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Sam McFarlane's design narrative: Pebblepad and ATLAS for beginners

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Sam McFarlane
25 March 2013


I take on the role of staff developer, training and giving advice on use of Pebblepad (eportfolio) and ATLAS (eportfolio assessment management tool) to support eportfolio.

This learning activity was designed after being trained on the system myself during the Autumn Term in 2012.  It was designed by myself using a template of similar activity from a colleague.  Although the staff development for the pebblepad tool was created, it only needed minor tweaking to meet the aims of my faculty in terms of the pilot project that was being run.  The ATLAS tool had to be designed by myself.  Another colleague who was going to train on the same systems but at a later date gave Quality Assurance of the learning design.  The design took place over one week in our office and due to time constraints could not be a collaborative design effort, more an enhancement and addition to the original design.


This main objective was to provide staff development surrounding the use of e-portfolios and to introduce and enable academic staff to use Pebblepad and its sister tool ATLAS.  The particular focus of the staff development was for a pathfinder project however the staff development is expected to form the outline for more generic sessions with staff in the future.  The measures of success would be established during the session from my point of view (i.e. did the staff development work for the person delivering it) and evaluation from staff.

Firstly I took a sample outline of training and with a colleague stripped the outline to the bear essentials as the feedback previously was that the staff development session was too long.  I then made sure to include an optional action at the beginning to include more focused pedagogic discussion around portfolios in general.  This would make the training more usable for those that have not been introduced to portfolio's before.
Secondly I added the ATLAS side of the product into the learning design, yet again giving pedagogic pointers and using best practice as I went through.  As the session was now in excess of three hours ( a maximum threshold we have for Computer based training or development), I used a member of staff to Quality Assure and check for duplication or areas that could be cut.  
Upon evaluation the session was split in two and each session had a particular focus.  The first which would lead into the second, required the delegate to be a student contributing to an electronic portfolio and then to submit it to a sample course.  The second day was surrounding using ATLAS to mark and submit feedback therefore playing the academic member of staff.  The use of portfolio in learning and teaching were assigned to the first day as an introduction and best practice finished the second day as part of the plenary.
This design was given to a colleague to Quality assure and approved for trial as part of the pathfinder project.  The only additions at this stage was to highlight the help provided on the website instead of written or an electronic guide as time did not allow for these to be developed.


Expected outcomes - a session outline to give staff development on ATLAS and pebblepad.
Unexpected outcomes - Splitting the session into two days.  Changing additional support to be based around website help and not written guidance due to lack of time.  Additional optional activity (not compulsory) on use of portoflio in learning and teaching.  It was assumed that some staff would already know this but this would evaluated in the session
The session met the primary objective of providing a learning experience for academic staff on a portfolio tool.  
Evaluation - Staff who attended stated that the session met their needs and liked how it transitioned from the student point of view to how an academic would work with the tools.
As this session was planned in a very time efficient way I was unsure of what the result would be.  I also did not want a session which would take up too much time.  It seemed that the tool is too complicated to allow this to happen.  However splitting the staff development into two days seems appropriate and usable.  It was well received by the pilot group but would need to be further evaluated before rolling out institution wide.  I think the best insight that I would gain was the quality assurance and the benefit of having someone to critique what had been written.  I think without this critical friend the session would learning activity would be a failure.

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