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The implementation journey - University of Edinburgh

Page history last edited by Gordon 9 years, 10 months ago



Case study Home Page


An overview of use The implementation journey

Video case studies

Notes from filmed interviews  


Brief overview of the organisation and the e-portfolio implementation journey:

Edinburgh  is a traditional research led university, where students tend to focus on developing discipline specific skills. Although we have a wide range of support services and resources for students to use, the systematic teaching of generic or transferable skills generally has a relatively low profile.  This does not mean such skills are not considered important, and indeed some courses have development activites deeply embedded into their curriculum.  Edinburgh is also highly devolved, so change needs to be adopted at school level to really begin impacting on students.  Initiatives led from the centre can and do work, but there is a substantial lead time required and it is important to include sufficient flexibility to allow the schools and colleges to adapt techniques to match their local context.  



eLearning services are provided from within central Information Services, but support for the development of learning & teaching activities was based within the School of Education and more recently has migrated into a newly formed Institute for Academic Development within the College of Humanities and Social Sciences.  The Careers service is based within a third quite different organisational part of the institution.  These disjuncts inevitably pose some challenges for a smooth implementation especially in ensuring the timing is right for all parties.  The main impetus and lead has been from Information Services, and the route to implementation which has been used is very similar to the mechanisms by which the institutional VLE was implemented about 10 years ago.  It has been Information Services' view for many years that an e-portfolio should form part of the core of tools provided by the institution. Information services have thus taken the lead in providing a sustainable service. 


Earliest explorations of e-portfolios centred round OSPI, largely having been inspired by its potential at a seminar given by Indiana University.   One early use for OSPI was to showcase projects which had been funded internally through our "Principal's eLearning Fund".  OPSI should have been ideal for this purpose, but in practice the technology itself proved to be somewhat of a barrier and few projects actually maintained their content in a current and useful state.


Use of OSPI was largely limited to the project teams. When WebCT released their portfolio it appeared to provide a relatively easy way to provide a portfolio tool for a much wider user group. Most staff and students already had some familiarity with WebCT and the tight integration between the systems appeared attractive.  Feedback from students however was clear.  The tight integration meant that they felt they had no ownership over the portfolio, and saw it very much as an assessment related tool, they would use it when they had to, but there was real reluctance to use it for anything more personal or reflective. 


One college (Medicine & Veterinary Medicine) had, meantime, developed their own communication, information and portfolio system (see  https://www.eepop.mvm.ed.ac.uk/info.asp ) but this was not considered suitable for wider implementation.


Meanwhile discussions about how to support generic skills, employability, 21st century gradutes were all ongoing. Concerns were expressed that pockets of students at all stages needed additional support, and groups around the organisation started exploring and experimenting with different options. One of those experiments was to turn to PebblePad, which was trialled on a small scale, but with sufficiently encouraging results that we felt an e-portfolio system could be ideal to help take forward some of this general skills development agenda.


Finally a decision taken at Vice Principal level that it would be timely to procure an e-portfolio system for use institution wide, and we thus embarked on a full procurement process which took around 1 year.  The decision to move to a procurement process was however controversial, although there was strong support from the students' association, most staff in schools remained to be convinced of the benefits, and reservations were expressed in committees such as the Learning & Teaching Committee.  Schools with strong professional ties, especially where professional bodies expect their members to provide evidence of ongoing CPD were generally quick to see the potential benefits of an e-portfolio, along with services such as careers. The evaluation of products in our procurement process was undertaken by a diverse team, including representatives from all the colleges, HR and particularly the students' association, to try to ensure that the solution chosen would have wide suitability.


PebblePad was selected, as an externally hosted service, and is now provided by default to all staff and students via our university portal.  Questions were raised about data security and data protection before agreement was gained to automate the creation and maintenance of PebblePad accounts, but the system is now integrated with our central records systems.  There remain some additional data items that could usefully be integrated but this will become a later project.  Usage is still relatively small but is growing.  Although available to everyone it was never envisaged that everyone will use the eportfolio.  We are now targetting specific potential user groups, seeking deeply embedded uses of the e-portfolio in preference to incidental or accidental uses.


