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Enhancing Learner Progression Project - FAQ

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Click on the section of key questions that you are interested in.

Key questions about using e-portfolios for the first time.

Key questions related to sixth form / college students use of e-portfolios.

Key questions about using e-portfolios for students on placement.

Key questions about using e-portfolios for the first time.

Why should I implement an e-portfolio for assessment purposes?
What systems are available and how do I decide which one to use?
How much will it cost?
Who should I involve in the implementation of the e-portfolio?
Should I just copy the assessment documentation into the e-portfolio?
Should I make usage of the e-portfolio compulsory of voluntary?
The qualification/assessments we deliver involve a lot of paper-based recording and activity-based assessment. How do I get round this with an e-portfolio?
A lot of the assessments we carry out require a signature from the assessor for verification. How can I do this with an e-portfolio?
Who should attend training on the use of the e-portfolio?
How do we provide the external verifier with access to the e-portfolio?
Will I need to write or amend any policy documents?

Key questions from the progression into H.E. work.

How will this help learners?
Did it make a difference to learners?
Would it work for the 'average' learner?
What is the value-added of publishing a portfolio in an electronic format?
Does creating an electronic portfolio enhance a student's self-esteem?
How do you encourage students to use e-portfolios?
What type of support system is needed to develop their electronic portfolios, and are certain types of support more useful than others?
How do we get teacher "buy in"?
How will it help students get into university?

Key questions about using e-portfolios for students on placement.

How can the use of an e-portfolio support my students who are out on placements?
Can’t they do this by e-mail? What is different about the e-portfolio?
Who needs to be trained on the use of the tool?
What are the benefits to students of maintaining such an e-portfolio on placement?
How will using the e-portfolio benefit tutors?
 

Why should I implement an e-portfolio for assessment purposes?

E-portfolios offer learners an individual learning space where they can collect assessments and keep track of their progress. Learners who made use of the e-portfolio highlighted this as one of the main advantages of e-portfolio usage.

There are some academics who claim that e-portfolios also offer greater opportunities for reflection as learners are able to store work and control access. From the project data it would appear that this benefit of e-portfolio usage is reported in large numbers amongst those who have a mixture of on-the job and classroom training (such as students on placements) rather than those who are using the tool solely to gain a qualification in the workplace.

For the organisation the use of an e-portfolio can offer the opportunity to flexibly deliver training, assessments and work-based qualifications.

In the future students will leave school and college with an electronic Individual Learning Plan (ILP), some graduates will have already used e-portfolios to engage in Personal Development Planning (PDP), track their progress and record their learning. Using an e-portfolio system in the workplace is a continuation of a process a growing number of individuals are familiar with.

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What systems are available and how do I decide which one to use?

There are many systems available on the market. You must decide what functions you require:

Make a list of these requirements and match them with the systems’ functions.

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How much will it cost?

There are various systems available, some such as Moodle (http://moodle.org), Elgg (http://elgg.net) are free, others such as Pebblepad (http://www.pebblepad.co.uk) WebCT (http://www.blackboard.com/us/index.Bb) require a fee. Look at the functionality and ease of use before deciding which one to use.

A comprehensive list of e-portfolio products can be viewed through the JISC website: JISC e-portfolio products

Who should I involve in the implementation of the e-portfolio?

You should talk to your ICT department and check the necessary system requirements. If the e-portfolio system you choose is housed in a third party location you will need to check firewall access and ensure that the e-portfolio can be accessed in the workplace and at home.

You will also need to ensure that you have a system in place for creating accounts, handing out usernames and passwords. You will also need to ensure that learners have access to delegated staff to deal with any technical issues that arise.

It is vitally important that you talk to staff who will be carrying out the assessments and involve them in the planning and design of the e-tool during the implementation phase. The project data strongly suggests that when those involved in providing feedback to learners are involved in this process continued usage of the e-tool is high.

It may also be worthwhile carrying out a short survey with learners and those providing feedback to find out what they would like from an e-portfolio, their level of ICT competence and whether or not they would actually like to use one.

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Should I just copy the assessment documentation into the e-portfolio?

One of the major findings of the project suggests that this is not advisable, especially if your documentation is lengthy. Users will want to be able to access the e-portfolio and be able to locate the appropriate section with ease. The main focus should be on learning activity and recording progress not reading masses of material. Make use of the online nature of the e-portfolio and provide links to learning materials and information available on the internet. If you have large documents which you need learners to read make them available in the e-portfolio through links and not within the main body of the e-portfolio pages. Having a large page to scroll down before getting to the activity will put some learners off.

