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21st Feb-25th Feb: Garry Watkins from UCLAN will lead the discussion around the TELSTAR project.

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Sarah Chesney
7 February 2011

Garry Watkins from UCLAN will lead a discussion around e-portfolios and an enquiry based learning approach that underpins the TELSTAR project.

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The CEEBL website will provide a starting point for our discussions:


Garry Watkins
08:54 on 21 February 2011

A link to the EPPSME project page mentioned by Sarah

An extremely interesting project, providing a useful reference point for considering issues involved in using e-portfolio technology to support WBL

Garry Watkins
08:38 on 22 February 2011

The ESCALATE project together with the associated resource pack provides a useful point of reference, would be good starting point for inexperienced practitioners.

Garry Watkins
07:49 on 23 February 2011

Embedded Content


Garry Watkins
8:51am 21 February 2011 (Edited 8:55am 21 February 2011)

Good Morning

My name is Garry Watkins and I will be leading this weeks discussion on the subject of Enquiry Based Learning (EBL)

The Centre for Excellence in Enquiry Based Learning (, based at Manchester, provide extensive resources, links and information regarding this weeks topic. In order for us to develop a shared understanding of EBL and provide a common foundation for discourse throughout the week, it would be a useful starting point to consider the description offered by CEEBL on their 'What is EBL?' page. Does this page reflect your understanding of EBL?

I am really looking forward to reading your views over the next few days, and expanding my understanding of EBL, and in particular the potential for employing e-portfolio technology in the process.


Shane Sutherland
12:56pm 21 February 2011

Hello Garry

Thanks for the link to the CEEBL site. I was interested in the technical guides section - where I was optimistically looking for some examples or information about 'eportfolio' use; but sadly found none.

It seems to me that this genre of tool designed to surface the learning process as well as showcase the learning product would be well suited to any form of EBL.  Also, given the strong inclination to group-based processes, those tools that scaffold meeting records, provide group blogs, and that are essentially dialogic ought to be in place and widely used.

Cutting to the chase, have you any experience to report on whether/how you have used ePs at UCLAN to support EBL?

Very best

Alison Felce
1:18pm 21 February 2011

Hi all,

I agree with Shane's observation that an e-portfolio tool has a great deal of potential to support, encourage and develop an EBL approach in both traditional courses as well as for work-based learners. Looking at the CEEBL site it isn't immediately clear whether any of the case studies have been used with WB learners and  I'd need a bit more time to investigate it in more detail (but maybe not today!).

I guess what would be useful is to have comments from a range of people who have experience in using an EBL approach to identify what aspects of their approach could be used for work-based learners and where an e-portfolio would be of benefit.

If anyone reading this has some experience to share, please let us know what you think.

Do you have links to case studies of your own that we could interrogate to draw out lessons for e-p pedagogies for WB learners?

Garry Watkins
4:55pm 21 February 2011

Thanks Shane/Alison

Unfortunately, I am not currently involved in facilitating EBL myself. However, from a theoretical perspective I am extremely interested in how e-portfolio technology could be employed to facilitate a range of approaches to learning. It appears to me that the tools available within e-portfolio environments would be particularly suited to supporting the processes involved in EBL.

There would appear to be a number of potential benefits to using EBL in the workplace, not least in dealing with 'real' issues situated in the working environment. Learners therefore have the opportunity not only to investigate the issue at hand, but to develop skills in research, problem solving and communication. as well as gaining experience of the workplace environment.

I feel that the potential for employing e-portfolio technology to facilitate EBL within the workplace is an exciting prospect, albeit one that may present a number of challenges. Of particular interest would be the role of the facilitator. This is not always a straight forward role in supporting EBL in the classroom environment. What particular challenges might be present in undertaking this at a distance?



Sarah Chesney
6:14pm 21 February 2011

Hi Garry, a good question. I suppose to answer it we would need to start at looking at the challenges that face those supporting workbased learners.
Looking to the EPPSME project, could some of the principles developed there underpin an EBL activity?
My gut feeling is that there would need to be a strong and visible facilitating presence, at least for the first few stages - do you agree?

Garry Watkins
9:14am 22 February 2011

Thanks Sarah

The EPPSME project is certainly a very useful and relevant initiative.

I certainly agree that the role of the facilitator is vital, particularly in the early stages, As learners may very well be unclear or lacking in confidence with regards engaging both with the processes of EBL and with group work, particularly if the technology is new to them.

I think this raises a further issue relating to prior experience and learning. What prerequisite skills and knowledge are required by the learner to engage effectively EBL in the workplace?

It would also be interesting to consider how the roles of the tutor, learner and employer evolve as we move from tutor generated scenarios to learner generated issues situated in the workplace.

Look forward to reading your perspectives on this


Garry Watkins
8:09am 23 February 2011

Ok, so not quite the response I was hoping for.

Welcome back for another day of ........ Well hopefully more than yesterday!!!

Have added the ESCALATE website to the content section as I felt this would be a  useful resource for any practitioner looking to explore the potential of EBL.

Haven't as yet been able to track down any articles relating specifically to the use of e-portfolio technology to support EBL. Are you aware of any?? How specifically can eportfolios support EBL in practice? What would be the 'added value' of using this type of technology, particularly in the work environment?

Looking forward to erm, any response at all really!!


