary
functionality.


One of the most appealing aspects of using
Joomla!

for website development is the
quick development lifecycle it offers. Th
is is in part due to the fact that it has most
commonly used content management functionality is available in the core distribution
and can be set up rapidly. There is also a vibrant community of developers making
3
rd

party extensions for
Joomla!
, which co
ver an array of functionality not natively
offered within the
Joomla!

distribution. This was particularly useful in the context of
project

development as functionality enabling the upload, categorisation and
publishing of user generated video content was a

major requirement of the project
and was not available natively.

Third Party Components


A component called Seyret was purchased and installed which handles video
uploading and manages content in its own category structure. As part of the Seyret
installa
tion, new database tables are created in the website database to manage
these new content items. Seyret handles a number of different video formats and is
reasonably configurable. Like a lot of
Joomla!

components it comes with a large set
of functionality

which you can manually configure so that the desired set of functions
is achieved.


One of the key requirements of the project was the ability to manage numerous
student groups autonomously and transparently within the same architecture. In
other words
, it shouldn’t be possible for one student group to access the material
authored by another group. This was an important consideration when students were
working on formative work which they might not want the outside world to see
immediately. This posed
a problem as
Joomla!

only natively handles a one
-
dimensional privilege hierarchy. In other words, it is not possible to control access to
material between different student groups in the way that was required. Further to
the separate student groups, a key

idea for the future expansion of the site was to
allow corporate members to register and browse the content on the site. One of the
key ideas behind the site is to encourage networking and job opportunities between
students and industry partners. Given
that there is value in forging these
connections, there is potential for capitalisation of this aspect of the site so access
control would also be necessary for this second distinct type of user. Thankfully
there is a third party
Joomla!

extension, JACL,
which adds this capability for multi
-
dimensional access control to different content categories.


JACL allows the user to set up a second dimension of user groups within the existing
privilege hierarchy. In the case of the student user groups, you can set

up several
groups to have the ability to author content, but access to this content is mutually
exclusive. The site was set up in such a way that the student user would be manually
assigned to the correct user group on registration, after which it would s
eem to the
user that they were the only user group using the site as all other content from
different user groups is invisible. For the corporate users they would be given special
“registered user” status allowing such users to browse the profiles and uplo
ad
ed
content from all user groups
.



































User A is Guest
. They have minimal access privileges so can only access restricted
content and extensions as dictated by the access control component.


User B is a registered student

user so can edit their own profile, publish and edit
new content and complete required
modules. They may also be able to view other
student’s profiles from within their own student group and view and comme
nt on their
contributed content.


User C is a Subscribed Industry User
, so may be able to access limited
sets of
information on ALL studen
t groups, edit their own industry profile, embed/upload

multimedia content and contact students.


Industry podcasts


Various alumni and contacts close to each of the departments were contacted to
provide industry podcasts (User C above) to be uploaded. Par
ticipants were asked to
talk for around 15 minutes, in which they were asked to:




Introduce themselves and their company, and identify what they felt to be the
big issues within the creative and technical industries;



Provide a short description of their ow
n company and some case studies;

CORE

CUSTOM EXTENSIONS

DATABASE

WEBSITE FRONT

END

ACCESS CONTROL

A

B

C


EXTERNAL MEDIA
HOSTING




Provide tips for students aiming to enter the creative and technical industries.

Participants could shoot and edit the video themselves, or could call on a member of
the project team to do the filming and subsequent editing
. At the time of writing, all
industry contacts had selected the latter method.



Issues and Debates


A number of

main issues were identified fr
om the case study, principally centred
upon whether or not this work would be mandatory

for students

and the ti
me needed
to develop the podcasts
.

Assessment


In one Level 3 module

(i.e. third year of a four year Honours Degree)
, the work was
mandatory. Students were provided with an introduction and a workshop day
dedicated to personal skills given by an advisor
from the university’s careers office. A
brainstorming session was also held to identify some of the areas within which
students might go into once they graduate. Additionally, students were expected to
produce a website in addition to their CV. This was a
compulsory part of the course.


Within another Level 3 module, students were encouraged to join in but it was not
mandatory, and thus students were not obliged to take part. Level 3 ICS students
unfortunately have many demands on their time, and thus such
students often put
the idea of job
-
hunting to the back of their minds. As a result, there were minimal
responses.

Technical matters


One of
Joomla!
’s core strengths is also one of its weaknesses. As mentioned earlier,
it is reasonably straightforward to in
stall third party extensions to add any
functionality required that is not handled natively. However, JACL addition can cause
fundamental changes to the core structure of the
Joomla!

platform. The more
components added, the higher the risk of component co
nflicts. The
re is limited

availability of third party components providing pedagogical
functionality
. This may be
due to the hybrid nature of the site, since one is attempting to create both a
multimedia upload site and a virtual learning environment. The
re are many CMS
platforms which handle one aspect but it becomes more difficult to have one platform
handle all of the functionality.


