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Design, implementation and evaluation of a ‘generic’ e-portfolio: the Newcastle experience
Lookup NU author(s)
Dr Tony McDonald
Professor Geoff Hammond
Cotterill SJ, McDonald AM, Drummond P, Hammond GR
Conference Proceedings (inc. Abstract)
La Rochelle, France
Year of Conference
28-29 October 2004
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Background: A bespoke electronic portfolio (ePortfolio) developed at Newcastle University as part of a collaborative FDTL4 project (http://www.eportfolios.ac.uk). Aims and Objectives: A key aim of the ePortfolio is to help foster a reflective approach to evidencing the achievement of both module-specific and programme learning outcomes. The ePortfolio is also intended to support personal development planning (PDP) and to help facilitate the development of skills necessary for life-long learning. Technically, the ePortfolio has been designed to be flexible to incorporate a high degree of configurability in recognition of changing nature of curricula and user requirements. The ePortfolio can be used on a ‘stand-alone’ basis but it being designed to integrate with managed learning environments (MLEs). Summary: The ‘generic ePortfolio framework’ has been designed to be highly configurable so that different component tools, terminology and learning outcomes/skills sets can be customised for use in different contexts. The framework also supports learner-centred features such as granting others access to specific sections of the portfolio. PDP tools within the ePortfolio can support the learner-tutor relationship but are not dependent of this. The ePortfolio has been developed using robust Open Source products (Zope and MySQL databases). The ePortfolio was implemented in the undergraduate medical programme at the University of Newcastle from September 2003. It has also been trialled with Faculty contract research staff at Newcastle and is in the process of being applied to other contexts (undergraduate and postgraduate dentistry and undergraduate biosciences). Three evaluation studies have been undertaken (2 in medicine, 1 with CRS). The ePortfolio has been integrated into the virtual learning environment (VLE) for undergraduate medicine at Newcastle and is being used across the curriculum. In years 1&2 students (n=450) were given the option of completing sections of a portfolio either in a paper log-book or in the ePortfolio. In year 4, students (n=202) were required to complete the ePortfolio for one of their three student-selected components (SSCs) ending in June 2004. At time of analysis (28/05/2004) 961 distinct students had logged on to visit the ePortfolio (including 160 for the ongoing SSC portfolios); 120 had made entries in the learning diary, 132 had recorded meetings with their personal tutor and 56 had recorded information using non-compulsory features such as the CV, SWOT and learning outcomes log. As part of the evaluation and research activities ethical approval has been sought and granted prospectively for two studies. Small focus group meetings involving 12 year-1 students have been conducted to inform issues relating to the ePortfolio to be included in a questionnaire for the wider cohort. This suggested good acceptability but a need for increased levels of training and better communication of the aims and requirements for using the ePortfolio. A second questionnaire study of the ePortfolio for the year 4 SSCs is also being undertaken to assess usability, student attitudes towards ePortfolios and student and supervisors’ perceptions of the impact of using the electronic portfolio. Factors potentially influencing uptake, such as approach to self-directed learning (using the Continuing Learning Inventory, Oddi 1986), prior reflective practice and attitudes to computers in education are also investigated. A feasibility study has also been undertaken to evaluate the ePortfolio for use with contract research staff (CRS) in the Faculty of Medical Sciences. The ePortfolio has been configured to support generic research, transferable and specialist skills (based on the ‘Research Career Builder’ http://www.shef.ac.uk/~gmpcrs/rcb.html). It aims to promote awareness of these skills and to provide a facility for CRS to record and reflect on their achievements on an on-going basis to promote pro-active personal development and career planning. Users of the ePortfolio can record their achievements and keep reflective notes for these various skills. CRS can also record courses and conferences attended, including learning outcomes and statements on how they have applied their training. Records can then be cross-referenced with one or more skills to help build up a structured record learning and development. A CV tool is also included in the ePortfolio with sections on qualifications, employment, presentations, publications and teaching which can be cross-referenced with the skills framework. CRS can download their ePortfolio data as a template CV, which includes the skills-based information. Conclusions: The ePortfolio developed at Newcastle has a high level of configurability and can be customised for a range of different contexts. Here we report on the experiences of designing and implementing the ePortfolio together the initial findings of the evaluation studies in medicine and with CRS - due for completion in June 2004. We will also report on the work of applying the ePortfolio in other contexts (dentistry and biosciences) and ongoing work investigating interoperability with other VLEs.
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