The undergraduate midwifery students are required to do a number of things throughout the three year course:
- Maintain reflections about their clinical work
- Record their placement hours
- Record details about the work they do with their midwifery clients, including recording client information
- Lodge skills sheets when they are signed off
- Lodge clinical assessment sheets when they are completed
I have been asked to sort this out and recommend an online platform or process that will manage this. We are calling the system we require "ePortfolio" but to be honest I think we are really looking for a repository rather than a tool for learning. Nevertheless, here are a few things that the platform or tool must be able to do from an institutional viewpoint:
- Provide a secure place to store confidential information
- Able to upload documents
- Have the ability to be private and to make aspects public
- Easy for lecturers to access
- Easy for students to develop and maintain
- Not too expensive - I am not sure if the institution would want to maintain the platform itself or outsource it
Here is what I would like the platform to do as a midwifery educator, who is not only concerned with the here and now but also looking into the future when the students become registered midwives:
- Use multi-media to support all learning styles
- Accessible using mobile devices
- Support networking and conversation ie the ePortfolio is not an isolated artifact but rather a member of an ePortfolio community or network
- Support networking beyond the ePortfolio community into the wider online world so students can network with midwives beyond the institution
- Student has complete control over the technology
- The ePortfolio is portable, and the student can continue to use it as a registered midwife and no longer a student at Griffith University
- The ePortfolio can plug into professional and occupational systems such as employing hospitals, Australian College of Midwives and Australian Nursing Midwifery Council.
For years I have been advocating the use of blogs and wiki for ePortfolio. I use a blog and wiki and really enjoy it - I would not move to anything else now. But...I am a "mature" midwife with many years of professional experience under my belt. I understand the pitfalls and nuances of online communication as well as professional and legal confidentiality.
But the concerns about how students manage confidential client information and how they behave online have moved the blog as an ePortfolio into the "too-hard" basket. And so I have been on the verge of recommending a ePorfolio system like Mahara or Pebble Pad.
Going full circle
In the last few days I have come full circle and started to look at blogs again. There are a few reasons for this. The first reason is a very pragmatic one - Griffith is taking too long to decide what platform it wants to move to. I need to get up and running with a system by next February and the new academic year. But more important, Martin Wellor has just reminded me of all the reasons I dislike ePortfolio software, in his blog post: Eportfolios - J'accuse.
At the same time, the people who have left comments on this post have raised some valid points. In particular I agree with Clare Davies who doubts her students will blog "voluntarily". I doubt my midwifery students will do any more than they have to because their course is extremely busy, and I cannot say I blame them. At the same time, they will have to become used to maintaining a portfolio and reflecting on practice when they are midwives because of statutory and professional requirements when they become registered.
So what next?
I've come to the conclusion that the next thing for me to do is have a play with Blogger and see if I can get it to work in a way that meets my wish list as well as the critical expectations of the institution. And I might also set up an account in Mahara, and then do a comparison.
The truth of the matter is this whole area needs a decent research project. I don't know how much longer I can go on banging the drum about midwifery ePortfolio without taking a really critical look at the issue, and not just relying on my own personal experiences. Maybe I have just found my topic for my EdD?!
I'd love to hear from anyone who uses cloud platforms like Blogger, Google Sites and/or wiki for ePortfolio to meet professional requirements - what are the pros and cons as far as you are concerned?
If you want to know more about ePortfolio, a very good overview is provided by JISC infoNet: ePortfolios. If you're interested in how you can use cloud tools for ePortfolio, have a look at the way Helen Barrett uses Google Sites and Blogger for her Professional Portfolio.
Image: 'Green ./. Blue'