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Southampton Solent University, UK

Page history last edited by Gordon 12 years ago

Summary : e-portfolio implementation and use at Southampton Solent University

To visit the case study pages select:

Case study Home Page An overview of use The implementation journey


Key words

Southampton Solent, UK, HE, Higher Education, CPD, PDP, Personal development, careers, employability, skills awareness, student ownership, innovative assessment methods, Mahara, Web2.0 tools, interoperable, transportable, exportable.


e-portfolios used since 2009


Numbers of users with access to e-portfolios

Staff = 1000
Students = 19,000

Numbers of students and staff who are active users = 11,500 students, 200 staff.


What is distinctive about this implementation case study

  • Involvement of a wide range of stakeholders and in particular the online careers service
  • Student development planning and employability focus
  • Ownership: open source so that it can be customised to the Careers Service templates and advice
  • Ownership: students can use it as they wish, regardless of tutor input - student friendly support resouces developed to support this
  • Started from a low cost pilot project and has organically evolved through the employability agenda and latterly cross faculty/service leadership
  • Senior academic as champion
  • Teacher Fellows in each Faculty and Mahara development group to support embedding
  • Engagement with the wider Mahara community to support problem solving
  • Many staff use e-portfolios creatively to embed employability


Institutional Drivers

  • To embed employability and Personal Development Planning


Tool used

  • Mahara. Internally hosted. Integrated with Moodle and Career Box. Looking at integrating with TurnItIn


Implementation features for eportfolio managers

  • A recent, collaborative, cross-institutional development involving tutors, careers advisers and students
  • Efforts directed towards students taking ownership of their portfolios
  • High level of take-up by students, through promotion by tutors and careers advisers and promotion directly to students for independent use, spreading among students by contagion
  • Freedom of use by staff and students enabled by access to comprehensive self-directed learning materials, equipping users to engage with e-portfolios without formal permission or direction
  • Started from a low cost pilot project and has organically evolved through the employability agenda and latterly cross faculty/service leadership
  • Now engaged upon trials of mobile technology for workplace learners
  • Dissemination includes feeder FE colleges


Implementation features for technologists

  • Open source; hosted in-house; integrated with Online Careers Support and VLE (Moodle)
  • Users provided with a private and public webspace they can control
  • Accounts are created automatically via single sign-on through the VLE - anyone with a Solent account can have an e-portfolio


The nature of e-portfolio use


Mahara is used as a key employability enhancement tool. The e-portfolio is being used across the whole institution with elements of formal use in particular academic units (modules) that are delivered to a wide number of courses; on an individual or group basis for academic projects; by individual students completely informally for personal or social use; by members of staff for formal working groups. The key is that anyone in the University can use the tool as they feel appropriate, create their own groups, invite members, and publish views locally or publicly.


The exemplars selected represent a range of activities up to 2011.


Intra course - localised use

Inter/ whole course –> cross dept/ school/ faculty use

Cross institution

Extra- curricular


Group project work: online private space for collaboration and group assessment in School of Computing

Exemplar 2


 Reflective journal for assessment in Environment and Geography, Lifestyle Project:

Exemplar 3




Assessment, CV building and self-promotion: core module, Journalism Portfolios  Exemplar 1




Collation of employability skills: Solent Employability Awareness scheme

Exemplar 4



The nature of the implementation journey


Solent had in place the VLE Moodle, CareerBox (online careers guidance package) and a paper-based PDP process. A senior academic, who became the champion of the implementation, the  Reader in Teaching and Learning, is a member of the Solent Life Group (The Solent Life Group is a working group reporting to the Academic Standards and Development Committee - The Group is specifically dedicated to the enhancement of teaching and student learning within the curriculum, and the learning opportunities that are additional to the curriculum)  and saw the need/opportunity for an e-portfolio implementation. She pressed the question: ‘Where is the student in all this?’ and a sequence of two collaborative, cross-departmental projects was approved Solent Life and involved user consultation and testing, evaluations and the production of influential, evidence-based reports which were presented to senior management:

  • 2008-2009 an internal research project ‘Fostering Student Personal Development and Employability’, enabled by TQEF funding, in part designed to meet the need to replace the paper based PDP process and support institutional priorities on employability
  • 2009-2010 Implementation Project, TQEF funded, part of the remit of part-time secondment Teaching Fellow posts created in each Faculty


There has also been a significant amount of interaction between the implementation team and e-portfolio implementers outside the University, especially the Moodle user community nationally and internationally. This has brought rapid suggestions for problem-solving from practitioners, deepened the team's thinking through challenging their assumptions (Why are you doing it like that?) and saved them from institutional introversion. Almost half the University population (staff and students) are now active users of the e-portfolio and a Mahara Development Group brings all the stakeholders together to oversee the continuing implementation. The next step is to look at integration with TurnItIn.





