Issues relating to the use of e-portfolios to support the learning process:
Developing effective and credible diagnostic tools
Integrating diagnostics, learner tracking and e-portfolio functions
More research into adaptive/personalised learning, including work on accessibility
Cost/benefit analysis of personalised provision
Staff training in use of learner profiles to recognise needs of learners
Integration of systems storing Learner Profile with CMS/VLEs, Student Record systems, and Learning Design systems
Prioritising the learner experience e.g. through personalisation, recognition of individual needs and preferences, effective choices and pathways.
Taken from Beetham, ‘e-portfolios in post-16 learning in the UK: developments, issues and opportunities’
The following guidance has been adapted from Stefani et al (pp 48-49).
Jisc projects such as ePISTLE have demonstrated that students will not bother to spend time and effort on the e-portfolio if they do not understand where the e-portfolio fits into the curriculum and the benefits for them. For learners to understand the relevance of an e-portfolio to their studies it needs to be integrated into the curriculum with tasks that are authentic, relevant and timely. The myWorld project found that where tutors had been involved in conceiving and designing the pedagogic interventions, the best results were achieved. They also reported that where the portfolio was a late, optional, difficult bolt-on to an already full curriculum, there was less chance of student uptake.
If unfamiliar with PDP and portfolio concepts, tutors will try to translate from paper to web with the result that the e-portfolio will, as the MANSLE project found, have limited impact. Some have found it beneficial to provide an examplar of expectations of what learners will achieve in the e-portfolio. However, although this will help them to visualise the role of the e-portfolio, it could be too prescriptive and limiting.
Introducing students to the e-portfolio
The purpose and role of the e-portfolio in the curriculum
In the induction, learners need to understand the purpose of the e-portfolio in the curriculum and how the e-portfolio will be used for their benefit. It is worthwhile explaining if the e-portfolio will be used for learning, teaching or transition. In the FILE-PASS project the group of adult returners focused on using the e-portfolio for transition using the online CV; this was felt to be the most appropriate use for these learners. Introducing further tools would have been unnecessary.
In the same way, a radiography learner who knows that work created in the institutional e-portfolio can be moved into the profession’s e-portfolio system and will start to form part of their CPD when graduating will be more inclined to engage with the e-portfolio system for transition. In comparison in the ISLE project some tutors would introduce learners to all of the purposes of the e-portfolio. By referring to the e-portfolio as the ‘learning e-portfolio’ or the ‘assessment e-portfolio’, it often helped learners to have a better understanding of the different purposes of the e-portfolio for them in their learning. Learners will also need extensive examples of how the e-portfolio can be used. For example, in the ePISTLE project, learners needed examples of how the e-portfolio could be used for promotional purposes.
If at all possible, provide a hands-on workshop for learners and cover the following issues:
- Access to technical support – what support is available and does it include, if necessary, IT skills training?
- Access to computer – how much access will learners have to networked computers?
- How much storage space is available and what type of files does this include/exclude?
- Continuing access to the e-portfolio after leaving the institution – will this be available or what other options are available?
The Technical Support section of these resources gives further information.
Introducing e-portfolio supported PDP
In most cases, learners need a lot of support especially when first being introduced to PDP. Extensive signposting to resources to assist PDP should be provided as well as clear links to learning modules. Kneale’s (2007) work is an example of how learners can be introduced to PDP; learners were asked to interview employees from three organisations about their PDP provision.
‘Learners had to be actively encouraged and supported to use the facilities [of the e-portfolio] and were unlikely to return of their own volition to make further use.’
Learning Matrix final report, P.17
This study showed that those learners who had had little exposure to PDP or the workplace were most reluctant to engage with the concept of PDP; they imagined that they would just say what the employer wanted to hear.
'Many students expressed surprise that ongoing training and development exists in the workplace. There was a feeling that you studied at university and then became employable based on what you had learnt. The idea of continuing to learn on the job was a revelation.'
At Birmingham University, to engage learners with PDP they offer incentives to those who take accredited courses and engage in PDP. Cartledge outlines this initiative in the CRA newsletter.
'The students who had engaged most with PDP were ready to make changes in their own personal planning as they wanted to develop themselves now and push the boundaries.'
Learners will need a clear understanding when first using the e-portfolio system as to what type of sharing of materials they will be expected to engage in. They will need to know with whom they need to share their materials and which materials. They will also need to know if they are to publish to the internet. Learners will need guidance on the legal issues of publishing materials to the internet; this is covered in more detail in the legal section. Learner attitudes to sharing their materials differs widely; this is covered in more detail in the learner perspectives section.
Continuing learner support
Learners will need regular prompts and reminders to use the e-portfolio especially at the early stage of their engagement with the system particularly if they find the e-portfolio challenging to their expectations of learning. The type of support required will vary, for example in the ePISTLE project, younger learners needed less support with the technology but guidance in ‘making sense’ of their personal learning with the e-portfolios. In contrast, learners returning to learning may have had fewer opportunities to use technology and thus will need more support in this area so they can evidence their potentially broader learning experiences.
Learner support will also differ according to the different role of the e-portfolio. As Hartnell-Young and Morriss (1999) point out, the learning e-portfolio will be constantly changing and in flux; this may challenge learners who could need guidance in analysis, evaluation and reflection to ensure they gain the most from using an e-portfolio to support the process of learning.
Assessment and e-portfolios
If using the e-portfolio for assessment, how will this be introduced to the learners and what guidance will you provide for them? Issues such as access for externals/auditors/second markers/moderators will need to be considered. You will also need to consider how the e-portfolio fits with the institutional processes and procedures for handling and if there is a requirement for a printed copy. Archiving will also be essential as well as how learners will access feedback and marks. (See Assessing e-Portfolios in the Supporting Assessment section for further information)
Using an e-portfolio to support learners on placement
In the Helpp project, Elgg (a blogging tool) is used as a communication tool between learners on placements, their tutors and their mentors in the workplace. The tutors and mentors check on learners’ progress in turn and provide feedback. A video on the Helpp project website describes how Elgg is used to support learners on placement.
Evaluation and broadening the purpose of the e-portfolio
When starting to use an e-portfolio, tutors may wish to focus on one particular tool to support one purpose such as blogs as online learning diaries. After one or two iterations, tutors may want to consider if they are limiting themselves to using the e-portfolio for just one purpose, for example, assessment. In the MANSLE project tutors tend to focus on one purpose of the e-portfolio without developing others.
Learning plans for introducing and using an e-portfolio in the curriculum
The ePISTLE project produced learning plans including a generic introduction to the e-portfolio, including: an introduction to the e-portfolio; how to create materials and upload materials to the e-portfolio and using materials for promotional purposes. These generic lesson plans have been adapted to several different learning environments including the college environment and the school environment. The plans, with further information, can be downloaded and adapted.
Work-based mobile learning
The WoLF project examined how pocket-PCs can be used to capture and upload classroom activities that can be used later to support group and individual reflection. The website has a video of a tutor describing the benefits of this approach. Contexts of use and guidance can be found in the resources section.
‘As is true with many other areas of the application of technology to support learning and teaching, the most effective implementations occur where staff have a clear sense of the ways in which technology can effectively support the curriculum, and where it adds real benefit to the student learning experience rather than being seen as an additional activity with no perceived benefit to the learner.’
MANSLE final report p.5.