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University of Nottingham, UK

Page history last edited by kirstiec 10 years, 6 months ago

Summary : e-portfolio implementation and use at the University of Nottingham

To visit the case study pages select:


Case study Home Page An overview of use The implementation journey


Evaluation of the toolkit

The University of Nottingham followed the e-portfolio implementation model within the Toolkit and a brief review of lessons learnt about this process are provided within the Case study Home Page.  A conference paper reporting on the evaluation is available.


Key words

Nottingham, UK, HE, Higher Education, CPD, PDP, Personal development, employability, placements, skills awareness, student ownership, innovative assessment methods, Mahara, PebblePad,  interoperable, transportable, exportable, feedback.


e-portfolios used since 2005

Early pilots began through the Centre for Integrative Learning CETL (2005-2010) and from 2009 within the Centre for International ePortfolio Development (CIePD) through Jisc-funded project work. The University of Nottingham's use of Mahara as its centrally-offered e-portfolio system began in 2012. The University also developed ePars (2000-02), a digital system containing early elements of eportfolio within the Personal Evidencing Database and was more widely used for suporting tutorials.  The School of Veterinary Medicine and Sciences and the School of Health Sciences use PebblePad which is embedded into their whole-school curricula.


Numbers using e-portfolios

(As of November 2013)

Total Mahara users = 2800+

Staff = approximately 100+ supporting students within the pilot projects and/or tutors accessing student 'pages'.

Active users = 427 from 15 November 2013, 2800+ all time

PebblePad users - all Veterinary and Health Sciences students


What is distinctive about this implementation case study

  • Established unit that was funded primarily by external e-portfolio related projects and operating within Libraries and Research and Learning Resources (formally a member of Information Services) leading the developments. Responsibility for supporting implementation passed to the Central Learning Technologies Section also operating within Libraries and Learning Resources December 2013.
  • Internal Teaching and Learning funding supporting the developments.
  • Director of Teaching and Learning supporting the implementation model. 
  • Developments informed by the e-Portfolio Implementation Toolkit.
  • Engagement with the wider Mahara community to support problem solving.


Institutional Drivers

  • The impetus came from staff and therefore the drivers were context dependent, for example, for the Doctoral Training Programme and  programmes where they are used to support Work Placement potential efficiency gains for administrators as well as the potential for improvements in communication and learning gains were key drivers. For courses such as the MA in Learning Technology and Education, there was a need for students to explore the use of a range of tools and its use was exploratory but subsequently its potential to provide a learning 'bridge' across the whole course emerged.
  • Senior management, the Teaching and Learning Directorate, endorsed e-portfolio use as it aligned well with the institutional focus on improving student feedback and the role of the tutor.
  • Enhancing employability was a driver also for Biosciences and English which informed senior management endorsement


Tool used for the centrally-supported pilots

  • Mahara. Internally hosted. Not integrated with Moodle during the 1st year - but this is planned from 2014. Users log in with their usual credentials. PebblePad use continued in parallel as it is embedded and supports the requirements of the Schools. It is supported externally and funded by the individual Schools.


Implementation features for eportfolio managers

  • The implementation follows the staged approach recommended in this toolkit.
  • The Centre for International e-Portfolio Development (CIePD) proposed  a strategy for implementation in response to staff requesting use of an e-portfolio. The CIePD had had implemented Mahara for externally funded projects and had expertise in technically and pedagogically supporting use and in e-portfolio use more generally. It had been involved with an academic member of staff from Education in developing the toolkit for Jisc.
  • Senior management endorsed the implementation plan drawn up by the CIePD in 2012 and internal funding was provided to support the planning and pilot stages of the implementation strategy.
  • The strategy recognised and took advantage of the diversity of pedagogic practice that would be developed and used the Toolkit to showcase these - to raise the status of each local instance of use and to use this as one vehicle for evaluation and dissemination and networking of staff with expertise.
  • The Toolkit, a blog, workshops used as key tools in developing a community of practice around e-Portfolio implementation.
  • The staff and students in the pilots were to be the change agents for the embedding stage 2013-14. 


Implementation features for technologists

  • Open source; hosted in-house; connected to University LDAP.
  • Choice of e-portfolio for the pilots was influenced by the recent move to the Open Source VLE Moodle. Adaptable, customisable and with options for interoperability with other institutional systems.  


The nature of e-portfolio use

See An overview of use - University of Nottingham The exemplars selected represent those involved in the pilot activities using Mahara during 2012-13.  Use of PebblePad exists within the School of Veterinary Medicine and Sciences and the School of Health Sciences.


The nature of the implementation journey

The University of Nottingham replaced the WebCT Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) with Moodle over 2011-12 and all schools used this from the beginning of the academic year 2012-13. Mahara pilots took place in 2012-13, embedded instances of use took place from 2013 and there are plans to integrate it with Moodle in the long term.   