Should I make usage of the e-portfolio compulsory of voluntary?

If you decide to make usage compulsory you must also ensure that there is sufficient internet access in your organisation and that those who do not have IT access at home are supported in the use of the system. You must also ensure that learners are confident in the use of ICT and that appropriate training is available for those who may need support in basic ICT skills.

If you decide to make use voluntary you will need to ensure that those who decide to use the system do not feel disadvantaged in any way.
Those who decided not to use the e-portfolio stated that the factors of ‘time’ and ‘additional work’ were pivotal in their decision. It should be stressed that using an e-portfolio does not mean additional work.

The qualification/assessments we deliver involve a lot of paper-based recording and activity-based assessment. How do I get round this with an e-portfolio?

You can either scan and upload or import word documents into the e-portfolio system alternatively you can create online forms using software such as question mark.
If you decide to scan the completed assessments into the system on a continuous basis you must identify staff to do this and factor this into their workload.

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A lot of the assessments we carry out require a signature from the assessor for verification. How can I do this with an e-portfolio?

Each feedback provider will be provided with an individual username and password. A feedback provider will be able to access the learners account and make a comment enabling them to sign off assessments. Their entries will be date-stamped and contain their name.

Who should attend training on the use of the e-portfolio?

Learners and those providing feedback. It may also be worthwhile inviting managers and administration staff, if appropriate, to ensure that people are familiar with the tool and process.

The provision of feedback is one of the most important factors in e-portfolio usage. One of the major findings of the project is that if feedback is not provided usage decreases.
If many of the assessments are activity/work-role based and feedback is normally provided on the spot, feedback providers can do this and write this feedback up and transmit it to the learner later through the e-portfolio or sign into the system with the leaner present and jointly produce a feedback report. Feedback providers must ensure they sign-in under their own log-in for verification purposes.

The qualification(s) we deliver require external verification. How do we provide the external verifier with access to the e-portfolio?

Provide them with a username and password and either allow them complete access to every student’s e-portfolio or ask students to make their work available through the system.
Ensure that learners are informed about the external verification process and that they ensure that all reflective, private comments are marked this way.

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Will I need to write or amend any policy documents?

It is advisable to do so. If your organisation has quality procedures relating to training you will need to make some changes. Is there a timescale attached to the provision of feedback? If your IT systems go down or if the e-portfolio system is unavailable for a lengthy period, particularly around key assessment stages how will learners be supported? Think about the administration of the e-tool do you need to rewrite any job descriptions?

How will this help learners?

The work of the project was to use e-portfolios to help widen participation into Higher Education and in the case of the work at the University of Leeds to widen participation specifically into medicine and other healthcare courses with competitive entry requirements. We have used e-portfolios to help students to make better applications to University and to prepare them for the application and entry into Higher Education.

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Did it make a difference to learners?

In the cases where there was no existing module that supported students progression into Higher Education, the use of an e-portfolio was a real benefit to students. The e-portfolio is a useful tool for supporting progression into Higher Education but it is the activities that form part of the e-portfolio that are the critical factor.

Those applying to competitive medicine or health courses were better prepared for their UCAS application and better prepared for their interviews.  71% of students using the e-portfolio were successful in getting offers for the course of their choice compared to 11% nationally. Three e-portfolio users received offers for healthcare courses from one college compared to none in the previous cohort of students who had not used the e-portfolio. See Case 3 for further details.

In the more generic e-portfolios, evidence is emerging that students are more prepared to apply to Higher Education. In one school, all students were asked to apply to UCAS early; 71% of students who had used the e-portfolio were able to do this compared to 41% of students who had not used the e-portfolio. See Case 1 for more details.

In the case involving an existing progression module, the e-portfolio option offered no real differences for learners, this may have been down to fact that it merely replicated the paper version and did not take advantage of additional features available in the e-portfolio tool.

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Would it work for the 'average' learner?

Yes! The aim of the project was to work with widening participation groups. We did not choose the 'best' students but a range of representative students from a wide range of social and ethnic backgrounds.

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What is the value-added of publishing a portfolio in an electronic format?

In the same way that displaying paper based work can increase motivation and sense of achievement, publishing a finished portfolio onto a limited access website can achieve the same goals.

