"A senior academic, Barbara, worked with the faculties then sat on the Solent Life Group who decide where funding should go. They came up with a vision for growth. To convince senior management we needed a demonstration to show the operational possibilities.
"The success of the pilots was convincing and with branding in place it all looked more professional. This increased the gravitas of what we were doing. It looked like a more valuable employability tool."
Roger Emery, Southampton Solent University
When you are considering implementing e-portfolios, it is worth bearing in mind some threshold concepts. These are still developing for e-portfolios, but the practice and experience that is emerging has resulted in some threshold concepts for e-portfolios being defined.
It is a complex area as understanding e-portfolios and their effective use comes from many different perspectives e.g. pedagogic, technical, organisational, lifelong and lifewide. Also the stakeholder list is varied with people from different backgrounds and professional interests.
The advantage of considering the threshold concepts together is that they can be truly ‘transformative’ from an institutional perspective. The following table covers threshold concepts that relate to e-portfolios with some guidance on supporting them.
|Threshold Concept||Addresses the Misconception/Preconception that||Guidance|
|Purpose: The purpose/s for the e-portfolio must be aligned to the particular context||One e-portfolio system works in all situations. An e-portfolio can simply replace a paper-based system. Users will work out how to use an e-portfolio system to suit their needs. There needs to be one e-portfolio for life. Bespoke technologies, i.e. PDAs, digital cameras, are best for information capture in the workplace||Some contexts suit some purposes more than others and this needs to be determined by an analysis of the benefits (and costs) of the purpose in that particular context|
|Learning Activity Design: There must be a conscious design and support of a learning activity/activities suited to the purpose and the context||The curriculum/pedagogy remains unaffected by the introduction of an e-portfolio. Course information can easily be integrated into an information and guidance system to support career planning||There is a need to provide scaffolding for users in relation to the activities they will engage with, these are likely to be specific curriculum based learning activities (but will also be more generic and involve processes that users will need support with)|
|Processes: The processes involved in the creation of the e-portfolio in this context must be understood and both technical and pedagogic support needs to be provided||e-Portfolio implementation can be left to study skills specialists. There is one definition of an e-portfolio. Students are digital natives and so will easily adapt to using an e-portfolio. Students are digital natives so using blogs for sharing reflections will be unproblematic. After students are inducted to e-portfolio processes, i.e. those involved in PDP, they will apply this across their courses. Tutors/mentors know how to support their students||Ways of supporting the processes. Assumptions about what skills are involved in using the e-portfolio (technical and pedagogic) may not be understood – there is a need to pilot the support provided with a few users (students/tutors etc.) initially in real contexts. Assumptions about learner and tutor competence in e-portfolio process are likely to be unfounded. Users will need induction and ongoing support with processes such as action planning, SWOT analysis, reflection, giving and responding to feedback, selection and formatting of presentation for a particular audience|
|Ownership: e-Portfolio processes and outcomes need to be OWNED by the learner – this leads to considering portability and choice of tool (they can use their own phone camera, audio recorder, Web 2.0 application etc.)||Users understand processes like feedback, reflective writing, selecting information, planning etc. e-Portfolios will save everyone time||Ways of supporting ownership. Even though you know the benefits of e-portfolios in the context you will be using them, the learners may see it as more work that may not count towards a mark i.e. something to be got through. Sharing the experiences of other students talking about the benefits and sharing professional examples of e-portfolios should help to sell the idea to learners. Ensuring a ‘quick win’ for the learners in using their e-portfolio – i.e. sharing something that is discussed in class the following week, providing timely feedback, supporting project planning through peer support etc. Encourage creative multimedia e-portfolios that link to Web 2.0 services. Provide an example of use of a range of digital capture devices mpeg, mp3, images to encourage the learners to use their own technologies to illuminate their portfolio work – encourage links to Flickr, YouTube, SlideShare etc. so that they can use the technologies they wish not just institutional ones. Provide examples of effective reflective writing compared to descriptive writing in the context you are applying this – not just generic advice. This personal aspect can make the e-portfolio compulsive, but it’s a difficult skill|
Disruptive Nature: e-Portfolios are disruptive from a pedagogic, technological and an organisation perspective because they tend not to fit exactly within existing systems.
This has implications at an institutional level – they can be seen as disruptive as they have implications for the nature of the curriculum and its assessment as well as on workload re pedagogic and technical support particularly in novel work-based learning and lifewide contexts
|Information capture in the workplace is unproblematic. Access to an e-portfolio is unproblematic. A successful project implementation will readily transfer to establish practice across an institution. Human Resource (HR) departments/employers will value an e-portfolio in the application process. College and university admissions welcome e-portfolios||Ways of managing the disruptive nature of e-portfoliosBegin within settings where there are known benefits/issues and with those involved directly in the curriculum who need to handle this. Work within settings that require and are seeking some curriculum change so that the e-portfolio activities integrate well within the curriculum. There is a need to target energies/resources in implementation. Seek out the ‘open doors’. Consider implementation within professional development programmes for new lecturers but only in contexts where this provision is valued. This will mean academics will be familiar with the e-portfolio system and can often lead to academics wanting to continue to use e-portfolios themselves as well as with their students. Systematically share effective e-portfolio practice within your institution and the threshold concepts and misconceptions/ preconceptions online – involve the professional development unit or similar. Collaborate to develop pedagogic support materials for students/tutors in the processes you expect them to engage with and make them accessible, ideally online|