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

e-Portfolio give personal touch to Key Skills

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

File-pass Project
UCLAN/Furness College
Contact Sandra Varey
e-Portfolio PebblePad
Childcare learners on a Key Skills Programme became more motivated and were keener to attend, as a result of using an e-portfolio on their course. 'People - not just me but everyone else too - enjoy Key Skills more now we're using e-portfolios', one student said.

Sandra Varey, the tutor who ran the project, said 'although it was the first time learners had had guaranteed access to computers in class and this was motivating in itself, the personalisation of the e-portfolio was what appealed to learners most'.

It's always difficult to get learners interested in Key Skills and for them to understand how these relate to their main course but, because the e-portfolio reminded them of social networking software, they were keener to find out more. 'When you've got a computer in front of you, it's easier to work', one student said and another added 'I think it's good because you can also go on it at home'.

Encouraging learners to document their thoughts in blogs helped their understanding. At the same time it encouraged them to reflect on their progress - something learners would have previously found daunting.

'Although it was the first time learners had had guaranteed access to computers in class and this was motivating in itself, the personalisation of the e-portfolio was what appealed to learners most'.

 

The paper-based portfolio had been very prescriptive and transferring to an e-portfolio represented a complete change. 'When we had paper portfolios, there were lots of scrap bits of paper whereas now it's tidier and all in one place', one student said.

The software for this project was chosen by talking to other institutions and software providers. Sandra said, 'You don't need to be a 'techie' or even particularly confident with ICT to get to grips with PebblePad and see its potential'. In fact Sandra wasn't! She only learnt how to use the e-portfolio a week before the learners did. 'I think the introduction of e-portfolios to this Key Skills group went smoothly because I was honest about the fact that we were all learning at the same time', she said.

Sandra didn't insist on a uniform approach to evidence collection and this empowered learners to make their own judgements. Most found this new, flexible approach quite difficult to start with, as they had not been used to making decisions in this context.

'You don't need to be a 'techie' or even particularly confident with ICT to get to grips with PebblePad and see its potential'.

Initially it was hard for them to decide even small things for themselves, such as what subheading to use. But, with time, students' confidence in their own abilities grew.

Peer-to-peer support was also something that greatly improved through using the e-portfolio. When one member of the group missed a week, other learners from the class came to the next session an hour early and helped her catch up. 'It makes you look forward to Key Skills because you know you'll be doing something fun', one student said.

Another obvious gain was increased confidence in using ICT for both the staff and learners involved and the value of this shouldn't be underestimated.

Referencing evidence against the Key Skills criteria wasn't fully addressed in the pilot. Sandra concluded that one solution would be to produce generic tasks that are mapped to the qualification to act as a guideline and reassure staff who are new to using e-portfolios. 'It would be useful for small numbers of colleagues teaching in the same area to work together to share ideas, and address issues', she said.

And like all changes in working practices, it posed some challenges. Reviewing the evidence online wasn't as easy as looking at a paper-based portfolio, but this was partly because it was a new way of working. Sandra said, 'Don't let it put you off getting involved in a similar project. The gains, like increased student motivation and quality of work, far outweighed the inconvenience'.

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These stories were written by Paula Taylor and Sara Caselton-Bone