By Jim Judges (E-Learning Manager)
As another busy academic year comes to an end it’s a good time to take stock and reflect on the highs and lows of the year and make sure that any technology that is being used to support teaching and learning is still fit for purpose. In this short post I will share my thoughts on the University of Warwick ePortfolio tool “MyPortfolio” which is powered by the popular open source software Mahara. This tool allows users to create, edit and share online content. It can be used for reflection, evidence gathering, or as a simple web-publishing tool that encourages self-expression and creativity.
Pilot to Mainstream
Here in the Centre for Lifelong Learning (CLL) we have over 200 ePortfolio users. The majority of these students are using this tool as a replacement for the former bulging lever-arch paper-based portfolios of old, as they gather evidence and reflect on their experiences as trainee teachers on a range of Initial Teacher Training (ITT) programmes. At the start of the year trainees copy a template collection of between 10-12 pages and are expected to learn how to upload files, edit tables and other content to record their progress throughout the year. Importantly the portfolio pages can be viewed by tutor, student and moderator at the same time. Anyone with access can leave comments and feedback too. This is the second full year of using the portfolio, the first year being a pilot. Although we have had some challenges, including the odd technical bug that needed catching and squashing, the ITT team and tutors in partner colleges have made real progress with this tool. Positive feedback from students and tutors this year includes:
“Timely: we can access portfolios whenever we want”
“Easy to keep track of students’ progress”
“Encourages good reflections and dialogue”
Although, as with most technology, feedback wasn’t all positive and we do have some issues to work on to make the experience even better for next year. The main priorities being improvements to navigation and ease of use. However after two years of use this tool has now established itself with staff and students as a reliable and useful tool supporting this important area of work.
One exciting development this year in CLL has been the innovative use of the ePortfolio on the 10 week Transforming Technologies certificate programme led by Sara Hattersley (Learning & Development Adviser). As part of their assessment the learners were required to produce a digital poster describing a technology-based tool of interest. Examples included the use of Facebook and Lino to support teaching and learning. This was then assessed using a marking matrix assessing not only skills such as understanding and analysis, but also presentation, and digital skills.
The ePortfolio enables students to peer assess each other’s work and those comments and suggestions provide wider feedback. The additional element of combined peer and tutor assessment of the work made sure this was a truly wholesome activity with some impressive and creative outcomes.
I am exploring with other tutors the potential this tool has to support their learners in other curriculum areas in CLL. One possible area could be supporting students on social work placements where their need to collect evidence and demonstrate development over time is similar to the trainee teachers in ITT, even though they work in a very different context. I also hope that the tool can be considered for alternative forms of formative and summative assessment. MyPortfolio can give students the opportunity to be creative, express themselves as well as learn new digital skills. Therefore if you are involved in teaching and learning and haven’t already considered the use of electronic portfolios to support teaching and learning then perhaps now could be the time.
About the author
Jim is the E-Learning Manager at the Centre for Lifelong Learning, University of Warwick. Jim has been at the University since 2012 working as a Senior Academic Technologist. You can also follow Jim on Twitter @JimJUK