Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A few questions before you launch into implementing ePortfolio at your education institution

I was at the ePortfolio Australia conference last week and chatting to people who are thinking about implementing ePortfolio for student nurses and midwives. Since then I have been reflecting on the pros and cons and have come up with some questions to consider before launching into implementing an ePortfolio system.

1. What are you wanting to achieve?
Does ePortfolio allow you to achieve that aim or would something else be more appropriate? For example, you would like to use an ePortfolio to allow a seamless submission of assignments by students...do you need an ePortfolio to do this, or can you achieve that function via your current learning/student management system?

2. Is what you are wanting to achieve pedagogically sound?
In other words, do you have a sound educational reason for implementing ePortfolio or are you attracted by the technology with all the latest bells and whistles?

3. What is the evidence about ePortfolio in your context?
Is there solid evidence that ePortfolio makes a difference to students' learning or is ePortfolio another fad you are following for the sake of it?

4. What ePortfolio tools best suit your students' needs?
Before you sign off on an expensive propitiatory ePortfolio platform, is there an online tool already available that will better suit your students' needs? For instance, if you want your business students to be prepared to find a job, would they be better off developing a LinkedIn account? Would your carpentry students be better off uploading photos of their work to Flickr? Would a blog suit students' needs for a reflective ePortfolio?

5. Who is in control of the ePortfolio?
If you dictate the ePortfolio to the students they are far less likely to engage with it than if they have total control over it. The ePortfolio must belong totally to the students so it can be developed to meet their needs, as opposed to your needs as lecturer and that of the institution.

6. Will the ePortfolio be integrated into the curriculum?
If the ePortfolio is an extra add-on to the students' work, they are unlikely to engage with it. Thus, you need to consider how you will integrate it into the curriculum and assessment. This may require a lot of work for faculty staff, so you have to decide if this effort is "worth it".

7. How portable will the ePortfolio be?
What will happen to the ePortfolio when the students leave the institution? Portability is one argument for using the cloud such as Google Apps, as opposed to a platform that is restricted to student use only.

8. Can the ePortfolio be integrated into the students' life as a professional once they have left university/college?
This is an especially important question for nurses and midwives who are required to have an ePortfolio as part of their statuary requirements for practice. There's little point in developing an ePortfolio platform that is different from one they will use once they are qualified. On the other hand, is this an opportunity to collaborate with hospitals and professional bodies to ensure there is a seamless integration of ePortfolio from life as a student into professional practice?

9. How will you evaluate the ePortfolio?
You must have a process for measuring the impact of the ePortfolio as opposed to implementing it without further follow up.

10. Do you walk the talk?
Do you have an ePortfolio that models the process to both colleagues and students? How can you know the value of a pedagogical process if you do not engage with it yourself?

Do you have any thoughts or questions you would pass onto people thinking about implementing ePortfolio into the education institution?

ePortfolio resources
Here is a great article by Graham Attwell who articulates much better than me what some issues of ePortfolio are: Re-thinking e-Portfolios

The ePortfolio community of practice can be joined here - for further information, please contact Carole Maculloch.

Elluminate recordings of the key note presentations given at the ePortfolio Australia conference can be found here in a few days.

Image: 'Another view: office on 10th'


Anonymous said...

Hi Sarah

You've certainly covered many of the areas, across both the training and working periods of the nurses' lifecycle. All questions posed are definitely relevant.

Next year I am going to trial the use of an ePortfolio for the nurses at my workplace. It will be introduced as a professional development tool that will also support the nurses by satisfying the requirements of the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia CPD registration standard.

Other considerations that have been made are from a data reporting perspective for the employer in order to satisfy numerous audits in an efficient manner. This has to be achieved whilst also protecting each nurses' ownership of their ePortfolio.



Sarah Stewart said...

Hi Bec

I am really keen to talk to nurses and midwives who are looking at ePortfolio, to find out how they are implementing it and the issues that are holding them back. Please keep in touch and let me know how you go :)

George Couros said...

Great thoughts Sarah; very helpful to what we are doing. Here is our project that is happening at the k-12 level: http://georgecouros.ca/blog/archives/1306

Mike Wheadon said...

I had a presentation due this afternoon to some exec staff about how our LMS is going. Came across your blog last night and adapted the questions to fit the context.
Now they want to take the conversation further, based on the questions.
I will also send them a link to your blog.

Leanne said...


I'm new to this, so I'm not sure if you received my previous post. I wanted to say that I work with Mike, the previous posting! We really appreciated your questions as a way of challenging our thinking. We can't wait to have another opportunity to engage in the dialogue to work our way through to our own answers. Your questions were terrific. I hpe Mike keeps you informed of how our thinking might be shaped as a results. Thanks Leanne

Sarah Stewart said...

Hi George, great to hear from you. Thanks for letting me know what you're up to in the K12 sector. How do you feel your kids' eportfolios differ from those of adult learners?

Hello Leanne and Mike, thanks so much for dropping by. I'd love to know what you're up to...what was the decision from the meeting you attended, Mike? Leanne, what's your interest in ePortfolio?

Ray Tolley said...

Hi, Sarah,

I loved your questions so much that I have tried to answer them all! At two full pages I suspect that it's too much for a 'comment'.

Do you mind if I send the response separately or post it on my blog as a response to yours,

Best Wishes,
Ray T

Sarah Stewart said...

Hello Ray

make them into a blog...that way we can follow the open conversation :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Sarah,
Great to see other nurses and midives with the same concerns...We have a eportfolio intergrated into the nursing undergraduate cirriculum,,, Q2 why eportfolio?
The major benefit is that whilst students are out on placement and reflecting off campus I can go onto their reflective pages and notice any critical incidents they are concerned about.. IE a death of a patient... or bullying in the workplace,, I can send the students an email let them know when I am in the office so that they can call me and go through the incident. This process has been very meaningful for the students. They will reflect once a week if they know someone is looking once a week to give encouragement on their reflection or support on their issues... This has helped their ability to reflect, IE the first 3 reflections kind of read like a shopping list IE two showers six sets of observations etc. However they soon learn to pick one incident that has changed their understanding of a topic. The best example of this is a student who learnt all about pressure areas and how a shower is a perfect time to notice skin breaks in lectures. She noticed a skin break told the nurse in charge and changes in the patient's care was implemented based on her findings,,, Naturally she was extremely happy and the theory we had taught her in class had suddenly come to life and was rewarding..
So what am I wanting to achieve nurses that see the value in reflection practice.
I think for nurses in particular as it is a ANMC requirement to reflect on their practice... When students are out on placement for 4 weeks at a time by the time you have read their reflections, send it back to them. That feedback has expired and it is no longer meaningful for the student and the process of reflection is devalued. Having an online system allows timely, constructive feedback to students and their journey on placement...

Sarah Stewart said...

Hi Amy

Thanks for dropping by - please keep in touch...I'm really keen to keep the conversation going about ePortfolio in the health professions.

What I am really interested to look at is how we support students to take that ePortfolio into the profession rather than them have to start all over again with another system, be it a professional or employer based system. Do you know of any collaboration between education institutions and hospitals, for example?