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Principles for an e-portfolio based pedagogy for SMEs: 17th Jan-21st Jan 2011

Cloud created by:

Sarah Chesney
18 November 2010

Discussion and resources led by Alison Felce and Emma Purnell.

Extra content

Over the last two years we have been running a project at the University of Wolverhampton to develop an e-portfolio based pedagogy for work-based learners in small to medium sized enterprises.

When we started this project we planned to use our experience in using e-portfolios within our existing curricula and to support learners on work placement to enable access to potential learners working in small to medium sized enterprises by designing targetted learning opportunities to meet identified business needs, identified through market research.

The project was developed on an action research methodology using design retreats and consecutive pilot units where the learning from the retreats and the pilots fed into subsequent retreats and pilot units.

We didn't want learners to be put off by the technology we were using so we made their interaction with the software application (the e-portfolio) as intuitive as possible and combined the learning content and learner activities into a web-folio that appears, and acts, like a webpage to use skills that basis users of IT will be familiar with.

Within the project we ran four pilot units, each is the first of four units that can be combined with other units to create a 20 credit module for which HE credits can be awarded. The initial unit, in each of the pilots, uses three types of blog activity (individual activities, group collaboration, personal reflection) to record learner comments and reflections. On-line tutors regularly respond to learner blog posts and facilitate the group blog.

Based on the mid-unit, end-of-unit, post retreat and workshop evaluations we have determined some key principles for our e-portfolio based pedagogy (see below).

Future plans include wider use of the tools within the software we use (PebblePad), appropriate to learning outcomes, and supporting learners towards negotiated work-based projects and claims for accreditation of their prior learning.

We have created a narrated captivate video showing how we are using an e-portfolio for work-based learners in SMEs. You can view this at:

Alison Felce
11:06 on 9 January 2011 (Edited 20:39 on 15 January 2011)

Pedagogic principles that we have identified from our project include:

•Scaffold the e-portfolio
•Include reflection on learning
•Make it context sensitive
•Make it easy to use / intuitive
•Use to support formal / informal learning
•Use to support bite-sized learning
•Can be structured into larger awards
•Needs to be transferable and portable
What do you think about these?
Do you have any you would add?

Alison Felce
11:08 on 9 January 2011 (Edited 11:08 on 9 January 2011)

The link below shows an example of an eportfolio template we have created as part of the ePPSME project. The templates are editied by staff dependent on context. The eportfolio shown below only has a few example weeks built into it. The actual templates populated by staff is based on the design below but will include 10 weeks content and activities, each week requiring 5 hours study by the learner.

Emma Purnell
13:49 on 15 January 2011 (Edited 16:44 on 15 January 2011)

The following is a link to an eportfolio that has been created as a set of resources to guide staff through the process of design, development and delivery of 5 credit units for use work-based learners using an eportfolio.

Emma Purnell
14:25 on 15 January 2011 (Edited 16:43 on 15 January 2011)

Project blog

We've written a project blog over the last two years. This can be viewed at: (the project website). In this we've included copies of presentations we've made a conferences and links to key materials developed during the project. The link to the blog is about half way down the page.

Alison Felce
21:08 on 15 January 2011 (Edited 21:10 on 15 January 2011)

Animated Learner Journey

One of the outputs we've created to explain the learner journey and the principles we've identified for our e-portfolio based pedagogy is an animated narrated journey of a typical work-based learner, based on feedback we've had from learners on our pilot units.

We've created a link to the animation from our project home page:

Note the file is quite large so it will take a short time to download and start playing.

Please post any comments you have on the animation, its content, accessibility etc in this cloud.


Alison Felce
09:23 on 20 January 2011

I can contribute a free Appendix from our book on Mahara which provides a "Mahara Implementation Pre-Planner".

Click here:



Derrin Kent
18:21 on 27 January 2011 (Edited 22:20 on 31 January 2011)

Embedded Content

E-Portfolio based pedagogy

E-Portfolio based pedagogy

added by Sarah Chesney


Alison Felce
9:06pm 15 January 2011 (Edited 12:06pm 17 January 2011)

Welcome to the second of the asynchronous discussion topics.

Emma and I have added some information about the JISC funded ePPSME project (see above) and our ideas about principles for an e-portfolio based pedagogy for work-based learners.

