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Why should we use e-portfolios

Page history last edited by Ros Smith 11 years, 11 months ago

 Why should we use e-portfolios?

 

The most well-established, large-scale institutional implementations represented in the case studies were initiated in response to drivers which are still very much with us. In fact the current economic and policy contexts, certainly within the UK, strengthen them even further. These drivers, discussed in some detail in the JISC (2008) e-Portfolios infoKit , coupled with the maturity of the e-portfolio tools now on offer, have stimulated particularly rapid uptake of e-portfolios in the UK since 2009. Figure 1 provides an overview of the key drivers found within the eportfolio implementations study and these are discussed below.  

 

 

 

 

Figure 1: The drivers for e-portfolio implementation 

 

The main drivers found within the e-portfolio implementation study are:

 

Educational and efficiency benefits (Cost benefits):  Educational gains were, as might be expected, the dominant driver for practitioners and institutions though efficiency gains were also mentioned and evidenced. The study did not find evidence of formal cost benefits analysis underpining evaluation, even though this could be useful in supporting sustainability.

 

  • Educational Gains: There is extensive evidence of the educational gains offered by e-portfolio use - see the JISC e-Portfolios infoKit and Effective Practice with e-Portfolios (JISC 2008) publication. Examples within this implementation study are of e-portfolio use raising attainment - see Dumfries and Galloway College, of e-portfolios facilitating improved assessment and feedback - see Exemplars taster and of the gains provided by consistent e-portfolio use across a whole course - see the University of Bradford midwifery case study . The broader educational gains which e-portfolios support arise from the growing readiness of institutions to acknowledge and accommodate wider definitions of learning, including lifewide and lifelong learning, while situating academic learning within this wider spectrum. The institutional video case studies, Effective Practice with e-Portfolios: Stories of e-Portfolio Implementation, illustrate gains from practice that is both integrated into existing course delivery and/or student support provision (eg Birmingham City University and Southampton Solent University) and as a free-standing vehicle for staff development (eg Thanet College).  e-Portfolios also support students in integrating their learning experiences inside and outside institutions - see the extra-curricular exemples in the Exemplars taster , in supporting personalisation and exercising ownership of their ongoing development in dialogue with tutors, mentors and careers advisers, and in articulating the outcomes of learning for assessors, employers and professional bodies. 
  • Efficiency Gains: There are efficiency gains to be made in:
    • Replacing paper-based processes and records with e-portfolios - examples are to be found in the support for professional practice courses and in personal and tutorial guidance - see Exemplars taster of e-portfolio use. 
    • Learners being able to work with digital resources as they develop their e-portfolios into presentations that they can personalise for different purposes, i.e. personal development planning, CV's etc.  The personal development planning process has inherent efficiency gains as it supports more effective and efficient learning, i.e. it aims to maximise the value of learning over a course of study. Equally, the high value to learners of using multimedia resources to demonstrate rather than merely describe their attainments, attributes and abilities for employers is discussed in the Southampton Solent University video case study.

       

Employability and Work-based Learning:

  • Employability: This has been a consistent driver and is currently integrated into the growing movement to articulate Graduate Attributes in institutions in Australia and the UK. UK examples are the University of Edinburgh and Southampton Solent University 
  • Work-based Learning: Hand-in-hand with the employability agenda, even institutions with little previous experience of student work placements are now aware of the need to ensure graduates have some experience of the world of work and the capacity to self-manage the enhancement of their own employability skills - the University of Edinburgh case study shows that all students are expected to show some engagement with these activities and e-portfolio use is central. In addition there are increasing demands for universities to develop courses that meet the needs of employers - see Work-based Learning in the Exemplars taster of e-portfolio use and the University of Wolverhampton video case study.

 

Widening Participation (Retention and Progression): 

  • Widening Participation: The government agenda in the UK makes a direct link between allowing an institution to charge high course fees and its achievements in widening participation. Institutions have to demonstrate that they have effective strategies in place to attract, support and retain students from non-traditional backgrounds. Just one way in which e-portfolios help is by supporting pre-entry mentoring and the transition into the university - see the Exemplars taster of e-portfolio use.
  • Retention and Progression: Issues raised by the widening participation agenda are increasingly being interpreted in terms of the whole student body. There is an increasing emphasis on enhancing induction for all students and maximising successful retention and progression. e-Portfolios, in particular e-PDP (Personal Development Planning), have been used extensively to support this - see PDP and employabailty in the Exemplars taster and University of Wolverhampton's revision of their curriculum to support this process.

 

Lifelong and Lifewide Learning (Transition and mobility):

  • Lifelong Learning: The recognition that an e-portfolio to support lifelong learning seems not to have moved beyond the notion of transition to employment within the case studies though there were some instances where it was used to support transition into Higher Education - see  Exemplars taster. The Higher Education Academic Record that supports internationalisation, i.e., transition and mobility across Europe is also considered a driver for e-portfolio use but was not mentioned within the study. However, there is emerging evidence of e-portfolios enabling the acquisition of short course qualifications within the workplace - see the University of Wolverhampton's ePPSME project. This advance, which was prompted by the university's role in suppporting regional workforce development, is discussed in the University of Wolverhampton video case study.
  •  Lifewide Learning: The rise of 'integrative learning' is central to e-portfolio use from a learner and practitioner perspective in that an e-portfolio can represent a wider perspective than a course-based academic or work-based learning one, for example to include leisure and volunteering activities. This was not found to be a key institutional driver within the study.

 

Student demand:  Feedback is something that continues to score lower satisfaction levels in the National Student Survey . It is worth noting that strong alignment between institutional drivers and the motivating factors important to practitioners and students which tend to relate to educational gains and course activity contexts is not commonly found across the ePI institutions. However the ePI study did identify numerous examples of use where the institutional driver of employability was also a key driver for students, for example Southampton Solent University. It is also evident from the video case studies that student engagement with e-portfolios does not occur routinely without clear explanation and demonstration by practitioners of the value of e-portfolios. Integration of e-portfolio-based activities into the curriculum  was cited in the Birmingham City University video case study as an essential ingredient of successful wide-scale adoption. However, the student-centred nature of e-portfolios may mean that use is more widespread than is visible to institutions.

 

Technology advances: These are included here as a driver partly as a recognition of the move from paper-based to digital media and partly as a recogntion of the  high level of maturity of the e-portfolio tools available that can now replace paper based approaches, for example the University of Bradford case study. However, the widespread use of mobile devices and 'the cloud' for storage, social networking etc. have raised student expectations of being able to utilise online spaces, leading in turn to an inceasing expectation by students and employers to be able to utilise e-portfolios for representing their professional identities, supporting job applications, for appraisals etc. 

 

 

 

References

JISC (2008) Effective Practice with e-Portfolios http://www.jisc.ac.uk/effectivepracticeeportfolios

JISC (2008) e-Portfolios infoKit http://www.jiscinfonet.ac.uk/e-portfolios

 

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