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Implementation guidance for senior managers

Page history last edited by Gordon 11 years, 11 months ago

This guidance contains

  1. Information about implementation approaches and what needs to be in  place to support them
  2. Key issues and effective guidance
  3. An eight point summary implementation guide for senior managers


1. Information about implementation approaches and what needs to be in place to support them

      What implementation approach would suit your institution?


The following assumes that the drivers for e-portfolios are understood and that, whether or not the drivers are recognised at a senior management level, pressures will emerge from lecturers or middle managers to engage with them. Three models were found in relation to the initiation of large-scale e-portfolio implementations. These are:


  • Top-down: initiated by senior managers to support institutional goals
  • Middle-out: initiated by e-portfolio managers - this is a common but less frequently acknowledged model  
  • Bottom-up: initiated by practitioners


Each model has its advantages and disadvantages and these together with examples of the approaches are outined in initiation models.


What needs to be in place to support these models?


1. Trusted expertise within the centre

Importantly, for ALL MODELS, the ePI study found that the e-portfolio implementation manager role was critical for effective implementation. However this central support role was undertaken by quite different people in different institutions - for example, a Pro-Vice Chancellor (Curtin), a seconded academic, professor, senior lecturer or lecturer (Birmingham City University, Southampton Solent University, The University of Wolverhampton, Thanet College and, Dunfires and Galloway College), a student support manager (Newham College). These e-portfolio managers had lines of communication into senior management and enjoyed the trust of senior colleagues, whilst also having knowledge of innovative work at practitioner level and good relationships with lecturers. They all worked closely with Information Services technologists while they were often located in central units outside Information Services. It is important to note that these units are often under threat from financial pressures and the successful completion of an implementation journey can be jeopardised by this. For two examples of the central unit and its role in the implementation journey see the central unit role .


2. A recognition that implementation is a staged process that needs to match the institutional context and takes time

While each version of an implementation model was a response to the particular context within a specific institution, all implementations demonstrated four broad stages in the implementation journey, listed below. Because the context is fundamental to the implementation journey a stage 0, or pre-implementation stage, has been included. Typically the activity comprising stages 1 to 3 takes three years, but for the institutions who pioneered the way, it took longer.


0. Context: Developments and conditions prior to implementation - all institutions had some pre-existing use of portfolios/e-portfolios

1. Planning: This work was informed by reflection on and response to the institutional context

2. Adopting: This involved piloting with volunteer practitioners who became champions

3. Embedding: This involved sharing practice and widening adoption

4. Sustaining: This involved some institutional change


To find out how these phases have looked in practice see UK Case Study summary pages


3. A recognition that e-portfolio implementation is a professional development process.

The section on How e-portfolios and VLEs differ covers the reasons why this process is necessarily a professional development one and seems to require a staged process. Across most partner institutions, the ePI study found a wide range of uses occurring, illustrated by the following overview. If the implementation process is a managed one, co-ordinating developments at these different levels according to institutional priorities, then benefits can be realised more effectively.


Inter course – localised use Inter faculty / school / whole course use Cross(intra) institution use Extra curricular use Inter institution use
For example, one lecturer integrating e-portfolios in an individual module or part of a course For example, use sustained through all levels of a course or across a programme or faculty For example, supporting an institutional commitment such as Personal Development Planning or mapping of graduate attributes and available to all students at undergraduate or postgraduate levels, or both For example, professional development of staff, student volunteering activities, work-based learning For example, e-portfolio use required across the sector by a professional organisation


The examplars taster provides links to some actual examples of use in partner institutions and the Case Studies provide further examples as well as an overview of the implementation process involved.



 2. Key issues and effective practice


The e-portfolio implementation guidance for managers table below lists the e-portfolio implementation principles, summarises the associated key issues for managers and provides statements of effective practice.  It is important to note that key issues are professional development and pedagogy rather than technology based. The numbers in the table refer to notes that are provided below to provide some indications of differences in practice found by the study. This may be a helpful point of reference when thinking through your own implementation, however you will know your own context best - the key for success is the application of the principles to your context.


e-Portfolio implementation principles 

The key issues from an institutional perspective

Statements of effective practice for large-scale implementation (those in italics were not fully established in all participating institutions)

Purpose is aligned to context to maximise benefits.

There can be a range of purposes for e-portfolio use across an institution and there can be tensions between them; eg between e-portfolios that map and evidence competence, and ones that have a personal development planning function, or others that are CV orientated.

