Effective use of e-portfolios to support widening participation and progression.

e-Portfolios can really make a difference

DEL regional stories
Effective use of e-portfolios to support widening participation and progression

EPISTLE Project
University of Wolverhampton; Telford College of Arts and Technology
Contact Rachel Challen and Theresa Loughlin
e-Portfolio PebblePad
The University of Wolverhampton has found that one of the keys to success in introducing e-portfolios is working out how to gain and maintain the interest of the people involved.

Working with three local FE colleges and a school, they have been testing how e-portfolios can help trainee teachers to reflect on their learning more effectively.

Rachel Challen, who supported the module leaders at the college, found that it really made a difference if the e-portfolio was introduced as an integral part of the course, rather than an add-on that could be seen as simply causing more work.

'The people side is as important to its success as the usability of the technology'

 

 

 

 

 

She also found that the tutor's approach to the idea of using an e-portfolio is critical, and that mentoring them was an important aspect of her role. Their attitude and enthusiasm mattered more than any previous experience they might have had - and they were able to work on acquiring the skills as they went along.

Where tutors became fully involved in the process, it became apparent that learners were more likely to see the e-portfolio as a useful tool. If not, there was the risk of it being viewed as an 'extra' that Rachel came to deliver to learners, rather than a valuable part of the course that needed to be taken forward by the learners themselves.

Learners become 'champions' of the process

 

Her conclusion is that 'the people side is as important to its success as the usability of the technology. The technology obviously plays an important part, and learners need to feel that using an e-portfolio doesn't make the task harder than it need be'.

PebblePad, the e-portfolio tool chosen by the University for the pilot, was generally seen as a user-friendly tool and not requiring too much in the way of technical know-how.

The trainee teachers used the e-portfolio for everything from recording meetings and action plans to uploading photos and processes. They liked being able to include items like these in their portfolios, and felt that it opened up opportunities and helped them to develop new skills.

A number of students started out as sceptics when first presented with the concept of creating a web-based portfolio, but soon found that it could help them to structure and record what they had learned in a much more memorable way. James, who admits that initially he was a sceptic, is now an avid user of the software, using it to record his references and readings list

Claire Mansfield, another student on the course, produced some small videos to insert in her webfolio for sign-language students.

And Theresa, one of the college tutors, remarked that 'the essence of the web folio is that what used to be a very one dimensional approach to reflection, through a diary or journal, has now become multidimensional and also utilises a range of multimedia'. Since the end of the pilot, the University has kept in touch with the colleges, and they are pleased that work on e-portfolios is continuing at all of them.

Learners on other courses have seen what these trainee teachers have been doing, and are keen to try out e-portfolios for themselves. In fact, one of the colleges was sufficiently impressed with the results that they are now doing a full rollout of the e-portfolio across all subject areas.

Rachel feels that one of the most encouraging aspects to come out of the pilot is that learners who were involved in the pilot have since become 'champions' of the process, which should help it to become an accepted part of the learning environment.

 Listen to Sara Caselton-Bone interview Rachel Challen & Theresa Loughlin about PebblePad

Download the Interview

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