'PDP is essentially a process… is a student opportunity to reflect plan and review learning… is related to the development of transferable skills… can and should result in a range of useful products… e-portfolios can play a part in the process and be a medium for products.'
EPICS final report
E-portfolios can provide scaffolding to support lifelong learners in reflecting on their current and completed learning, achievements and experiences, and on goals and opportunities, to guide learning (informal and formal) and professional development over time. A number of projects are exploring the role of e-portfolio tools and systems in supporting lifelong learning through PDP and CPD practices.
Supporting personal and career development planning
The three Lifelong Learning Networks in the North West region, involving nine universities and a larger number of further education colleges, are working in partnership through the SOLVS project to provide support to vocational learners.
The project will develop an approach to personal development planning in the health, social care and creative industries sectors in the first instance. A learner portal for each sector will enable learners in employment to plan routes for their career and personal development, and provide ways to search for learning opportunities from multiple providers that fit their needs. e-Portfolio facilities will help them present applications to enrol on courses.
The L4ALL project developed a web portal to support lifelong learners in London by allowing access to information and resources, to plan their own learning pathways, and to maintain a record of their learning. Tutors are able to publish recommended pathways through courses and modules and learners can share their learning pathways with other learners (if they wish) in order to encourage collaborative formulation of future learning goals and aspirations. The myPlan project is building on this by exploring tools to improve support for personalisation in progression planning.
Reflection is an important process in planning for personal development and CPD. The FILE-PASS project, for example, explored ways to support ‘isolated’ or ‘independent’ learners by using e-portfolios to help reflect on experience and skills to help plan longer term goals at a range of educational stages from those outside education to Masters-level students. The project learned that more mature students (e.g. adult returners) in particular were more receptive to benefits of e-portfolios in helping to identify skills.
Using e-portfolios to reflect on skills was an important element of building CVs and thinking about future career aspiration in the Plumpton College Viticulture course scenario as part of the myWORLD project.
At the University of Greenwich, over 2000 learners were introduced to the e-portfolio to help them to undertake a form of PDP which included self assessment, followed by the development of action points and then reflection. Weekly tasks helped learners to engage with PDP and focused mainly on career and study skills.
As part of the Blossom Project, learners at Queen Margaret University (QMU) enjoyed using PebblePad for their PDP and intend to continue using the system after they graduate. To enable this, QMU are trialling Alumni access to the system. QMU also found that when academic staff use an e-portfolio for their PDP/CPD, for example during their PhD studies, this has a beneficial effect on how their learners view using e-portfolios.
Using Janet txt
Undergraduate students at Newcastle University used the JANET txt service to add blog content to their e-portfolio via an opt-in service. However, students on placement were concerned that to use their mobile phone in the workplace would appear unprofessional, and in a hospital setting problematic. These issues were addressed in training sessions.
Thanet College has made a film about the experience of staff in ‘Taking ownership of CPD’ and their use of e-portfolios.
Presentation of work for professional accreditation and appraisal
e-portfolios can improve the process of CPD for professionals in a number of ways such as drawing down data from a membership database to create a CV, using evidence for appraisal and presenting evidence for accreditation. Professional bodies are increasingly employing e-portfolio systems to enable members to engage more fully with CPD. The Institute for Learning (IfL), for example, is introducing the optional use of e-portfolios to record the statutory 30 hours of CPD now required of the 300,000 practitioners in further education in England. This is being promoted through its REfLECT pilot project.
The Thames Valley Professional Institutes Partnership (TVPIP) and the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) are also realising the potential of e-portfolios to support professionals’ continuing professional development. The myWORLD project found that maintaining an e-portfolio could allow members to record their CPD, set targets, and demonstrate how they’ve applied their skills. The resulting e-portfolio could be used to organise evidence to encourage applications for Chartered Management accreditation, as well for other CVs, job applications or own marketing.
The University of Westminster introduced e-portfolios for School of Architecture and Built Environment students at levels 4 and 6 to enable them to gather and reflect on evidence of skills in order to meet the CPD requirements of professional bodies such as RIBA.
From an institutional point of view, e-portfolios have the potential to be used for staff appraisals. The Flourish project explored the use of e-portfolio to support learning, teaching and research practitioners at the University of Cumbria for a variety of professional purposes including career review, academic qualification, professional accreditation and personal development. The project team has found that for a small test group undergoing appraisal using e-portfolios, the transition from a familiar paper-based model to an electronic one led to deeper analysis of the nature of appraisal itself.
We explore the views of a number of stakeholders in more detail, including professional bodies, in the Perspectives section of this resource.