Gordon Joyes School of Education, University of Nottingham, UK
Lisa Gray Joint Information Services Committee, UK
Elizabeth Hartnell-Young Victoria Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, Australia
An e-portfolio is the product, created by the learner, a collection of digital artefacts articulating experiences, achievements and learning. Behind any product, or presentation, lie rich and complex processes of planning, synthesising, sharing, discussing, reflecting, giving, receiving and responding to feedback. These processes – referred to here as ‘eportfolio-based learning’ – are the focus of increasing attention, since the process of learning can be as important as the end product. (JISC, 2008b) … where items can be selectively shared with other parties such as peers, teachers, assessors or employers (Beetham,2005).
The threshold concepts approach recognises that developing understanding is a developmental journey, both intellectually and experientially, but that once the threshold is achieved the perspective of an area is changed forever. (2009:493)
There is evidence that e-portfolio implementation can be like a game of snakes and ladders where initial rapid progress can suffer major setbacks due to a poor understanding of the nature of e-portfolios, i.e., lack of understanding of the threshold concepts. (2009:493)
• To create a better learning environment for all learners (Part of the JISC mission)
• to support more learner-centred and personalised forms of learning
• expectation in H.E. for a Personal Developing Planning (PDP) policy to be in place by 2005/2006 (QAA, 2001)
• retaining students
• widening participation
• the increasing importance of reflective learning (particularly in professional disciplines such as medicine)
• A new qualification, the Diploma, with the development of personal, learning and thinking skills (PLTS) at its core. e-Portfolio technologies provide ways in which these skills can be evidenced.
• to support widening participation and progression.
• the implications of learner ownership of data for institutions (JISC 2009c).
• There is one definition of an e-portfolio. (there isn’t)
• One e-portfolio system works in all situations. (they don’t)
• After students are inducted to e-portfolio processes, for example those involved in PDP, they will apply this across their courses. (they don’t) (2009:491)
• Learning Design
This is associated with preconceptions that:
o Students are digital natives and so will easily adapt to using e-portfolios, for example using blogs for sharing reflections will be unproblematic;
o Users understand processes like feedback, reflective writing, selecting information, planning;
o Tutors/ mentors know how to support their students in using e-portfolios. (It is not only students who have difficulty with processes such as reflection, feedback and online collaboration.)
o The role of ownership.
o E-portfolios are disruptive from a pedagogic, technological and an institutional perspective
Conceptions and misconceptions that:
• An e-portfolio will save everyone time;
• An e-portfolio can simply replace a paper-based portfolio system;
• Human Resources departments/employers will value an e-portfolio in the application process;
• University admissions welcome e-portfolios;
• A successful project implementation will readily transfer to established practice cross an institution;
• The curriculum and pedagogic approaches remain unaffected by the introduction of e-portfolios;
• Information capture in the workplace is unproblematic. (There are sensitivities in some contexts such as classrooms and hospitals);
• Access by learners to e-portfolios is unproblematic. (This may not be the case in work based learning settings).
• From 2004, twenty-one two -year projects exploring the use of technology to support lifelong learning (JISC, 2009d).
But perhaps the most important reason for considering the potential of e-portfolios to support learning and teaching is the emerging evidence from practitioners and learners of the value of developing e-portfolios, not only to support more profound forms of learning, adding value to personalised and reflective models of learning, but also facilitating the transition between institutions and stages of education, supporting application to education and employment, staff appraisal and applications for professional accreditation, and supporting learners based in the workplace. (2009.487)
This program incorporates five main areas of activity:
3. learning resources and learning activities
4. e-administration for learning and teaching
5. technology support learning environments.
The analysis of twenty one recently funded projects involving the use of e-portfolios in the UK is introduced.
The findings suggest that eportfolio implementation is particularly complex in part due to:
• the number of stakeholders involved,
• the contexts in which e-portfolios can be applied
• the number of purposes they can have.
