Personalised User Learning Social Environment (PULSE) is a HEFCE funded project being led by the Centre for Learning & Teaching at Leeds Beckett University.

The call invited applications for small-scale projects “to develop innovations in learning and teaching for either undergraduate (UG) or postgraduate taught (PGT) provision.”

PULSE provided us with an opportunity to explore the potential for connecting institutional digital spaces (VLE / ePortfolio etc) with the wider digital social spaces on the web.

In addition to this, we wanted to explore students experiences with regards to connection their personal spaces and our institutional spaces. In order to achieve this we are using Known as a “hub” platform for this activity. This “hub” allows students to connect their social spaces to it, but we intend to explore the extent to which we can also use this space to connect access to our VLE.

This project provides us with an exciting opportunity to “flip” the ownership model of educational technology from predominantly being institutionally owned systems to ones which are personally owned by the student.

In the majority of UK HEI’s the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) is at the heart of the student “digital” learning experience. However, the ownership model of this is centred around the institution. The VLE is a “closed” system which holds the institutionally owned learning materials and any contributions made by students within it (assessments, discussions, feedback etc), but isolates students from their other “social” online accounts. When a student leaves the University they lose access to all of this, including the contributions they have made.

The innovation in this project is that the PULSE will be a single place from which the students can connect their already established social spaces (e.g. Twitter/Facebook) as well as connect to institutional systems such as a VLE or e-portfolio system through an API infrastructure. This is an experiment in learner autonomy and engagement and provides us with an exciting opportunity to reshape the educational technology relationship our students have with our institutions before, during and after their time with us.

In order to undertake this project it will be framed around action research. This methodology will allow us to be reflective and reactive in our approach, providing plenty of opportunities for student & staff feedback to inform the ongoing iterations. Although a mixed methods approach will be likely, it is anticipated that the qualitative data will form the largest body of data for analysis using a phenomenological approach, drawing upon participant’s experience.

Aim: To examine the impact of the development of a student personal social learning environment (PULSE) on learner self-efficacy, student engagement and digital capability.


  • Establish a mechanism for integrating a PULSE system within a wider institutional learning technology environment.
  • Explore the academic staff role in relation to effective utilisation of the PULSE.
  • Explore the student role in relation to the effective use of the PULSE.
  • Identify benefits & challenges associated with PULSE use and make comparisons to current VLE use. In relation to the following:
  • Staff experience
  • Student experience
  • Technical Integration
  • Digital Pedagogies (including assessment & feedback)
  • Explore the role of a PULSE in the development of staff and student digital capability.