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E-portfolio Top Tips

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Key Questions

Top Tips

Benefits of e-portfolios

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  1. Introducing new technology such as e-portfolios should be treated like any change management situation.
  2. The role, support and attitude of learner support staff is critical.
  3. There has to be a clearly understood purpose for using an e-portfolio and the content should be relevant (more on relevance).
  4. Consider the learner's perspective.
    • Make the advantages and benefits to the learner explicit. Hopefully this will motivate them to use the tool.
    • Training for the learner (more on training).
    • Support material should be made freely available both on paper and online (more on support material).
    • Users should understand how to collate, output and transfer (if relevant) their e-portfolio contents (more on output).
  5. Make a decision: Voluntary or Compulsory? Assessed or Not? (more on this decision)
  6. Technical issues need to be checked before learners use the e-portfolio but inevitably technical issues will occur during use and so prompt support and resolution of these is important.

Choose a tool that meets institutional needs.

Clearly define, through consultation with staff and students, which features of the on-line environment you would like to exploit; will students need to upload pictures and sound? Do they control access to their e-portfolio space? Is confidentiality assured? Confidentiality is important to the learner especially if they are recording and reflecting on personal experiences. The privacy and security of their e-portfolios needs to be clear and explicit for the learner.

Create a policy and/or work instructions

Set out clear guidelines for feedback provision, responsibilities and support. Users should understand how long feedback will take, who to contact with technical issues and where help on using the e-portfolio tool can be accessed.

Involve those providing feedback early.

Engagement by users is higher when those providing feedback are engaged in the design and planning process, understand the advantages of the e-portfolio approach, can identify opportunities to use the tool in the curriculum (if appropriate) and are confident in the use of ICT. Involving these key staff at an early stage will ensure their ownership of the e-portfolio and its contents and create the most desirable environment to facilitate feedback provision.

If mentors are involved in the process, particularly common between FE and HE transitions, are all mentors trained appropriately in providing feedback?

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Responsibilities should be clear. Staff should be aware of their responsibilities.

Depending on the usage of the tool across the institution is there one member of staff responsible for overseeing implementation and evaluation? Is there a nominated staff member to deal with technical issues? Do admin staff have a role to play, particular if the e-portfolio is to support formal assessment? Should regular meetings be held across departments to discuss progress and developments?

Feedback providers should make clear to users how they will access any work e.g. with the user present or remotely and be aware of the timescales in which they should provide feedback. A contract of expectations should underpin usage.

Training should not just be technical.

Training on the e-portfolio should also focus on the learning benefits of usage and link in with future usage e.g. if an e-portfolio tool is used in schools, potential users should be made aware that such systems are used in the majority of universities for learning and teaching purposes.

The links to personal development planning and the workplace should be exploited. Training should highlight the relationship between recording, reflection and planning and how e-portfolio usage can encourage this thought process.

Make sure the content is relevant and has a clear purpose Relevance is a key factor in engagement.

When deciding to use an e-portfolio individuals have to be able to recognise the personal value. Does it add value to existing methods and/or relate to their personal goals or learning objectives?

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Support materials should be made freely available both on paper and online.

Support materials and associated literature should be available via other on-line areas, institutional intranet or website as well as in paper based formats. This material should be easy to understand and use appropriate language. Do not over estimate learner usage or understanding of terms such as ‘RSS feeds’ and ‘Avatars’ etc.

Users should understand how to collate, output and transfer (if relevant) their e-portfolio contents.

On leaving the institution training or information on how to transfer e-portfolio contents should be provided.

Make a decision: Voluntary of Compulsory? Assessed or Not?

If e-portfolio usage is compulsory and for assessment purposes the ‘type’ and ‘volume’ of usage displayed will be shaped by the individual’s normal approach to learning as well as the amount and frequency of feedback.

If the portfolio is assessed but the e-bit is voluntary, this is unlikely to help with uptake of the e-portfolio.

Voluntary engagement will be affected by how potential users view the e-portfolio. If they view the process as ‘extra’ work or ‘time consuming’ engagement will be affected. Voluntary usage will be shaped by individual learning needs and feedback. Users will pick and choose which sections, subjects etc. they complete.

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