GoalPost is a web application developed under contract for The University of Portsmouth’s Business School. It was commissioned in early 2005 as a school-level initiative in response to the national Personal Development Planning (PDP) framework.

I have sole responsibility for project analysis, design, and development on the project, and managing testing, deployment, and user change management. It was launched in October 2005.


About Personal Development Planning

A person’s learning effectiveness is greatly increased if they become responsible for managing their own learning, in a continuous process of plan/act/reflect – not simply at the day-to-day level, but at higher cognitive levels (this is similar to concepts such as ‘continuing professional development’).

The benefits are obvious, but such efforts often fail due to the initial effort investment in beginning the process schemes often run aground, due to the initial effort required by the learner to invest in their own development (the “classic problem” of the time lag between initial effort and initial reward creating an obstacle for many to self-improvement.

Overview of GoalPost’s Requirements

The University as a whole currently implements PDP as paper forms which the student is required to complete – they then have a personal tutor who interprets the forms (their confidence at groupwork, etc) and advises them on how to maximise their learning.

GoalPost has the following broad requirements:

  • Reduce administrative overhead by automating the capture/processing of PDP activity in a web application, integrated into the University’s existing Staff/Student portals
  • Allow intuitive collaboration between the learner and their personal tutor – book appointments, review their PDP record, make “action plans” to progress their development, etc.
  • Leverage the potential of the web environment to allow the learner to record extra PDP-related activities, to form a “living document” of their own progress (also known as an e-portfolio), and to provide metadata/auditing capabilities
  • Promote a holistic/’sticky site’ perception of the benefits of the PDP process as opposed to a chore foisted upon the learner/tutor
  • Visual appearance to integrate within the existing Student/Staff Portals

Technical Information

GoalPost is implemented in object-oriented PHP 5 and relational MySQL. Like most web applications, it implements an n-tier architecture and utilises the of PEAR framework. Handling of PDP workflow/capture/processing uses an extended HTML_Quickform package; rendering makes use of an extended HTML_Page package. GoalPost implements a “task engine” for flexible and open-ended definition and management of PDP activities- not only capture/processing as above, but also a content-managed workflow and interaction with other University agents (student support services, etc.). GoalPost also abstracts data store manipulation at the semantic level (e.g. change of student records system) and isolates data sources (e.g source of student records, automated sign-on via different actor types). GoalPost is also designed with practice modularity; e.g. student workflow is unaffected by tutor activity or corporate data store integrity.

Current Status

GoalPost was launched in October 2005, having completed development and usability testing and successful deployment and Goal-Post; the focus is now on early-use evaluation.


Due to a project constraint, access to GoalPost is only for University students and staff, so below screenshots must suffice as opposed to an explorable live site.

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Staff home page, with panels (and intelligent UI widget) being fed database results; here they’re summarising views on system state

More Panels, showing recent Student activity (with encapsulated logic)

Setting tutorial availability; an intelligent schedule object

Setting an availability – once made here, students can immediately book it, with confirmatione mails etc. Uses PEAR’s Quickform

List of tutees for a member of staff

Can be drilled down to show student details

A portion of a student’s PDP record, a ‘living document’

Which tutors can review and comment upon…

…via another item type

A subset of the student’s record, the Individual Learning Profile (ILP)

Student making one of several item types, ‘Evidence’; one of many PDP Items allowing them to chart and record their progress (form handling by Quickform again)

Intelligent objects used for feedback and to provide further user activities

Students can also make private items, enabling GoalPost to function as a personal blog


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