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Building a new ELLI platform from scratch presented an interesting challenge. ELLI had grown from a small, primarily research-focused initiative within the University of Bristol to a much bigger endeavour, and the technical platform needed to reflect the demands now being placed upon it – that of volume, flexibility and ease of use, as well as balancing data accumulation for subsequent analysis. We also wanted to look at more ways we could make data visually available to end users, whether in the form of spidergrams, distribution graphs or other graphical formats.

Faced with these challenges we have been working closely with the Birmingham based company Co-operative Web. Co-operative Web had built somewhat similar systems before – at least from a structural perspective – but ELLI presented its own unique challenges. As a lifelong learning system, we actively encourage teachers to use ELLI along with their students. As a transformative and long-term process we see ELLI as a journey rather than a quick fix.  So, not least among the challenges was the fact that ELLI exists in several versions, most notably the adult and student versions, and also the fact that in school settings both students and teachers use the survey – a fact which needed special consideration when building the platform. Ed Russell, MD of Co-operative Web, remarked: ‘Initially we hadn’t realised the extent to which teachers themselves use ELLI; we’d assumed it was more a case of the students using it and the teachers acting as admins. So we had to make some structural adjustments to allow for that.’

The first phase of the new platform went live in January 2014, and not only had to account for future proofing and unanticipated developments, but also the seamless transfer of data from previous systems. Not only did it need to be simple enough for students and teachers managing large cohorts, we also wished to make more meta-cognitive data available and visually accessible to administrators.

Of course, ELLI is no longer only used in schools but is developing amongst Higher Education and corporate users too – an exciting development that means, as we look to the future, we can use ELLI to draw lines of continuity and commonality between schools and communities, businesses and universities. The challenge for us is to allow the continual evolvement of the platform to keep up with demand…! As such we are working on some very exciting new developments.

So do watch this space!


(Image top: Ed Russell (MD of Co-operative Web) and our very own admin manager Keira McGarva discuss functionality issues…)

ELLI teachers’ workshop, Marjon January 2014

Having only been a member of the Vital Partnerships team for a short time, it was not until the end of January that I attended my first ELLI workshop for teachers at the University of St Mark and St John (“Marjon”) in Plymouth. It was a fantastic and inspiring couple of days led by two of our very experienced consultants, Mannie Burn and Bill Houldsworth, who made a great training duo (a ‘dream team’!). We also had an excellent host in Marjon and the training space was fantastic. The participants were teachers from seven primary schools in the South West and Sweden plussome staff from the University which meant that there was both peer learning and cross-cultural sharing of experiences and ideas.

The first day explored the Seven Dimensions of Learning Power, understanding what makes aneffective learner and the research behind ELLI and the language of learning. The workshopwas very experiential and participants were encouraged to draw upon and share their ownexperiences as learners, often working in small groups and then sharing with the group as a whole.

Participants took the ELLI survey and working in pairs shared their spidergrams and coached and mentored one another, asking their partners questions to encourage and elicit deeper self-reflection. Mannie was always on hand to listen, guide and support as participants considered their surveys and dealt with any revelations! It was all good practice, giving the participants the insights and tools necessary to take ELLI into their classrooms. Participants were also asked to look at a dimension of learning power that was of notable importance to them and explore it further by creating a picture or a model. Some found this exercise quite challenging (in terms of both the self analysis and having to create something to represent their findings!) but everyone produced something quite wonderful and had a great insight and story to share.

The second day focussed on strategies to increase learning power in the participants’ schools and also looked at the practical matters concerning ELLI online. Groups of teachers worked on topics that were important to them, such as focussing on a particular learning dimension, or devising strategies for a particular group of their pupils. By the end of the day, participants left the workshop not only refreshed, invigorated and inspired, but confident and equipped to take ELLI into their schools.

We hope to return to Marjon again soon…