Learning Innovation Unit, Dublin City University

Learning Innovation Unit

Dr Edel Conway - using ict to support personal and professional development planning at DCU

Principal applicant

Dr Edel Conway

School or Unit

Centre for Research in Management Learning and Development, DCU Business School (edel.conway@DCU.ie)

Additional Applicants

Professor Kathy Monks, Centre for Research in Management Learning and Development, DCU Business School (kathy.monks@DCU.ie)

Muireann Ni Dhuigneain, Head of Careers Service, DCU (muireann.nidhuigneain@DCU.ie)

Denise McMorrow, Careers Advisor (denise.mcmorrow@DCU.ie)

Dr Ciaran O'hOgartaigh, Theme Leader, Business and Innovation

Billy Kelly, Director of the Bachelor of Business Studies Programme, DCUBS (billy.kelly@DCU.ie)

David Meehan, Business Librarian, DCU Library (david.meehan@DCU.ie)

Amount requested



The project aims to develop a set of web-based tools to enable (i) undergraduates within DCU to engage in the process of personal development planning (PDP) and (ii) more effective evaluation of current PDP initiatives. This is an on-going, collaborative initiative between DCUBS, the Careers Service and the Library. Building upon an initiative undertaken during 2004, we intend to identify a suitable e-based PDP facility based on extensive evaluation of PDP software employed by universities internationally. This will be piloted with BBS undergraduates with the aim of making it available to the wider DCU student community. The objective will be to create structured opportunities for DCU students to become self-regulated learners with the capability of developing a range of skills that will benefit them throughout their degree, their careers and their lives. The facility will provide a more streamlined, on-line process of evaluating PDP initiatives that can provide evidence of their effectiveness to DCU, its students and to potential employers of our graduates.

Project URL


Will the project facilitate flexible access (in the context of lifelong learning or otherwise) or facilitation of longer-term provision for special needs


Is the project related to the development of DCU's six academic themes


Strategic Context

The project links with the education and learning and the business and innovation themes. It aims to assist students to become self-regulated, life-long learners who have the capacity to pursue creative approaches to problem solving. The aim to create a web-based version through Moodle reinforces the e-learning focus within DCU's strategy. As DCU is the first Irish university to offer PDP, this initiative therefore has the potential to become a core feature of the next strategic plan. PDP also has a key role to play in improving student retention rates. The evaluation of the pilot programme with first year students indicated that they were much more motivated towards their degree programme as a result of engaging in the PDP process. The initiative also brings together a school and a number of units, which play a crucial role in the development of students, but which have normally operated in isolation. The project has the support of the business and innovation theme leader.

Also see:


Report submitted to ODTLI by Professor Monks (based on above application)

Implementation Plan

The project consists of two distinct elements.

1. May-September 2005: This element involves the development of an on-line system for the evaluation of current PDP initiatives. This will capture the skills profile of BBS students prior to and following completion of the relevant modules at each stage of their programme and will provide a more cost-effective and expedient means of gathering data on the effectiveness of the initiative. It will also provide data that will facilitate the dissemination of research on the effectiveness of the initiative to its stakeholders. It will be developed in consultation with the computer services department to ensure compatibility with the moodle system (DCUBS, Careers, Library, ISS).

2. A separate, but related part of the project involves identifying a suitable on-line PDP system. This involves two phases:

(a) May - June 2005: This will involve undertaking research into existing PDP systems currently used by universities worldwide. It will identify best practice in the design, development and adaptation of PDP systems (DCUBS, Careers)

(b) June - September 2005: This will involve an extensive assessment of the two best PDP software packages identified during phase one, and will involve two project members visiting two UK universities to learn about their PDP systems. It will provide PDP system developers the opportunity to share their insights about experiences, potential problems and benefits in implementing their own on-line PDP system. Following these visits, an expert from one of these institutions will be invited to visit DCU to share their experiences with the wider project team and other interested stakeholders (DCUBS, Careers, Library, other stakeholders)

The project builds on an approach to PDP based on self-regulated learning; a process in which the learner is cognitively, motivationally, and behaviourally active in his or her learning (Zimmerman & Martinez-Pons, 1986, 1988).

No obstacles to completing the project are envisaged.

Impact and Evaluation

The PDP process aims to develop self-regulated learners who are capable of taking on challenging careers at the end of their degree programmes.

The project will be evaluated by means of the following:

The web-based tools that will be developed will include evaluation systems that can provide feedback to the project team on student perceptions of changes in their skills and abilities.

Building the core elements of the PDP process into the assessment system of the BBS degree programme including: personal portfolios in all years of the programme; marks awarded on completion of the Library and Careers elements of PDP; the redesign of the INTRA report to reinforce the core elements of learning and development.

The monitoring of student retention rates. As already indicated, PDP has increased first year undergraduates' motivation towards their degree programme and PDP therefore has the potential to positively impact on student retention.

Dissemination and Sustainability

A significant amount of data has been gathered on the "skills for success" initiative to date. The team has submitted an abstract for the AISHE conference in Belfast in May of this year. A paper is being prepared for this conference and for the International Journal of Management Education. Research by the CRMLD into the impact of PDP on student learning is on-going.

Professor Monks has submitted one report to OVPLI based on the funding received during 2004. We will be happy to provide similar reports in the future.

The most significant costs in establishing an on-line PDP assessment facility will be realised during the development phase. Once developed, there should be no additional cost in maintaining the system.

Detailed budget

Cost of developing an on-line system for the evaluation of current PDP activities - 1000

Cost of sourcing appropriate PDP web-based systems through visits to two UK universities - 1,200

Cost of bringing an expert from UK to DCU to advise on PDP system implementation - 1,400

Cost of adapting existing PDP systems for DCU usage, including licence fees - 4,000

There are no funds available in the schools or units to support this initiative.

At present, the assessment for the modules for which PDP is an important element includes a skills portfolio. This portfolio contains exercises and activities from the core textbook (Cottrell, 2003) that students must photocopy. Having a system that records assessments will therefore be beneficial to students in terms of costs, and beneficial to those delivering/ assessing these modules in terms of time. Furthermore, the on-line assessment will provide the basis for evaluation of the project itself at no additional cost. The project team will identify an on-line system that is compatible with Moodle, which will provide uniformity.

As PDP is compulsory in all UK universities, we believe that it provides an accessible pool of expertise about best practice in the development of broader on-line PDP systems.

Support from Head of School/Unit

I am pleased to support this initiative. The key strengths of the

proposal are, in my opinion, the interdisciplinary focus of the project

and the skills that it seeks to develop through self-regulated learning

and reflection. The development of the assessment of PDP as an on-line

facility among DCUBS students is a particularly welcome feature.

Professor Bernard Pierce


Additional information

The word limits, while necessary, make it difficult to elaborate in some sections; this is especially difficult in the section on the 'implementation plan'