How can a variety of purposes be supported effectively?

Which stakeholders are/ need to be involved?

Which technologies need to be made available?

Is there an overarching institutional purpose?

  • There is a recognition that there are many purposes for e-portfolios AND that some of these may align with institutional issues and goals eg employability, progression, retention. (1)

  • Teaching and learning strategies/ policies include some reference either to the drivers or to e-portfolio use explicitly. (2)

  • Technical solution/s allow for the range of purposes. (3)
  • Key stakeholders are involved in e-portfolio implementation (decisions, discussions, review etc). eg academics representing different areas and levels of the curriculum, administrators, careers/ employability professionals, staff development personnel, students, alumni, employers, IS and senior managers. (4)
  • Institutional purposes or drivers are understood by stakeholders and the associated efficiency, enhancement and transformational benefits of e-portfolios are maximised.

Learning activity is designed to suit the purpose.

Professional development opportunities are needed to help staff identify the learning activities relevant to their own practice, needs and aspirations as teachers meeting the changing needs of students, which can be supported by e-portfolio tools.

How can practitioners' awareness be raised of the need to link effective student centered learning design to their introduction of e-portfolios?

How can the professional development issues be supported across a range of contexts?

How is an evolving familiarity with the potential of e-portfolios to be supported?

  • Learning design practice expertise is developed and shared.
  • Opportunities are provided for staff to develop expertise in using e-portfolios themselves, eg new lecturers' course, staff appraisal/performance review. (5)
  • A central unit supports/develops knowledge of institutional use
  • Champions are established to support developing practice

Processes are supported technologically and pedagogically.

Users benefit from having both technological and pedagogical inputs to their developing use of e-portfolios, ideally with some co-ordination between the two. There are efficiency and enhancement gains to be had from sharing practice on supporting processes in schools/departments. Efficiency gains can also be made by identifying some central support for e-portfolios.

How can process such as information capture & retrieval and presentation best be supported?

How can pedagogic processes be supported?

How can this be done efficiently and effectively?

  • The e-portfolio solution has the necessary functionality to support processes involved across instances of use such as information capture & retrieval and presentation - technical support is provided for these.
  • Pedagogic support for students, staff and work-based personnel is in place to support users in key learning processes such as reflection, peer review, information selection, presentation etc. e-Portfolios are included in professional development programmes.
  • Efficiency gains through central provision and/or sharing of induction/ support materials are considered.

Ownership is student centred.

e-Portfolio use by individuals and by those with whom they choose to share e-portfolio content ‘cannot’ be monitored, except when the e-portfolio owner chooses to share part of it with a member of staff.

Students may prefer to use their own tools for some or all of their e-portfolio work.

What input might students have in choice of tool and in promoting and supporting use?

How can the e-literacy issues in relation to e-portfolio use be addressed?

How can the students take their e-portfolio with them on work placement and when they leave the institution?

  • The holistic student experience is addressed centrally when identifying the potential purposes of e-portfolios.
  • The nature of the provision is such that personally-driven use can sit alongside a number of learning activities and both curricular and extra-curricular uses are incorporated.(6)
  • Student recommendation is recognised as a key factor in disseminating the value of e-portfolio use - approaches to evaluation have a significant student voice element.
  • Student expectations are a major consideration in strategy development.
  • Lifelong and Lifewide Learning uses of the e-portfolio are supported either through using a tool which is compliant with interoperability standards such as Leap2A or by providing one that allows use to continue after graduation either free of charge or at minimal cost.

Transformation (disruption) is planned for.

Individuals involved in using/supporting e-portfolios across a range of purposes are in a unique position to support implementation, highlight transformational benefits and manage potential disruption.

How can awareness be raised of this potential for disruption, in a constructive way?

How can issues related to transformational e-portfolio use inform practice and strategy at institutional level?

How can the institution demonstrate its understanding and valuing of the contribution of the e-portfolio manager/champion?