Because of privacy concerns
, the u
niversity preferred that content be hosted on
university servers.

This sensible conc
ern adds to the complexity of the website
architecture. Instead of using well
-
known, mature and familiar video hosting services
(e.g. YouTube, Vimeo) this functionality had to be included in the site, thus
necessitating the use of the Seyret video componen
t. Although this works
reasonably well for such an inexpensive piece of software, it cannot compete with the
usability and functionality of commercial online services such as those mentioned
above. For example, Seyret often was problematic when dealing
with unusual
codecs or aspect ratios, and it was not designed for use with Multi
-
Level access
controls such as JACL.


Evaluation


The project was evaluated over several months through interviews with members of
staff involved with the setting up and maint
enance of the system, programme leaders
responsible for incorporating the project into their respective curriculums, industry
contacts who contributed podcasts, and students who contributed their online CVs.
Interviewees were contacted firstly via e
-
mail,
and then follow
-
up interviews were
held either on a face
-
to
-
face basis or by telephone.



The concept behind the project was well received by all the academics that took part
in the project.

Similarly, a
ll the students
interviewed
who took part in the proj
ect were
very positive about the concept behind it.

Both sets of people were concerned with
the time it had taken and with issues of assessment.


All of those from industry
involved

were extremely positive about the concept behind
the project
. To begin wi
th, the most common advantage
perceived

was the ability to
quickly scan through videos to get an idea of the skills and personality behind each of
the presenters. While it was felt that the concept should not replace standard CVs
and interviews, respondent
s suggested that it meant that it would help them to more
clearly identify the particular candidates they would like to invite for interview, rather
than a significant number of candidates based upon a CV alone
.


Further Work


A

number of options

have been

identified for future development, including
:



The ability for students to build a complete profile encompassing video, portfolio
and CV;



The ability for students to create specific project pages;



The ability for industry contacts to create their own
industrial profiles;



An improved search mechanism in which student videos are “tagged” based
upon their interests, relevant experience and other factors that may determine
the suitability of a prospective candidate for a placement.


Conclusion

The “PDP for ICS Students” project is a novel means of assisting and encouraging
ICS students to
perform Personal Development Planning with a view to employment

within the creative industries. In this paper, we have highlighted our experiences
developing a
nd implementing the

PDP
for ICS S
tudents


project

at the University of
Dundee. We found that, not only was the website technically challenging to put
together, but encouraging students, staff and industry contacts to participate involved
a
great deal of t
ime and effort. Accompanying this report

we offer what we believe to
be suitable guidelines for implementing
a similar project,

either as a mandatory or
a
voluntary exercise. Such a

project requires significant input from staff to encourage
students to tak
e part and to see the benefits it has for them


including the provision
of training in video production and career advice, as well as building, maintaining and
encouraging input from industry contacts.


Resources



Pedagogical guidelines, technical guideli
nes and management guidelines derived
from lessons learned are available in the “Materials Support Pack” provided to
HEA
-
ICS.




Video podcasts by students and industry podcasts can be viewed at
ht
tp://www2.idl.dundee.ac.uk/placementpitch/
. Please note that
for reasons of
privacy,
users must initially register
before an

appropriate user group can be
allocated
to view the podcasts
. Requests should be sent to Dr Janet Hughes:
jhughes@computing.dundee.ac.uk




Higher Education Academy Personal Development Planning resources
(4)




Sector Skills Council Skill Set resources for interactive media
(5)


Bibliography

1.
The Placement Pitch Project.
M. Simpson, G. W. Coleman and J. Hughes.

[ed.]
H. White. Canterbury, Kent

: The Higher Education Academy, 2009. 10th Annual
Conference of the Subject Centre for Information and Computer Sciences.

2.
Towards a personal development plan for ICS students entering the creative
industries ), .
M.
Simpson, G. W. Coleman and J. Hughes.

[ed.] H. White.
Canterbury, Kent

: Higher Education Academy, 2009. 10th Annual Conference on the
Subject Centre for Information and Computer Sciences.

3.
Joomla!

Joomla!
http://joomla.co.uk/

: Open Source Matters Inc.,

Retrieved
21.09.2009.

4.
Higher Education Academy.

Personal Development Planning.
York

:
http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/ourwork/learning/pdp.asp, Higher Education Academy,
Retrieved 21.09.2009.

5.
The Sector Skills Council for Creative Media.

The Interactive
Media &
Computer Games Skill Set.
London

:
http://www.skillset.org/interactive/industry/skills/article_4378_1.asp, Skillset,
Retrieved 21.09.2009.