This practice was taken forward in the funding in 2006-2009 of projects exploring:
1. The use of technology in the contexts of higher education level courses delivered in further education settings (JISC, 2009e),
2. lifelong learning (JISC, 2009f and g),
3. enhancing the administrative processes faced by teaching staff (JISC, 2009h),
4. admissions (JISC, 2009i)
5. ensuring interoperability between e-portfolio systems (JISC, 2009j).
And from 2007 e-portfolio use to support:
Application: providing a selection of material for application for admission to study or job, appraisal, induction or assessment
Transition: through presenting a richer picture of learners achievements on application, and in better preparing for the transition to a new environment
Learning, teaching and assessment; supporting the assessment of learning, evidencing competencies or standards for summative assessment. Supporting assessment for learning, encouraging learners to present their experiences, achievements and reflections, share with peers, tutors and employers, and incorporate feedback into their learning
Personal development planning (PDP) and continuous professional development (CPD): supporting and evidencing the pursuit and achievement of personal or professional competences.
The matrix recognises that ‘e-portfolios are currently used for many purposes, including:
• formative and summative assessment,
• application for employment,
• professional accreditation,
• transition between institutions and/or employment,
• and for less high-stakes purposes such as purely recording personal growth and learning’
(Joyes & Hartnell-Young , 2008, p4).
E-portfolio software tools support a range of processes:
• information capture and retrieval,
• and presentation.
The e-Portfolios infoKit (JISC infoNet, 2008) is an in-depth online resource which covers the main drivers, purposes, processes, perspectives and issues around e-portfolio use and gives a valuable synopsis of JISC-funded projects on e-portfolios.
Figure 1: The e-portfolio purpose-process matrix (Joyes & Hartnell-Young, 2009)
A key tool to map the e-portfolio purposes and processes with which users are engaged,
Interim and final reports for twenty one projects were analysed using the JISC determined categories of innovations in:
• process and practice,
• sustainable institutional change,
• tangible benefits,
• technical developments,
• lessons learned/increased knowledge,
• unanticipated outcomes
• relevance to/response from sector.
Analysis of the results revealed that there are tangible benefits associated with e-portfolio use. These may include:
• efficiency (such as time savings for students, academics, and administrators),
• enhancement (such as improving quality of evidence and feedback,
• skill development,
• satisfaction and increases in recruitment and retention)
• transformation (such as innovation and changes to institutional policy).
Is reflection a ‘threshold concept?’
Threshold concepts are often ‘troublesome’ to the learner, i.e., that they may seem alien, incoherent or counter-intuitive (Perkins, 2006).
Understanding emerges from technological, pedagogical, institutional, life-long and life-wide learning perspectives. p492
• It is difficult to agree on a definition for an e-portfolio. For some it is a system, for others part of a learning process, for others a presentation, and for others an archive of assets. For some it might be all of these things;
• Many educators who are actually involved with e-portfolio processes tend not to use the term at all;
• Purposes seem almost endless and so choosing where in the learning process and when to implement them can seem confusing;
• Not all e-portfolio systems/tools seem to fit well to all purposes;
• Even with guidelines and case studies of exemplars those implementing e-portfolios seem often to reinvent the wheel, make really ‘obvious’ mistakes compared to those who have a deeper understanding of the area;
• Understanding of e-portfolios seems to develop with experience and over time suggesting that there are key issues to understand.
This relates to the fact that the threshold concepts approach:
• Reveals the complexity of the area rather than presenting more simplistic guidance;
• Recognises that for transformation in relation to practice to occur an institutional approach needs to be adopted that takes into account the needs of the ‘learners’ in a wide range of contexts. This approach has the potential to put off would be adopters. What may be needed is a form of maturity model for e-portfolio adoption.
Joyes, G., Gray, L. & Hartnell-Young, E. (2009). Effective practice with e-portfolios: How can the UK experience inform practice? In Same places, different spaces. Proceedings ascilite Auckland 2009. http://www.ascilite.org.au/conferences/auckland09/procs/joyes.pdf