  • The issues of student ownership are considered in relation to the potential for transformative benefits AND the potential for disruption.
  • There is an identified ‘expert’ person with responsibility for e-portfolio developments who is able to alert the institution staff i.e. senior managers, key strategic groups etc. to efficiency, enhancement and transformational benefits that are appropriate to their institutional context.
  • Strategic documents on teaching and learning, employability, etc reference e-portfolio purposes and/or processes.
  • Resource is in place to provide central support to maximise identified benefits.
  • Systematic evaluation is in place to ensure efficiencies and benefits are maximised. (7)
  • e-Portfolio tools interoperate with other institutional systems. e-Portfolio use is a key element in VLE and/or whole systems review.
  • Experiential use of e-portfolios by staff is considered in the form, for example, of embedding in the new lecturers' course, in staff appraisal/ performance review and/or professional accreditation
  • An approach is in place to manage possible unintended consequences, ie disruption of established teaching paradigms.


Table 1:  The threshold concepts framework for large-scale e-portfolio implementation


Differences between implementation approaches

  1. e-Portfolios in some instances were central to the implementation of wider university strategies, for example, the integration of Personal Development Planning (University of Wolverhampton) graduate attributes (University of Edinburgh), a five-year university plan (University of Bradford) and student employability (Southampton Solent video case study).
  2. Typically, across the ePI study institutions, e-portfolios were not mentioned in documents such as learning and teaching strategies (although both the University of Wolverhampton and the University of Bradford identified e-portfolio use as a student entitlement), but e-portfolio purposes, such as e-PDP and employability, tended to be stated explicitly.
  3. The processes of choosing the technology across the institutions differed widely, ranging from informal conversations that led to installing the software on the VLE server (Birmingham City University) to the lengthy development of a bespoke tool (University of Wolverhampton, University of Newcastle, Dumfries and Galloway College, Curtin University) or a formal evaluation (Bradford University) or procurement process (University of Edinburgh, RMIT, Newham College).
  4. Approaches to involving stakeholders also differed widely and included: working closely with Careers (Southampton Solent University), engaging all staff in developing an employability strategy (University of Edinburgh) and working closely with students, achieving regular and systematic feedback (Newham College).
  5. Use for continuing professional development of staff was central to some strategies, for example for professional accreditation of lecturers (Thanet College), learning technologists (University of Wolverhampton)and for new lecturers  (University of Bradford).
  6. Institutions make the e-portfolio freely available to all students; in some instances the online support provided strategically promotes wide student use (Southampton Solent University).
  7. Evaluation ranged from formal, externally-led activities (University of Wolverhampton) or formal internally-led ones (University of Bradford, Southampton Solent University) to a (more typically) collection of examples of use and recording of student experiences used to support the Embedding stage (Birmingham City University).



3. An eight point summary implementation guide for senior managers


An eight point summary guide for large scale institutional implementation is provided here, but it is important to note that each context for implementation is different and it is the application of the e-portfolio model that is the key to success.

This assumes that the institution has decided to initiate a top-down implementation strategy

  1. Identify at least one senior manager who has responsibility for making executive decisions and who will engage in developing the vision for e-portfolio use across the institution.
  2. Identify/establish the e-portfolio implementation central unit and its manager – their roles are critical to the success of the implementation strategy and they need to be in place for all the implementation stages.
  3. Decide upon the key stakeholder representatives, eg students, lecturers, employment and careers, volunteering, alumni, administrators, Graduate School, Information Services and engage them in developing and supporting the implementation strategy over all the implementation stages. This process needs to be led by the e-portfolio implementation manager using ‘expert’ advice and will need to consider the key drivers, such as employability, retention etc as well as potential contexts for use across the insitution and the time line. Use by staff on the new lecturer course and for performance review/promotion should be considered.
  4. Establish an approach to both pedagogic and technical support that is able to suit the range of contexts of use – technical support and some pedagogic support through online resources will need to be centrally provided.
  5. Identify existing effective use of e-portfolio and potential champions/mentors and gather case studies of use.
  6. Develop an approach for evaluation and dissemination of the implementation that provides case studies of use across a range of contexts that include students explaining the benefits as well as providing cost benefits data to provide a basis for sustaining the initiatives.
  7. Establish and evaluate pilot projects supported by the champions and central unit – these need to be informed by the intended institutional uses for the e-portfolio and how these are to be rolled out/ developed.
  8. Provide access to the e-portfolio tool and support resources to all staff and students.




Cummings, R., Phillips, R., Tilbrook, R. & Lowe, K. (2005) Middle-out approaches to reform of University teaching and learning: Champions striding between the ‘top-down’ and the ‘bottom-up’ approaches, International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 6, (1) 1-15 http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/224/307


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