Learning Technology

e-Portfolio Pioneers – Community of Practice Report: #4 Key Principles

January 22nd, 2013 at 09:01

This is the fourth in a series of guest posts from Kirstie Coolin:

During the first e-Portfolio Pioneers – Community of Practice Seminar on 7th December 2012 Dr Judith Wayte talked about how the School of Biosciences have been using Mahara for 3 years to support students undertaking industrial placements. She presented her ‘journey’ to the group aligned to the 5 key principles which drew out wider discussion from the group as summarised in the previous post and continuing below:

3.   Processes need to be supported technically and pedagogically

“It is important not to underestimate the level of support needed for both staff and students who may lack technical and/or the ‘new’ learning skills such as reflection.”

Successful e-portfolio use requires support. This can be grouped loosely into:

  • Technical support – ensuring that technical issues are dealt with promptly and there is resource to do so.
  • User/application support – experts available who know how to use the system, what features are available and to support pilots with training and materials.
  • Pedagogical support – expert understanding of learning activities and processes and how new activities can be developed to support these within the e-portfolio

Having people to provide this support centrally is important and desirable, but the more people within the e-portfolio community with expertise in these areas the better.  For the pilot phase, support is provided by the CIePD.

Students and staff need to get familiar with the e-portfolio to become engaged. Planned training sessions and targeted support materials are helpful in gaining early familiarity with the tool and getting the structures set up to support the planned activities.

Do not assume digital literacy. For the Biosciences, Pharmacy and Graduate School BBSRC pilots training sessions have included checking that each student has managed to log in and set up as required. Where students are a part of a tutor group, membership is set up in advance.

Within the School of Biosciences, Judith found that individual conversations with academics have helped to get colleagues engaged. Students are also producing and sharing their own informal help videos which have been effective in sharing knowledge and benefit also from having a ‘student slant’ on any issues they may be having.

Academics/tutors require support to integrate e-portfolio flexibly within their curriculum. There is no ‘one way ‘to use e-portfolio across the institution. Where a mandate such as “this is the new PDP tool which you will now all use” is issued (which is the approach some institutions have taken in the past), this will inhibit creative and beneficial use of the e-portfolio.

Community and eLearning groups help to support new and innovative practice amongst all staff involved in e-portfolio practice.

4.     Ownership needs to be student-centred

“the e-portfolio in process needs to be private to the individual learner”

Students within the School of Biosciences have enjoyed the ability to create an attractive page very quickly. Where one student developed a model page, this was videoed and shared with other students who then followed suit.  Encouraging students to share good work is beneficial to the whole cohort.

Students are creating their own groups and defining membership of these. This means much of the time staff are not aware of what they are creating within the e-portfolio. This is fine as long as they are clear about what they are required to share as an end product.

We are in early stages of modelling a student-centred approach although discussions have taken place with the Students Union. For students to truly see personal value, employability is the key driver, which requires access to their e-portfolio post-graduation.

Other institutions such as Southampton Solent University and the University of Portsmouth have implemented e-portfolio through their careers services providing a tool accessible to all students to support and showcase employability which have resulted in good uptake by students.

5.        Transformation (disruption) needs to be planned for

Use of an e-portfolio is likely to extend practice. For the School of Biosciences, the initial benefits of using the e-portfolio were primarily viewed as administrative – being able to keep track of students and their progress. However, now time has been invested into recognising and extending the use of the e-portfolio, its use has mushroomed and it is being used to support employability and professional learning.

Extending practice within one School and moving beyond a pilot requires champions with specific roles and skills to instigate change in their areas. We are investigating these ‘change agent’ roles more closely as part of the e-portfolio evaluation to see how best these roles can be defined and supported.

Recording The University of Nottingham journey

As this community evolves, we aim to document the journey of those piloting e-portfolio through a set of evolving ‘implementation case studies’. These are being developed in a wiki and will cover those already referenced in the Mahara e-portfolio pilots paper.

As a group, Community of Practice attendees have expressed a wish to reconvene, and an eCommunity event dedicated to e-portfolios will run in spring 2013. Furthermore, the Teaching and Learning Directorate will run a themed programme of events over the coming year which will incorporate relevant practice from these pilots.

Previous posts in this series:

e-Portfolio Pioneers – Community of Practice Report: #1 Context

e-Portfolio Pioneers – Community of Practice Report: #2 Multiple purposes

e-Portfolio Pioneers – Community of Practice Report: #3 Eportfolio Implementation

Kirstie Coolin

Post a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

No comments for “ e-Portfolio Pioneers – Community of Practice Report: #4 Key Principles ”