Jeremy Benson
9:59am 23 February 2011

Hi Garry,

I'm guessing that many of us are hoping to learn from someone else's 'trailblazing' here, that's certainly the case for me.  I agree with you about the potential for employing e-portfolio technology to facilitate EBL within the workplace but I wonder whether the existence of 'distance' as such a large part of the equation can make the thought of innovating around EBL seem like being asked to juggle AND tight-rope walk.  Managing exposure to risk is a key part of delivery planning.

So I think a clearer idea of the risks and any lessons learnt would be really useful here!

Thanks for leading this.




Emma Purnell
1:54pm 23 February 2011

Hi all,

Some really interesting points. I agree with Jeremy about the potential for eportfolio facilitated EBL and the potential juggling it would involve when trying to balance a distance EBL approach. I have been involved with the ePPSME project where collaboration happened in the form of group blogs around particular themes/discussion areas mostly around content . It would have been really interesting to have expanded on this and explored an EBL approach to some of the activities and considerations within the pedagogy as Alison mentioned earlier. I would be really interested in exploring the issues that may surround EBL totally at a distance.

From a personal experience some colleagues and I completed an online course recently where I was a WBL and a significant element was online group working from which I learned a great deal about some of the issues surrounding this from the perspective of student, timings for example and how difficult asynchronous online group working can be whilst balancing the day job, completing a small project within a week sounds relatively simple on paper but a week is such a really short time when doing the day job too and some feelings of isolation you can have if you are the last person to contribute to the project, how as tutors can we manage dynamics/constraints etc. Also, how much tutor support is enough? Is this purely subjective? This may have been not be strictly a pure online EBL experience but I think some of the lessons are transferable.

I could see how this group experience could have been facilitated through an eportfolio based approach but think a set of considerations around online EBL would help us to hit the ground running when looking at different contexts such as WBL and DL generally. 



Sarah Chesney
3:23pm 24 February 2011

Hi - really valuable comments here.  I've added a reference in academic references to a chapter by Roisin Donnelly  in Maggi Savin-Baden's book 'Challenging Research in Problem-based Learning' because Donnelly  highlights some of the tensions we have already identified in our discussion - tensions about pace of learning, the pressures on individuals that do not necessarily correspond with the pace of a group, and importantly how strongly the facilitator's presence should be.

In the CEEBL resources there is a strong emphasis on group work in EBL.  Donnelly observes that when she ran an entirely online PBL module:

' I realized that a conflict existed between individuals' right to learn on-line, using the on-line learning environment (WebCT) in their own time and at their own pace, and the obvious benefits of interacting on-line with peers in a problem-based learning group.' (p50).

It's worth reading the whole chapter if you can get hold of a copy of the book because of the resonance it has with our discussion. 



Beverly Leeds
12:48am 25 February 2011

Hi Guys

Sorry for joining this late. I currently use enquiry based learning with my 2nd year undergrads and would like to move to using an e-portfolio to support this. I beleive this would work very well. I will start by explaining what i do with my students and adding suggestions of how this would work using our chosen e-portfolio - Pebblepad.:

Firstly year 2 undergraduates are provided with online materials to support working with a client (we know these can be put into pebblepad as resources). Then students are provided with an online case story told by a real organisation (again runs in Pebblepad) Students have to decide for themselves what the issues are and how they would solve them Students in small groups then discuss online (via pebblepad or synchronously using Adobe connect) to decide whatissues are and what they need to find out . Once they have decided they can individually upload resources to a common area (Pebblepad gateway) for the group to use.  They agree on issues, use resources to support proposed recommendations and then present findings in a report (could be Pebblepad webfolio) and a presentation (could be web presentation uploaded to pebblepad). This allows for same input from course team but different outputs from student groups as well as allowing students to engage in enquiry based learning.


PS case stories and employability materials are all Open Educatinal Resources available from

Sarah Chesney
12:43pm 28 February 2011

Summary of the week:

The past week has highlighted some challenges and omissions in experience for us (which is good!).  Garry led the discussions with some excellent resources around Enquiry Based Learning (EBL), but it was quickly spotted that whilst EBL is an established approach and one which has previously used technology effectively, use of e-portfolios don’t yet figure largely in the EBL landscape.

There was a consensus that e-portfolios would be a suitable tool to use with EBL because ‘this genre of tool [is] designed to surface the learning processes as well as showcase the learning product’ (Shane).  Beverly feels that there is great potential for EBL supported by e-portfolios, work is currently ongoing with her students.

Despite the fact that there is recognition of the value of EBL and e-portfolios, there were some comments that hinted there may be some significant challenges if EBL is applied to workbased learners.  Emma’s first-hand experience of the pace and timing of the group work whilst juggling other commitments is worth taking into account. Returning to the Co-Gent activity’s emergent theme of learning design, Jeremy says  ‘Managing exposure to risk is a key part of delivery planning.’

Part of this planning needs to include the role of the facilitator, who is probably going to be at a distance to the workbased learner. 

I thought it was interesting that none of us brought up the technology as an issue – it was the softer side of learning design that presented challenges – pace, timing , role of the tutor.  The technology was in place (sometimes as a combination of e-portfolio and software such as Adobe Connect).  It would be interesting to overlay the lessons learnt by the EPPSME project and the steps identified here:

Pedagogic principles that EPPSME have identified 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

How would these map onto an EBL approach that includes group work (strongly emphasised in EBL)? I think these principles can inform an EBL approach for workbased learners.

All in all an interesting week  with some good resources, thank you Garry for leading this discussion.

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