Friday, 20 February 2009

21st Century learning

Yesterday I helped facilitate the Birmingham leg of the 4 workshops that are publicising the new JISC Infonet Infokit, the comprehensive online guide to eportfolio implementation and use.

The 4 workshops are designed to help delegates scope out possibilities and hone down organisation requirements for the use of eportfolios. We want to ensure lessons have been learned from VLE implementations, i.e. establish pedagogic and organisational drivers + support, before choosing a system. NOT – "let's get a system , now what do we do with it?"

A mixture of presentations, discussions, hands on experimentation of 4 tools ( Pebble Pad, Wordpress, Epet, and Mahara) made the day engaging and allowed for sharing of ideas. I thought the day went very well, and elicited some effective practice and vision for what a lifelong learning eportfolio could be. I had chance to interact with some of my contacts across the Midlands, and discovered that there is a wealth of innovative embedded practice and embryonic pilot studies.

The day was organised and by Dave Hartland (Netskills), chaired by its instigator Lisa Gray (JISC programme manager), and facilitated by Helen Richardson (CETIS & Centre for recording achievement), Emma Purnell ( researcher Wolverhamton Uni) & me :O). Presenters from Telford TCAT (Initial teacher training) and Wolverhamptoin Uni (Midwifery) provided us with exemplars of organisational embedding of eportfolios.

Towards the end Lisa ran through some of the issues that have been raised during the synthesis of the JISC funded projects that form the infokit and glossy publication:

Issues raised:

  • Interoperability – standards for lifelong learning/the new learner number – ( the elephant in the room!)
  • Portability – learners perspective – linking between assets (the connectivity / the process)
  • Also portability from schools to HE (diplomas, new types of skills assessments)
  • Change of practice – from F2F to online & also marking assessments online - change management issues
  • Staff engagement – support (time) & IT support
  • Resourcing issues – ie. "this tool does not match what I wanted, what now?"
  • Scaffolding the learning process by using simple frameworks ( CV builder or Driscoll) giving students something to begin with, rather than a blank canvas.
  • Plymouth Uni piloting the support of eportfolio for Lifelong learning – linking it to Alumni. Benefit to attracting back to post grad courses.
  • Funding for space for folios (especially FE)
  • Bandwidth for viewing video
  • Hosted solutions for cashed strapped organisations are a viable solution
  • Green issues – less paper = lower carbon footprint.
  • Front end skills of staff and students learning how to use the system – needs high consideration.
  • Copyright issues around the use of assets.
  • Engaging staff & students :
    • Strong supportive mangers
    • Strong VLE management support
    • Get staff to use eportfolios – via HR dept – they will then see value
      • See also Geoff Rebbeck @ Thanet College – staff first – then students
    • Identify the need first – pedagogy / Teaching & learning first
    • Use research to back up evidence to SMT
    • SMT want to know if it improves QA & generates or saves money.
    • Employ champions to cascade training via focussed workshops
    • Small steps – following pilots with enthusiasts
    • Pre course IT days for students – learn how to use the system before the course begins
    • Handy tips and hints (training materials) for staff & students

We are in the process of developing a Midlands community of practice focussing on eportfolios. This community is being launched online, but the hope is that we will run F2F events that will showcase effective practice. Join our Google group here :

Additional information on eportfolios including case studies and conference papers:

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