Influential projects led by institution staff (internal and externally funded):


Principal's eLearning Fund and OSPI :  The Principal’s e-Learning Fund (PELF) was a major, time-limited initiative which sponsored 64 projects through a process of annual competitve bidding. Spanning the years 2003-2008, funding of circa £3.6million pounds was allocated to the fund. Projects varied considerably in the amount of funding, scope, duration and type of learning activity supported.  All project teams were directed to use OSPI to showcase their progress, although not all used it in practice. 


Integrate Project, funded by HEA, QAA Scotland and the Centre for Recording Acheivement as part of the Scottish Personal Development Planning institutional development programme :  The project spans UG, PGT and PGR levels and links to professional practice but concentrates at this stage on looking at three carefully selected areas. Embedding graduate attributes through the medium of PebblePad (the University’s e-portfolio) is the central theme to all. The three areas are: 

UG : Undergraduate Academic Skills and Graduate Attributes (Divinity) – this strand is building a framework for embedding graduate attributes and employability within Divinity's existing online academic skills course, using PebblePad. This focuses on introducing interventions that will encourage students to reflect and document the skills and attributes they are acquiring and the timeliness of interventions for students.

PGT: Professional and Personal Development course (MSc Advancing Nursing Practice) - this strand will focus on templating and modelling a highly successful implementation of embedding PDP within a course for roll-out across other areas both vocational and non-vocational. This provides an insight into the challenges associated with blending University graduate attributes with professional competencies in PDP.

PGR: Principal's Career Development PhD Scholarships - this strand will focus on recording and reflecting on individually tailored career development activities for doctoral students, using PebblePad, to help research students to identify and plan for progression and deepening of their experience during their PhD.


References made to e-portfolios in  institutional strategy docs:

Generally there are few, if any, references specifically to "e-portfolios" in the strategy documents. There are however many references to reflection, personal development planning, employability, and other activities that can be readily supported using an e-portfolio system.  


Implementation journey milestones      

Date  Event  Description and  links to documentation where appopriate
Dec 2004  OSPI project established 

OSPI= Open Source Portfolio Initiative

Technical information is available here




Nov 2007  Integration of e-portfolios in WebCTReport to eLearning committee on

Early uses of the portfolio from OSPI  integrated within WebCT Vista


500 live portfolios for students, from Veterinary Studies (programme), Applied Psychology in Children and Young People(programme), Nursing Studies (programme), Origin and Diversity of Life (course), and MSc E-learning (course). 30 staff investigating the system.

2007 Vice Principal decides on eportfolio procurement 

decision taken at Vice Principal level that it would be timely to procure an eportfolio system for use institution wide starts  a full procurement process which took around 1 year.


PebblePad was selected, as an externally hosted service.

2007 Employability strategy group set up

Employability has been a key Scottish Funding Council theme since 2009.  This website shows the seniority of staff involved in leading the employability initiative at Edinburgh, plus links to details of activities and resources. 


2008-9 pilot e-portfolio projects

(most of which used PebblePad). 

Centre for Humanities and Social Sciences pilots of e-portfolio projects evaluation report 

Subjects involved are Nursing Studies, MSC Managemt of Training Development, MSC Community Education and Business Studies Undergraduate degrees.  A formal evaluation was conducted evaluation report and reported to Learning and Teaching Committee Nov 2010. Case studies produced from pilot work

Date  PebblePad  launched to all staff and students 

PebblePad is integrated into the portal by default.


Date  PebblePad integrated with central records system  User Accounts created automatically, Pebblepad gateways populated with information about student course registrations. 
Nov 2010  Learning & teaching committee 

This meeting of the committee focused on graduate attributes and PDP




Learning & Teaching committee has established a taskgroup to look at how we can implement the Higher Education Achievement Record 


Spring 2011  Integrate Project

ScotPID is a major new initiative supported by the Scottish Higher Education PDP and e-portfolio collaborative programme provided by the Higher Education Academy (HEA), QAA Scotland and the Centre for Recording Achievement (CRA).  http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/scotland/ourwork/institutional/pdp.

 INTEGRATE: INTerlinking and Embedding GRaduate ATtributes at Edinburgh 


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