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Does creating an electronic portfolio enhance a student's self-esteem?

There is evidence from the project that creating an electronic portfolio does enhance a student's self-esteem.
"It enabled me to record my experiences, something I usually would not do"..."makes you feel good." Student.

There is also evidence from the literature on portfolios and e-portfolios to support this view.

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How do you encourage students to use e-portfolios?

This is a question that could be debated for a long time. In the work of the project, the two generic e-portfolio modules offered accreditation and UCAS points to certain universities in order to encourage students to take part. In the medicine / healthcare e-portfolio no accreditation was offered because it was felt that the module would give students an advantage in applying to 'difficult to get into' courses and this would be enough motivation.

With the modules offering accreditation the completion rate was between 60 & 70%. For the non-accredited module the completion rate was 41%. However, a lot of credit must go to the teachers and tutors involved in getting students to complete the e-portfolio work. Overall, it is the support, effort and attitude of the teachers and tutors that gets students to use the e-portfolio combined with having a good reason for students to use the e-portfolio.

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What type of support system is needed to develop their electronic portfolios, and are certain types of support more useful than others?

Students in school need support from tutors / careers staff or mentors in their school. In a number of cases, students did develop their portfolios without support from schools but this was the exception rather than the rule. In these cases support from a member of University staff was important.

It is important to stress that the support does not need to be onerous. In Bradford schools support ranged from 30 minutes every other week with a member of staff in ‘tutor time’ to being integrated into the curriculum for ICT students, with no additional staff time allocated.

In most schools and colleges supporting students to apply to university is part of what already happens and using an e-portfolio to support this can be integrated into existing activities.

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How do we get teacher "buy in"?

Teachers who have been involved in the project can clearly see the benefits to students from having a structured approach to thinking about and applying to University.

The reluctance comes with the use of the e-portfolio. Some teachers are put off with the thought of using the technology but this need not be a barrier. In one case the teacher did not use the e-portfolio at all. He support students with regular group session in a IT room and focused on supporting students with the content of the e-portfolio. Once students have been properly introduced to the e-portfolio by a University member of staff they were very competent in being able to use the tool.

What is needed is a member of staff (in our case, from the University) to support any technical issues and to produce some simple worksheets to back up the student training in the use of the e-portfolio.

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How will it help students get into university?

Working in a structured way to prepare for University application should help students gather evidence that can be used for their personal statement. Starting the process in year 12 allows time to collect and think about the evidence that will demonstrate the skills and experience the student has. In many cases, students were able to identify weaknesses through the e-portfolio process and take action to rectify those weaknesses before needing to apply to University.

The e-portfolio activities also encouraged students to do research into the Universities and courses they are thinking about. One student decided that studying medicine was not the right choice for them as a result of working through the e-portfolio. Given that a survey by the CIPD (2006) reveals that a third of graduates believe they chose the wrong course at University, it is vital that students are well informed to make the best decisions for themselves before applying to University.

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How can the use of an e-portfolio support my students who are out on placements?

Using the e-portfolio will enable students to be able to communicate with their tutors in their educational institution as well as mentors/supervisors who are responsible for them in the work place setting.

Can’t they do this by e-mail? What is different about the e-portfolio?

In an e-portfolio system the department will be able to build a competency specific area relating to the course and any professional development requirements. The e-portfolio offers the opportunity for students to place evidence either through placement reports, witness statements, observations or reflection under the appropriate competency and track their own development. Regular use of the e-portfolio will enable students to identify areas they need to develop.

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Who needs to be trained on the use of the tool?

Students, tutors in your own department, as well as any mentors/supervisors in the work-place settings.

What are the benefits to students of maintaining such an e-portfolio on placement?

From the project data it has emerged that the students feel that they are better at reflecting on events in the workplace when they are able to link what they have learned with the professional requirements of their courses. Being able to mix their academic achievements and learning with the practical and ‘real’ demands of their chosen profession enables them to make sense of their ‘formal’ learning within the institution and understand how this links to the day to day activities on the job. Students also noted feeling better at tracking their competences. In addition the students who used the e-portfolio spent more time on reflective activities than non-users and reported receiving feedback more frequently.

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How will using the e-portfolio benefit tutors?

Tutors will not only able to communicate with students out on placement but will also be able to track their development and view comments from the student’s work-based supervisor/mentor. The holistic view of students’ progress and skills will provide tutors with a greater awareness of the learning needs of individual students.