E-portfolios provide an opportunity for learners to present a richer picture of experience and achievement as evidence in an application for entrance to university or for employment, training or placements although the use of e-portfolios for this purpose is at different stages of maturity.
A number of Jisc projects are investigating issues around application to university, applying for jobs or work placements through building CVs that provide a far richer picture of learners’ achievements and experience than was previously possible.
Access to further and higher education
Facilitating progression from school or college to higher education and improving access to higher education is a key part of widening participation and lifelong learning agendas. Raising aspirations and enabling learners to present a more holistic picture of their achievements as part of the application process are important elements of achieving these.
In the ELP project which explored how e-portfolios could support progression to HE, learners found the use of an e-portfolio helpful in thinking about going and applying to university. They particularly liked recording and evidencing the experiences and skills that they had which would be useful to include on a Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) Personal Statement. One particular case study aimed to encourage students in local FE and sixth form colleges with lower than average levels of HE participation to apply to medicine and other health-related courses by using the e-portfolio system for this purpose.
This process helped raise awareness of career choices and skills requirements in these disciplines as well as reflections on personal attributes and competences. 71% of students involved in the case study were successful in being offered a place to study on highly competitive medicine or healthcare courses compared to the national average of 11%. This suggests that the skills and knowledge gained in developing e-portfolios for application to HE have a positive impact on increasing participation.
From the perspective of admissions tutors in the ePISTLE project, there were some concerns about introducing e-portfolios as part of the admissions process to HE. These included increasing admissions’ tutor time, establishing and applying equitable criteria to evaluate information presented in e-portfolios and the difficulties in combining them with traditional admission methods/modes such as forms and interviews. It was generally agreed that in the immediate future best use of e-portfolios for entry to HE would be as complementary, not replacement evidence for application.
Admission to higher education
The Schwartz Review of admissions to HE includes a definition of ‘fair admissions’, drawing upon e-portfolios for richer applicant information to aid widening participation and progression to HE. Jisc projects have been working with UCAS, the national entry system to higher education, to determine the potential for e-portfolios in admissions to higher education within the broader context of supporting the effective use of technology in HE admissions processes. The Specifying an e-Portfolio project developed a technical framework to enable the widespread use of enhanced learner information within more flexible HE admissions processes. Building on this, the DELIA project is seeking to redefine course entry profiles and make them interoperable with structured references and structured personal statements.
The PortisHEad project at the University of Wolverhampton is investigating and trialling the use of e-portfolios in admissions, including students from local feeder colleges using e-portfolios ‘for real’ in their application to Wolverhampton which creates a real life context of use for the reference model developed through the earlier e-Portfolio for Lifelong Learning project (eP4LL).
The University of Bradford uses an e-portfolio to support an on campus summer school. This provides post-16 students with a programme of activities, including support for their current programmes of study, the opportunity to sample future degree options and help with their university application. Students on this module are on campus for 2 days only and have to complete their webfolio within 2 weeks. The e-portfolio allowed ongoing sharing, communication and support for the full 2 weeks.
The growing diversity of qualifications can be an administrative burden for university admissions systems. The University of Derby is looking at how e-portfolio-type technology can facilitate recognition for Accreditation for Prior Experiential Learning (APEL) claimed by many learners in Learning through Work programmes. By facilitating the gathering of information and self-assessment through improved technologies, the likely benefits are likely to improve learners’ decision-making as well as streamline application processes where APEL claims are submitted.
Application for employment and training
There is considerable potential for e-portfolios to support application for employment be this for work placement, training or full-time employment. This can be done through building CVs for application as well as developing skills such as collecting evidence and reflection.
As part of the myWORLD project, Plumpton College enabled students in their final year of the Viticulture BSc to take a 10 point Career Development module. The e-portfolio was introduced to encourage learners to reflect on their personal skills and collect and select evidence to support their job applications. Rather than producing a standard CV, the learners were encouraged to use it as a development tool to track skills and experience.
They could see the benefits of enriching their CVs in this way and felt it could give them competitive advantage with employers. By providing potential employers with a link to supplementary information about their experiences in their e-portfolio, it could help differentiate applicants and give ‘a better insight into what you’re about.’ (myWorld final report p.16).
e-Portfolios can be used to showcase work for progression and employment. This has been explored in a disciplines such as the creative industries (PDP4Life, PDP4XL2, SOLVS), health (ELP) and teacher training. For example, in the ePISTLE project which focused on the role of e-portfolio in teacher training, one of the participating schools was keen to use the e-portfolio to showcase learners’ work with local employers.
In supporting lifelong learners in the East of England, the EELLS project developed a learning portal with a range of utilities including a showcase and CV builder which could be used to present materials to prospective employers. The Shibboleth CV builder project is developing a web service-based CV builder to extract relevant personal data from institutional systems using Shibboleth.
Supporting student mobility is a key priority of the Bologna Process and the Europe-wide Europass scheme seeks to facilitate this through a series of electronic document standards including a Europass CV. As part of the EPICS project, the University of Newcastle piloted transferring data using this standard in its ePET e-portfolio system. ePET can now export and import XML data in the Europass-CV standard. Although further work is to be developed, this shows the potential of e-portfolios to support student mobility.
The Performing Arts Department (The Studio) at Newham College have made good use of e-portfolios in order to display the skills of their students; one student in particular used her e-portfolio in an application to the BBC to appear in a spin-off series of Eastenders on BBC 3. Her e-portfolio contained photos and videos as well as personal details. Although not successful in securing a part, she received very good feedback which commended her use of this technology. Another student however was selected for a programme on Channel 4 with her e-portfolio submission, again the feedback on this new way of showcasing skills was praised.