We'd welcome any comments or observations about these principles and the resources  we've developed.

Emma and I will be visiting the cloud regularly during the week to respond to comments and discussions.




Thomas Rickarby
12:27pm 17 January 2011

One of the principles you identified was to 'Include reflection on learning'.

Could you identify what this means and how you have gone about implementing it through the ePortfolio system?

Alison Felce
6:54pm 17 January 2011

Hi Thomas,

Welcome to the cloud, and thanks for the question.

We try to contextualise the reflection to how this relates to the learners own experience and current practice so where there is 'content' and 'activities' around say carbon reduction strategy (which we have in one of the units) we ask learners to find what their organisation does about this and interrogate their strategy, based on what is presented in the theory. If they do not have a strategy we would ask them to identify who would, or should be responsible, and consider drafting one for their organisation's use.

Within the first unit that learners study (see above re pilots) the engagement with the e-portfolio is through a 'blog' - all comments that the learners add are saved as a new asset in their e-portfolio 'storage' area. Future comments / assessment / activities etc can link to each individual asset created and learners can reflect on how their thinking has changed over a period of time as each asset / amendment will be dated.

Hope this answers your question but please come back to me if you want further clarification, or want to discuss further.


Sarah Chesney
1:23pm 18 January 2011

Hi there - this is a good set of resources. I was looking to discover if the patchwork text assignment at the end of the module requires the learners to link to evidence from their blog - evidence of reflecting on their journey that you describe in the previous post. Best wishes, Sarah.

Alison Felce
2:40pm 18 January 2011

The summative assessment is still a 'work in progress' - we haven't tested it yet  but will briefly explain.

Each unit must be successfully completed by learners showing have achieved the learning outcomes (as standard practice). We do this through the learner writing a reflective narrative of what they have learnt during the unit / how they have put what they've learned into practice / how they have met the LOs. Typically this is around 500 words and should include reference to relevant individual activities within the blogs. However, these probably won't be hyperlinked from the narrative (which the software will allow) because we don't expect learners to all have these skills at the end of the first unit (this is something that will be built into subsequent units).

Where learners choose to study the 20 credit module and bring together the previous smaller units of study they write a narrative that, as a minimum, draws together the learning from the previous narratives. Our plans are that this will be through a web-folio and include hyperlinks to blogs and other assets developed during the units - but we haven't completed the modules yet! (The ePPSME project was only able to cover the initial unit in each of four subject areas).

Shane Sutherland
3:05pm 18 January 2011

Working the way you do it's not possible to use PebblePad's in built scaffolds (except thoughts through the blog and activities through the activity log). If you could make direct links to another scaffold/wizard (action plan, meeting etc) which do you think would be most useful to work-based learners?

Alternatively (or as well), as an adjunct to Thomas' question, if you could design a scaffold/wizard that was useful for your learners, across a range of contexts, what would it look like?

Alison Felce
8:26pm 18 January 2011

Hi Shane,

We want to keep it as easy as possible for learners' first engagement with the software so they don't get 'turned off' by any presumed difficulties, although we have started to use upload facility for pictures of aspects of the learning (on one of the construction units), which seems to work ok.

It's hard to say which would be most useful to work-based learners because that will have some dependence on the planned learning outcomes, rather than a specific tool. I think we can build many (maybe all) the wizards in at different times, where they're relevant to the required learning. For instance, skills audits where professional competencies are set by the professional bodies, action planning for personal development planning, SWOT analysis for business planning, meeting plans and reflections for communiction and so on. What we don't want to do, of course, is include it just because it's there, but because it "adds value" to the learning.

What we want to get to is the learner being able to create their own portfolio, maybe within a structured template to begin with, and feel confident to create new assets from within the software, rather than via the 'user interface' of the content/activity webfolio but this will take a bit of time to build into the learning experiences.

Must admit, haven't thought of designing a new scaffold/wizard before. I think this is a good idea but I don't have an immediate answer - I think I'd need to give it a bit of thought. However, first thoughts..... a tool for APL claims would be useful for work-based learners (which we are looking at) and also a way of supporting negotiation of independent projects with opportunities for reflection and developing reflexive practice are potential areas for development?

