Best Practice

Using ePortfolios to record achievement

Evidence and records of achievement are essential for students to acquire and demonstrate knowledge and competences that will enable them to practice effectively in an ever-changing environment. ePortfolios are becoming essential tools in personal and professional development planning, managing continuing professional development, gaining recognition and accreditation for prior learning and career management.

So what is an ePortfolio? An ePortfolio can be described as a collection of documents that can be uploaded and scanned onto an electronic platform. It is owned and personalised by the individual user to demonstrate reflective learning and competence in their personal and professional development and can be made available to certain audiences under the instruction of the individual owner. Examples of such an audience include: lecturer, facilitator, mentor, potential employers, or an awarding body.

An ePortfolio is a means to engage in a reflective and collaborative approach to planning, organising and enhancing an individual’s learning and work. In addition to holding competencies, diplomas, experience of accreditation and prior learning, an ePortfolio can foster individual responsibility for learning by supporting and developing the ability to reflect, self-assess,  and set future goals in competency development. Doing so can help students and workers review where they are in relation to their career and reflect on where they might see themselves in the future and help determine how they can set and achieve their goals.

In this way, ePortfolios incorporate education, training and research; can ensure that evidence-based practice is supported and applied routinely; and provide an effective framework for analysing errors and disseminating learning.  A strategic, systematic approach, which is properly resourced and supported will enhance the students’ professional development.

In the nursing department we have designed an online module through Blackboard that creates activities for students to complete and then to upload onto their ePortfolio. The activities become a collection of artefacts that the students showcase through their ePortfolio for example a SWOT analysis, demonstration of teaching a skills to a patient, conference presentations and reflections.

So what do students think of an ePortfolio? Data collected in 2009 in Ireland highlighted that students appreciated its value as a learning strategy. They had an opportunity to publish their own work in ways that resulted in greater self-confidence and in self assessment. Students engaged with the ePortfolio and felt motivated to learn by using the student-centred interactive reflection exercises, competencies and case studies. Students not only showed what they had achieved and learned but also reflected on the learning process. Students felt that the ePortfolio was an opportunity to market their skills in a professional manner and seeing their experiences in the final ePortfolio helped them revisit their learning experiences in more specific and complex ways.

From the lecturer’s point of view the ePortfolio provided an illustration of a student’s ability to think critically and perform appropriate therapeutic nursing interventions. At the end of the programme each ePortfolio showed a representation of the student’s clinical expertise, professional role, management of care, including education and innovation. In conclusion the ePortfolio attests to achievement and professional development, by providing critical analysis of its contents.

So what are the benefits overall? With the advances in technology, an ePortfolio can become an established means of maintaining professional accountability and demonstrating professional and personal development.   Such an innovation recognises the necessity for lifelong commitment to continuing education, training, peer review and clinical audit.

National systems of planning, delivering and recognising learning have changed. Today’s focus is on developing clinical practice competence as a verification of the degree to which a practitioner performs effectively in the domain of clinical encounters within their scope of practice. An ePortfolio can assist practitioners in demonstrating continued professional development, acquisition of knowledge and skills in the delivery of safe and high quality patient care. If you have any questions regarding ePortfolios or if you are interested in using them in your teaching please contact me Stephanie.lawrence@ucc.ie

(ed. note: we asked Stephanie to tell us a bit more about her experiences using ePortfolios in her teaching.  Our questions and her responses are below)

Practical Experience

How did you use ePortfolios in your teaching?

While building a module for an online masters titled Personal and Professional Development, we decided to use an ePortfolio. The ePortfolio itself was not to be assessed but the artefacts created over the 6 weeks of the module were graded. Each week we gave the students an activity to complete which they could then upload to their ePortfolios. Each week focused on a different activity for the student to showcase their learning and to develop their technology skills such as, for example, Week One’s focus on reflection – an extremely important component of understanding how students move from theory to practice..

Did you scaffold ePortfolio assignments to help students build portfolios during a module/degree?

Scaffolding the online module was hugely important. We had to decide on activities that were meaningful to both the students and their nursing practice. Because it was an educational module we also needed to build in the theory. For example we asked students to read about Bandura and his social cognitive theory. The student then wrote an exercise on role modelling in nursing. The following week the students focused on the constructivist theory and were then required to teach a skill to a patient and reflect on their learning incorporating both elements.

Did you use a specialised ePortfolio tool?

When designing the module it was difficult to decide on what eportfolio we were going to use. So I decided to use the new Google Sites. This allowed the student to build their own ePortfolios which they could keep after graduation. However there are many versions of eportfolio that already have a template. Also its important that you create a rubic and remember you are not assessing an eportfolio. You can’t. It belongs to the student. But you can assess the individual artefacts when submitted on Blackboard.

Did the students like using ePortfolios?

Most students liked the ePortfolio when they can see how it relates to their own personal and professional development. If there is no means for a student to develop one they won’t. So if you incorporate it into your teaching as a requirement, well, you are going to see some masterpieces. Sometimes Its really only the end when the student realises how much they have achieved. They love to showcase their videos, conference presentations among other artefacts uploaded.

What were the favourite / least favourite aspects for students?

Favourite for any students is showcasing their masterpiece and least favourite is the reflections. However reflections are an important element because it highlight the learning achieved by the student and making that link with theory and practice.