Wednesday, February 11, 2009

ePortfolios for health professionals

The last couple of days I have been at the second Australian ePortfolio symposium at the Queensland University of Technology. The reason I went was because of my continuing interest in ePortfolios and reflective practice. I also wanted to gather ideas and information because of my ultimate aim of wanting to head up a research project to look at ePortfolios for professional development for health professionals using web 2.0 tools. This research is a bit of a pipe dream at the moment, but it continues to be in the forefront of my mind.

I have to say that the highlight of the symposium was meeting several people I know on Twitter. I have been talking to Colin Warren and Alison Miller for some time, so it was a delight to meet them face-to-face. I think we all felt like it was like meeting old, dear friends even though we have never met before.

Alison was able to tell me about the Australian Flexible Learning Framework which may be one avenue for funding for my potential ePortfolio project. What I need to do now is get my head around the VET sector (vocational educational training) here in Australia to find out the best way to package a proposal.

What I learned
I don't know if I learned anything new at the conference. I have been working with portfolios since 1992, when they were first talked about as a statutory regulation tool for nurses and midwives in the UK. My focus has been on portfolios as a reflection and development tool, aside from formal education programs. So to me, nothing was said that I didn't hear 15 years ago.

I was interested to hear about the examples of ePortfolios being used as assessment tools for students. But the main messages I heard time and time again was;
  • ePortfolio needs to be embeded into the curriculum, so it is a true reflective tool as opposed to merely a repository for documents
  • ePortfolio has to be under the students' control
  • students/practitioners need to be able to choose what they make public, and what they keep private
  • when we think about ePortfolio, we should be thinking about the process, and not the tools.
My presentation
I gave a presentation which looked at my experience of developing an ePortfolio as a health professional. There was some discussion afterwards about the problems of confidentiality which is an old nutshell. I got the impression that the other health professionals were not keen on the idea of open reflection even though I acknowledged that not all health professionals would want to follow my example, but rather keep their ePortfolios in closed environments. What I tried to emphasise is that ePortfolio allows for shared reflection, communication and collaboration, which is particularly important to me.

Another doubt raised was whether keeping a portfolio would make me, or anyone else a better midwife or nurse. What I would suggest is that any form of reflection makes for a better practitioner. What do you think?

Where to from here
For me personally, I will keep on charting my professional development in this blog and my ePortfolio. I was approached by one conference participant who said she modeled her ePortfolio on mine, so that was a very special endorsement for me.

Nevertheless, there is lots of opportunities to investigate ePortfolio and health care practice, which I am looking forward to pursuing further.


Mike Bogle said...

Thanks for the recap, Sarah. Sounds like an enjoyable experience :) I've passed along this post to two of my colleagues in my unit who are interested in the idea of ePortfolios. So hopefully you'll hear from them shortly.

I'm hoping to get back blogging soon - it's been nearly a week and a half since I've written anything and I'm really feeling the itch. Things are just frantic at the moment so I've got to carve out the head space to get myself back in the zone.

Hope all is going well in QLD and the heat's not getting too severe!

Take care and talk to you soon,


Sarah Stewart said...

Hi Mike, great to hear from you. Like you, I feel I have been neglecting my blogging network - can't remember I looked at Google Reader, let alone read any blogs or commented. It must be time for us to start another online course!

Thanks for passing on this post - would love to hear from anyone interested in this topic. cheers Sarah

M-H said...

I'm sorry I couldn't be there - I went last year, but my boss decided that I didn't need to go and sent someone else instead. I guess it's good that the knowledge gets spread around, but I'd like to have gone back.

Sarah Stewart said...

I didnt realise this was an area of interest for you. Have yu recently publised a report about ePortfolio? If so, it was quoted at the conference - do you have a link to the publication?

Mike Bogle said...

"It must be time for us to start another online course!"

I almost missed that part. Yes absolutely! Which one shall we take? I'm always keen :)

Sarah Stewart said...

Leigh has probably got one starting soon - I'll ask him

M-H said...

Were you asking me Sarah? I did write a report for internal consumption at the Uni, but that was two years ago now and things have moved on! Who was quoting it at the conference, I wonder? For a while I was the 'goto girl' at Sydney on eporfolios, but I'm not up with what's been happening (if anything!) in the last six months.

Jan said...

Hi Sarah,

I was very interested to find your links when blogging and then to take part in your Elluminate discussion with Terry last week. It seems we have similar research interests. I am currently looking at creating e-portfolios for generic skills for graduates which may also be transferable into the work place.
In terms of creating an e-portfolio I am miles behind you but looking at everything which is available and one blogger returned me back to you.

I think before you departed Dunedin we met a few times - as part of the PhD group which Lesley Gill convened.

Its great to see your work here and I wondered if we might collaborate some more.

I am blogging at
and also

I hope we can keep in touch

Enjoy Aus


Sarah Stewart said...

Hi Jan

Would love to do some collaborative work. What would you be interested in looking at specifically? It would be interesting to compare ePortfolios in our two specific fields. What about putting a proposal together for funding at the next OP research round (which is coming up very soon).

Sarah Stewart said...

Hello M-H I am trying to rack my brains who it was who quoted your report but just can't remember

Jeffrey Keefer said...

Catching up with some blog reading, what a pleasure this is to read, Sarah.

When you said "I also wanted to gather ideas and information because of my ultimate aim of wanting to head up a research project to look at ePortfolios for professional development for health professionals using web 2.0 tools. This research is a bit of a pipe dream at the moment, but it continues to be in the forefront of my mind" I thought it may in fact be a wonderful research project, but also a potentially important opportunity for the field itself.

I believe research should in some way explain or otherwise help inform practice, and think that research such as this may give you some nice consulting income, as well as help in this great transition toward electronic everything when related to healthcare. I know in the US there is a growing emphasis in electronic managed care and telemedicine and electronic patient health records and the like--what better way to move all these along than by engaging the clinicians themselves directly in the process!

Russ Gifford said...

Hello from New York -

I am researching the use of ePortfolios, and certainly appreciate your thoughts on the potential role of this tool within the health care community. I'm trying to understand if the business community has considered ePortfolios, either as a function of job searches, or as a method of Human Resource Asset management.

Your efforts, and the creation of your own wiki-based ePortfolio has certainly moved the bar up a notch!


Sarah Stewart said...

@Jeffrey Thank you sooooo much for your encouragement. You've given me food for thought. My current contract runs out in June, so I need to take a breath & decide what to do next.Working on a project like this would be very fulfilling - just need to get funding :)

@Russ Thank you for your kind comments. I am really interested to hear how ePortfolios are managed in fields other than health.

Jeffrey Keefer said...

Instead of funding, have you considered community or non-profit healthcare that explores new paradigms for their work?

Sarah Stewart said...

No, I must admit I haven't - I guess I am focusing on carrying out projects in a way that will also pay my mortgage :)