In 2007 the PILS CETL funded the Skills Bank project. The project was led by the Careers Advisory Service.
Aim of project:
The aim of this project was to develop an online tool for students to:
- Develop an understanding of the relationship between learning outcomes and employability skills
- Practise producing evidence of their employability skills with a view to using the content within future job applications.
The Skills Bank tool incorporated two main activities: skills review and job seeking. The review segment used a questionnaire approach in which users selected from a list of 36 employability skills. For each of the skills students were presented with a definition and some reflective questions. They were then invited to generate evidence for the skills and rate their levels of competence, and categorise where the skill was developed (either in study or in work/life). Finally, users were given the opportunity to link the evidence for this skill to other skills. The data generated was then saved to their personal Skills Bank within the Open University’s My Stuff ePortfolio.
In the job seeking facility, users were offered templates for a selection of potential jobs each with a typical competence to practice on (Assistant Psychologist, Special Constable), as well as a blank form to create their own. The tool also incorporated links to supporting materials including areas of the Careers Advisory Service website.
The project was launched within MyStuff in December 2007, running until February 2008. 90 students from the 2007 cohort of third level Psychology students volunteered to take part in the pilot.
‘Using Skills Bank gave me a real boost to my self confidence as I realised how much I could do that I might otherwise have overlooked.’
An online evaluation form was developed by the Careers Advisory team and the PILS consultants, and was made available in March 2008. 15 students completed the questionnaire, and 2 further students sent comments by email.
General findings indicated that a considerable number of students experienced technical difficulties using the Skills Bank, some losing the ability to access the site after the first visit. It was assumed that those who did not complete the evaluation questionnaire experienced similar problems.
Although it was not possible to analyse quantitative data, qualitative responses were extracted to form the basis of telephone interviews between April and August 2008. Ten students participated in these, and although two or three of these found the tool confusing to use, most were impressed with it. Students said they wanted more support and guidance, either via the site, or by coaching/mentoring. Several participants asked for the facility to write skills offline and upload them, or to have the facility to print off exercises to complete them on paper.
Feedback on the project was also received from students attending the second-level Psychology residential school in Bath. Although these students had not been exposed to either of the projects before, and comments were made about the design and usability of the bank, they were very much in favour of the Open University addressing employability.
It was decided that the Skills Bank could be a potentially useful tool for supporting OU students’ career development and could be more widely used. However, the navigation needs reviewing to make it more user friendly, and some of the content needs to be made more explicit in terms of its message to students.
For further information, please contact Ellen Cocking (email@example.com).