Stage 0: Prior developments Stage 1: Planning Stage 2: Early adoption Stage 3: Embedding Stage 4: Sustaining

Moodle VLE and online careers guidance package in place


Perception that paper-based PDP process may need replacing with an online system

2008-09 Research project chose Mahara for a study carried out by a collaborative, cross-departmental team: Fostering Student Personal Development and Employability


July 2009 Promotional video for internal use


Summer 2009 Server and system funded. Mahara given Solent theme, customized and links to Career Box embedded


Implementation project


Sept 2009 Staff and students recruited for four pilots


Student induction pages and staff help pages developed


Careers service promoted independent use by students through CV support work




Summer 2010 University created 2-yr p-t Teaching Fellow posts in each faculty to lead embedding

From summer 2010, validation of academic units (course/modules) requires inclusion of e-portfolio


Faculty plans include increasing adoption


Targets are provided for increasing numbers of students accessing the e-portfolio


October 2010 Mahara Development Group launched to oversee ongoing developments



Managing organisational change


Governance, leadership and vision

The project vision and lead came from Barbara Lee, Reader in Teaching and Learning. The first project to trial the Mahara e-portfolio generated important evaluation results which were presented to the Senior Management Team. This group welcomed what was a research-based, worked-up solution to the challenge of supporting the development of students' employability, a major strategic priority for the University. From this a further presentation was made to members of the Vice-Chancellor's Office. The Solent Life Group authorised institutional implementation in Summer 2010, at the same time as the Academic Standards and Development Committee approved the creation of a Teaching Fellow post in each faculty (part-time secondments) to lead the roll-out and embedding of the e-portfolio alongside generic outcomes of other TQEF projects. The breadth of commitment across the institution is reflected in the scope of the membership of the recently constituted Mahara Development Group which brings all the stakeholders together to oversee continuation of the implementation (see below). The Mahara Development group advises the Solent Life Group and the Dean of LIS. The ongoing implementation of Mahara is part of the Learning Information Service Development Plan for 2010-2011 and identified as a key quality enhancement priority by Academic Standards and Development Committee. The DVC was both impressed and suprised by the size and success of the take-up and was keen to see the success spread across the university.


Alignment with the institutional context


DRIVERS influencing the start of the initiative


Employability. Personal Development Planning.   



Mahara was chosen for the pilot as it fitted well with other existing technology and met all the needs of the pilot. Mahara adopted, and integrated with the VLE (Moodle) and Careers support website (CareerBox).


Following the pilot it was decided by the group to continue Mahara's usage into the production environment as it met the needs of the users and had a promising developmental roadmap.



Developing expertise / engaging with stakeholders


Staffing and supporting the implementation  


The availability of TQEF funding has been instrumental in bringing about this e-portfolio implementation. There have been two projects. The first provided seed funding, resources for making the promotional videos and putting on events. The awarding of the second project recognised the success of the first and was explicitly for implementation. Time from the Learning Technology Unit was allocated to the projects as core business, some was bought out by the project funding as an even 50/50 split. Funding also had to be negotiated for the provision of a server (July 2009). Some further funding is being sought from the University Strategic Development Plan fund (SDP). Once the system was launched it became part of the baseline support of the Learning Technology Unit as a core system.


Summer 2010: Academic Standards and Development Committee approved the creation of a Teaching Fellow post in each faculty (part-time secondments) to lead the roll-out and embedding of the e-portfolio alongside generic outcomes of other TQEF projects


The Mahara Development Group was set up from October 2010. It includes: Reader in Teaching and Learning; 4 x Teaching and Learning Fellows; Learning Technologist; Employer Engagement Specialist; Careers and Employability Manager; Careers Advisor; Learning Systems Development Manager. Visiting Members: Students; Lecturers; Support Staff; SDP Consultant


Professional development for staff

Staff help pages were developed in 2009-2010.


A MoodleMoot presentation April 2010 reported that some members of staff outside of pilot groups were conceptualising e-portfolios as tools for assessment rather than for personal development. However, others were starting to redevelop their units to incorporate Mahara into their students’ learning.


Student engagement

From the beginning, the e-portfolio was envisaged as an electronic storage space for students, accessible from and integrated with the VLE, which they could use to organise and present information to prospective employers. Both tutors and careers advisers have encouraged take-up, and, beyond this, students individually have picked up Mahara by contagion, empowered by the availability and usability of excellent examples and support materials provided by the Learning Technology Unit (LTU). The Careers Service has played an important role in relation to students' independent use, promoting the e-portfolio as part of CV support.


Feedback on the first project indicated that the e-portfolio had to be as easy as Facebook, but that students perceived that their material would be safer, because backed up by the University, while they would still have ownership - 'I want it to be mine.' Students were very positive, once they understood that they wouldn't have to show staff items from their e-portfolio which they didn't wish to show.


The explicit purpose of the second project was to focus on how best to engage students. Student focus groups were convened. The Project Team wrote a script and commissioned an animation from a second year student to create a promotional video for students. Through usability research carried out in January 2010, students were recruited and were paid to complete five pre-defined tasks in Mahara without tutor assistance, to evaluate the ease of use for the self-directed learner. Independent use by students has taken off.



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