An ePortfolio strategy to enhance student learning, assessment and staff professional development

Partner Institutions

Project Lead: Dublin Institute of Technology

Project Partners: Institute of Technology, Blanchardstown, Institute of Technology Tallaght, Hibernia College

Abstract

Paper-based portfolios have been used in education for many years. More recently, as a majority of materials created and used by staff and students in their academic work is born digital, the ePortfolio has emerged as an authentic and more effective option, allowing portfolio owners to curate and manage their digital footprint and identity across multiple thresholds, using a variety of media. ePortfolios can foster a mode of learning and assessment that is student-centred and promote critical thinking and reflection by putting an onus on students themselves to demonstrate how their work meets the stated learning outcomes of a programme of study.

For staff, ePortfolio use can promote a new approach to thinking about curriculum and digital literacy, opening up paths to new forms of pedagogy and knowledge previously difficult to incorporate in traditional modes of teaching and assessment. However, while such benefits are acknowledged within the sector, the formal deployment of ePortfolios has been slower across academic programmes.

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kevin_mugDr Kevin O’Rourke

Dublin Institute of Technology

Tel: +353 1 402 7860

Email: kevin.orourke@dit.ie

Detailed Proposal

Paper-based portfolios have been used in education for many years. More recently, as a majority of materials created and used by staff and students in their academic work is born digital, the ePortfolio has emerged as an authentic and more effective option, allowing portfolio owners to curate and manage their digital footprint and identity across multiple thresholds, using a variety of media. ePortfolios can foster a mode of learning and assessment that is student-centred and promote critical thinking and reflection by putting an onus on students themselves to demonstrate how their work meets the stated learning outcomes of a programme of study.

For staff, ePortfolio use can promote a new approach to thinking about curriculum and digital literacy, opening up paths to new forms of pedagogy and knowledge previously difficult to incorporate in traditional modes of teaching and assessment. However, while such benefits are acknowledged within the sector, the formal deployment of ePortfolios has been slower across academic programmes. This proposal seeks to foster new ways to encourage academic staff to reap the benefits which ePortfolios can bring to academic programmes of the future by encouraging them to re-think their curricula in light of the possibilities offered by digital technologies. It is intended that the ePortfolios will be used to fulfil a number of assessment purposes that can encourage students to become more autonomous learners: from being able to design a personal development plan, to negotiate their learning pathway and to agree how they present evidence of their learning at different stages of this process. In consequence it seeks to provide students and staff alike with a perspective on learning that connects academic work to their broader digital literacy and working lives outside of formal learning

It is envisaged that the core ePortfolio team will be drawn primarily from the Learning Support functions at each of the participating institutions with input from IS Services. In the initial stages of planning the framework, the team will consult with representatives from Quality Assurance, Management and Library functions, as well as programme chairs, lecturers and student union representatives. In the dissemination phase, it is envisaged that the core team will work directly with programme team members.

This phase is likely to focus mainly on lecturer and library staff, though it will be important to include management representatives in order to ensure that there is widespread buy-in and understanding of the project at the department level. In addition, student involvement at each level will be important in identifying and critiquing suitable practices and tools. The ultimate aim of the project is to empower and enable lecturers to incorporate ePortfolios and other digital enhancements into their life and practice, which in turn will have demonstrable effects in empowering students and fostering a student-centred approach to learning. Moreover, training resources that will be developed for staff as part of the project will also be available to their students. Ultimately, it is envisioned that an ePortfolio Community of Practice, involving lecturers, students, support staff and other interested parties will evolve from this initiative which will act as an exemplar for ePortfolio use across the education sector in Ireland and internationally.

The collaborating institutions will assemble a team of experienced e-learning practitioners/developers, learning technologists, subject librarians, and other relevant specialists to create a framework for the development of ePortfolios that will form the basis of subsequent work with members of academic teams. The development of this framework will include consideration of appropriate ePortfolio organisational principles and reflective approaches, the production of exemplars and guidelines and the identification and/or establishment of support mechanisms. Additionally, the exploration of ePortfolio systems and models appropriate to the higher education and student context will also form a part of the team’s brief. Programme teams at each of the participating institutions will be invited to appoint an individual to coordinate the design and implementation of an ePortfolio strategy. These individuals will be offered the possibility of part-time secondment from their positions for the duration of a semester. During this time they will work together as an interdisciplinary group, meeting every other week, coached and assisted by the cross-institutional ePortfolio team to enhance their own professional development and reimagine the curriculum and assessment practices in their respective programmes.

Advice from international experts, including individuals at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology and Oxford Brookes University will form a part of these sessions. The experience will be ePortfolio-based, enabling participants to bring relevant knowledge and expertise back to their programme teams, acting as ‘champions’ for programme redesign incorporating ePortfolios. A central feature will be a week-long, intensive series of speakers and workshops, planned for Spring 2015. This will be open to all and will bring together those involved, along with national and international experts, to exchange ideas in the first Irish ePortfolio forum