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

Moodle VLE gradually introduced 2011-12 for full uptake 2012-13


PebblePad established within the School of Veterinary Medicine and Science. School of Health Sciences roll-out in 2012-13.


Localised use of Mahara on a few courses and interest in use of an e-portfolio across a number of schools.


Early dissemination of e-portfolio use in Biosciences at eCommunity events


e-portfolios perceived as supporting the University Grand Challenges of supporting tutorials and enhancing assessment/feedback


ePARs (electronic Personal and Academic Records) in use in some schools and Portfolio use established in Nursing, Medicine etc.


The CIePD had Mahara in use for externally funded projects SAMSON and ESCAPES and has the expertise to install and support its use


The CIePD and an academic from Education led the development of the e-Portfolio Implementation Toolkit for Jisc

Phase 1 internal funding secured January 2012


There were 3 separate instances of Mahara to combine. Secured support from ULCC to work with CIePD to migrate these


Liaised with IT Systems to set up server infrastructure, help desk integration, Supportworks access and procedure, decision tree and 'on-call' status


Training of key staff, including learning technologies and staff on pilots


Active recruiting of pilots including hosting a CIePD stand at Assessment in a Digital Age April 2012


Technical integration occurred Summer break 2012


CIePD assisted groups of new pilots with set-up ready for the new academic year. Degree of involvement varied according to wishes of practitioner. Involved support with training materials and video, face to face student sessions, technical and user support.


Dissemination materials developed and distributed






Implementation of 12 pilot projects 


Continue to set-up and train pilot groups


Continue to support embedded use


Training materials and FAQs


Upgrade to v1.7


UoN case studies begin to be developed in the EPI Toolkit November 2012


Community of Practice workshop held December 2012


Phase 2 internal funding secured to support the CIePD in working with the pilot projects and for conference dissemination /networking  February 2013


Interviews with pilot project staff to review progress, identify needs and support roles as change agents


Closer working with core Learning Technologies team to exchange specialist knowledge


Key stakeholders continue to be targeted 


Ran survey with all users


Pilot projects produce contributions to the University Talking of Teaching Blog as part of ongoing  dissemination
-Using Online Portfolios to Facilitate Feedback... 
-Supporting Face-to-Face Collaborative Learning 
- Students on Placement...

The Learning Technologies Section (LTS - the central unit responsible for supporting learning technology uptake) take over responsibility for supporting e-Portolio  implementation from the CIePD December 2013


Knowledge transfer taking place


The LTS run an University wide e-community event on e-portfolios to showcase 3 of the pilot projects in December 2013.  Awareness of the case studies in the Toolkit is raised.


CoP event held in December 2013













Managing organisational change


Governance, leadership and vision

The CIePD (Kirstie Coolin) and an academic from Education (Gordon Joyes) led the developments. The CIePD was established as a project funded unit and was line managed at the start of the pilots within Information Services. This team was involved in a range of externally funded projects including e-portfolios and were running a version of Mahara for one of these projects - this meant that they could support academics in using Mahara and e-Portfolios more generally. This team were well connected within the University and were aware of the growing demand for e-Portfolio use. The CIePD (via Angela Smallwood) and Gordon Joyes led the development of the e-Portfolio Implementation Toolkit for Jisc and so could advise the University on implementation. The CIePD manager created the business plans with the Director of Libraries Research and Learning Resources to secure funding  to support their work for the pilots and conference attendance - presentations were made at ePiC 2013  and ALT 2013  


Alignment with the institutional context

e-portfolio use at the University was bottom-up initiated, but the CIePD was well placed to support the implementation of Mahara. e-Portfolio use aligned well with Senior Management agendas of improving feedback and assessment and the role of the tutor and was perceived to fit with an 'open source' model, e.g., Moodle VLE was rolled out in 2012 and Xerte was developed by the Learning Technologies Section.


DRIVERS influencing the start of the initiative

Employability. Personal Development Planning. Administrative placement support. Focus on improving assessment and feedback. Tutoring 



Mahara was chosen for the pilot as it fitted well with other existing technology and met all the needs of the pilot.


Developing expertise / engaging with stakeholders


Staffing and supporting the implementation  

The availability of Teaching and Learning Board funding and support from the Pro-Vice Chancellor for Teaching and Learning has been instrumental in bringing about this e-portfolio implementation - this has been essential to fund the work of the CIePD.


Professional development for staff

This is ongoing and remains central to the pilots. Key tools used were the sharing of  practice  internally through the CoP and case studies in the Talking of Learning Blog, the Toolkit etc.  


Student engagement

Face to face 'Mahara' sessions run by CIePD and staff running the pilots. Consultation early on with Students Union Education Officer. Survey of 110 Mahara users.


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