Shifting portfolios online

How a ‘spark’ during a staff development session led to a fully ‘on-line’ portfolio for all PCET trainees.

Lindsey Marsh (Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Education) attended an early Campus Pack training session.  During that session she realised that the wiki technology  offered the potential to significantly improve trainees’ portfolios.  This post is based on an interview with Lindsey on 8th Feb 2013 telling her story about how she implemented the electronic portfolio for the Post Compulsory Education and Training (PCET) course.

temp3Q: Can you tell me the history behind the PCET electronic portfolio?

“I attended a staff development session that introduced Campus Pack (one of yours!).  We were looking at how the administration team might be able to use the system to share course documentation with external staff, mentors, course representatives etc. and I had a ‘light bulb’ moment – realising that this system (Campus Pack) could be used for the trainees’ portfolios.  This led to a complete redesign of the two modules, and moving the initial audit from the first module (PTTLs) and integrating it into their professional practice modules.

Q: What did you envisage?

“I envisaged a completely electronic portfolio that integrates all the personal and professional development of the trainee from pre-course (pre course workshops and skills audit) for both teaching portfolios – ‘digitally’ – all in one place – saving room and allowing both trainees and staff to find things quickly.  Trainees now have links to video, audio, images, job applications, interview records and coursework in their electronic portfolios.

“Also note that the PCET tutors and mentors need to assess these portfolios regularly, so having these available on-line is a real benefit to everyone.”

Q: What was the ‘driver’ – what were you trying to fix / achieve?

“Trainees were producing two lever arch files of evidence for each of the modules.  This of course meant that they had to lug them around along with their teaching resources.  In terms of checking and marking, the tutors (including me) would have car boots full of lever arch files that took hours to go through, and mark, and sign, and comment on etc..  Having the portfolios available electronically means that the tutors didn’t need to carry anything around.  I also realised that other people would be able to access the portfolios – asynchronously – which means that we’d be able to track engagement, how often the trainees are updating their action and development plans etc.  We could also track how they are engaging with the other developmental work.

“I think the pivotal thing for me was the ability to ‘nip in and nip out’ – thus I now review trainees portfolios much more frequently than I used to with the paper based system – and this has also encouraged trainees to keep their portfolios more up to date – to be more of a ‘working document’.

“Personal tutors and Setting Subject Mentors (SSMs) can ‘nip in and nip out’ and mark with authenticated comments such as ‘yes, this is valid evidence, we did have those developmental meetings, this is the number of hours etc.  Also, because the wiki tool in Campus Pack tracks who’s done what and when we can now say with even greater certainty that a verification comment from a PT/SSM really is from the PT/SSM.”

Q: What do the rest of the PCET team think about the new system?

“Most of the team really like it – they like that they can check their trainees progress and engagement at a time that is convenient to them rather than bringing a trainee on to campus on a day that they wouldn’t normally attend.  A very small number of Personal Tutors have not been as confident as the technology required, and in those cases we have been very supportive, as we have been with SSMs in a similar position, and those tutors have come on board.  The number of PTs that are struggling with the technology is reducing very quickly.

“Note that we’ve decided as a team that any trainee that started from Sep ’12 MUST have an electronic portfolio – but they can always maintain a paper based portfolio for their own purposes.”

Q: What problems have you experienced implementing the new system?

“Trainees not following instructions accurately:  Very early on we noticed that some trainees managed to enter information into the master template – thus we had to change some permissions.  Also some other trainees didn’t give all the ‘Permissions’ (ability to edit a wiki) as they were instructed – again, something very quickly fixed.  In fact, I’ve got lots of support documentation with detailed explanations that I send out to trainees as these issues arise.”

Q: How significant were these issues to the trainee experience?

“I usually manage to respond to trainees very quickly – often resolving any problems within 12 hours of them being reported.”

Q: What do the trainees think about the new system:

“Generally trainees like:

    • not having to lug heavy files around;
    • getting feedback at ‘random’ or quick intervals;
    • tutors tagging pages with ‘complete’ or ‘needs attention’.

“To illustrate one issue, I went to see a couple of trainees that were having difficulties with the online portfolio last week.  The problem was they couldn’t picture / visualise the portfolio.  So I gave them a paper based index – and now they are saying ‘I love the e-portfolio now’.”

Q: What support have you put in place for the students?

“I’ve created a range of ‘How To’ resources with annotated screen shots and accessible language that are aimed at trainees, PTs and SSMs.”

Q: What advice would you give others thinking of creating an e-Portfolio system?

  • Plan: plan, plan and plan again!
  • Get feedback from colleagues who are going to be involved – DETAILED feedback – don’t rely on a quick look from someone;
  • Discourage the uploading of scanned documents – trainees can quickly reach their storage quota with these huge documents – if you need to scan a signed document then perhaps just scan the signature page and add that to the end of the rest of an electronic document;
  • The devil is in the detail – the TINY details that should be been picked up if there is a robust examination prior to publishing, perhaps by ‘walking through’ the whole life cycle as both a member of staff and a student*.”

BestofTEL_SMALL

Lindsey Marsh
Senior Lecturer PCET
Faculty of Education
PCET

 

 

What impressed me most about Lindsey’s story is that the students who haven’t experienced the paper portfolio are NOT ‘gushing’ about how easy it is to access, distribute, or copy – they have nothing to compare the e-portfolio with.  The result is that this innovative technology has been ‘backgrounded’ – thus the trainees are fully focused on the content – just as it should be!

For further help, support and advice on how you can use Campus Pack and other Web 2.0 style tools with your students contact your Learning Technologist (see the Faculty Contacts on this page) or email the LTD Team on LTDSupport@edgehill.ac.uk.  Further – click here for LTD’s video introduction to  Campus Pack.

David Callaghan, 26th February 2013

* LTD’s guide to using your Test Student account in Blackboard