Customisability is key issue. Once students can change the colour of the background, it becomes theirs. It would help them feel like true artists. In this course they are treated like artists.
Andrew Kingham, access to art course co-ordinator, MYWORLD project
As the personalisation of learning is becoming an increasing trend (see Policy Drivers and Trends), the ability for learners to customise and configure their e-portfolios is a key to creating a sense of ownership of the end product as several Jisc projects have found. In the FILE-PASS project the opportunity to customise the e-portfolio was felt to be important as this helps learners to engage with and perceive the system to be more ‘learner-centred’ than a virtual learning environment (VLE).
Learners on the Access to Art course at the University of Brighton, a partner in the myWORLD project, enjoyed the e-portfolio sessions but if they were to use the system without assistance would require a simple user interface that used a system of easily recognisable and colour coded symbols.
The examples given by the myWORLD project are not advanced technology features but those that most software allows such as customisable font size and colour, formatting of headings to improve structure, use of personal screensavers, background desktop images and file and folder names.
Other Jisc projects have found that an e-portfolio system that has few features provides a barrier to usage and continued usage. Learners actively seeking employment were concerned that the presentation of their portfolio should say something about them, get them noticed by prospective employers and make them stand out from other candidates; personalising an e-portfolio is important in this respect.
Some students found the more traditional interface of one e-portfolio ‘boring’ and indicated that for use for them would depend on whether the appearance of the interface was attractive…
EPISTLE guidelines 5: Use and non-use
Learners’ response to systems will differ, for example, in the ePISTLE project, younger users liked a more animated interaction which emphasised fun whilst older users found this more time-consuming. In contrast, in the FILE-PASS project mature students seem to engage more readily whilst younger students needed an interface that they perceived to be attractive before interacting with the system.
One of the disadvantages of customisation is that it may lead to accessibility issues for both learners and tutors (Curyer et al 2007). Accessibility is discussed in more detail in the Choosing, Implementing and Embedding section.