Emma Purnell
7:28pm 19 January 2011

Hello Shane,

Just to echo what Alison said about which wizard would be most useful. Dependent on context of the unit there is scope for each of the wizards that exist within Pebble to be used. In a work-place context there will always be a relevance to provide evidence of meetings, achievements, experiences, action planning etc as part of a unit. Up until this point and acting on learner feedback that they wanted the quickest way to interact with materials and activities we have used the functionality that enables users to type directly onto the screen and not have to come out of the webfolio view and go into an edit function. With this in mind in some of the subsequent units after the example shown above we have replaced activity blog pages with other tools also editable through the view mode, such as bespoke profilers, online forms etc and as Alison mentioned a much wider utilisation of the upload function in blogs to insert images, videos and other document types.

The question about designing a new scaffold/wizard. I think rather than something new, what would be really useful is if the other functionality such as action plans, experiences, abilities etc could be added as 'items' in the same way as profiles, forms etc. These could be then added as pages in the webfolio template, utilising the editing in view mode but still having the scaffolding of sections. Alternatively (but possibly not technically possible) is that a webfolio page could be set up so that when a learner clicks on that page called, for example, action plan, would open up the wizard with the step by step approach as currently see if you go the 'create new' route but once saved the action plan would be saved in the learner asset store and as an open page in the webfolio, I don't ask for much! :o)


Sarah Chesney
5:08pm 20 January 2011

Some interesting points so far - but I'm wondering if there is anyone out there who represents alternative e-portfolio providers/users, for example someone from the Mahara community, who would like to add to the discussion? Sarah

Sarah Chesney
1:27pm 25 January 2011 (Edited 5:52pm 25 January 2011)

This week has seen some discussion around work-based learners and the use of an e-portfolio to support their study. Alison and Emma have linked their Cloud to an array of resources that will be valuable for any practitioner starting to work in a similar context. It seems to me, reading through these resources that both Emma and Alison are acutely aware of the specific needs of this group of learners.

Thomas started the discussion with an interesting point about reflection and how the learners are encouraged to reflect. Alison's reply focuses on the idea that the learners' are on a personal learning journey, and that through regular posting to the e-portfolio blog, they are building up a store of reflections.

Shane then tested the water with a question about additional 'wizards' within the e-portfolio specifically designed to support work-based learning. The impression Alison and Emma gave seemed to be that the balance is just about right between learner skills, confidence and time pressures regarding software use, and what the learners are required to do to meet the learning outcomes. Alison mentioned pre-enrollment APL as an area that could benefit from a wizard. Emma’s point concerned the specific functions with the software rather than the fields a wizard could potentially contain.

I was waiting to hear if anyone else wanted to share their experiences of using an e-portfolio with work-based learners - particularly if they are using an alternative to PebblePad. Maybe it's early days and someone will come forward with some responses to the questions raised in this week's discussions who has experience of another system. There's time yet! Feel free to pick me up on any points I've misinterpreted or ignored.

Derrin Kent
6:42pm 27 January 2011 (Edited 10:20pm 31 January 2011)

Hello Sarah,

At TDM Wyre Academy, we use Mahara very actively with our work-based learners.  I obviously cannot show the work of our usual candidates without permission but my wife and fellow work-colleague has agreed to let you see her work.  So......

Click here to see an example collection created for an NVQ qualification in Management.

We use Mahara's templating tool (copiable views) to create templates for the NVQ units.  Our student bounces of these to create a collection of Mahara pages/views - each of which correspond to their NVQ (now QCF) units.   Mahara is careful to seperate out the following processes:


  1. create and collect your stuff (upload your files, make your plans, write your blogs, etc.)
  2. organise your stuff into pages/views and collections of pages/views.  Our students often use the same (eg) professional interview audio recording as evidence for different standards in different units.  Simply indicating which minutes the assessor / verifiers should listen to in each view for each unit.
  3. share your stuff and network with others.  We get our assessors to use restricted-access Course Groups where the learner submits their work for assessment and that work is locked down - prohibiting further editing until it the accrediting body deems it appropriate to release it.     The learner can, of course, re-use their artefacts and pages in other views and collections if they wish to.  They can also export their pages in HTML or Leap2A formats.   They can even use Mahara's MyPlans functionality to create their own simple ILP/PLP.



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