Online reflective journals and portfolios (eJournals/ePortfolios)

 
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Online reflective journals and portfolios (eJournals/ePortfolios)
An electronic approach to practice-based log books and journals

Summary

The use of eJournals and ePortfolios can be an effective solution for Students whose studies involve practice-based placements for which they are required to keep a reflective log-book or journal, and which may form a component of their assessed work.

This case study offers an overview of the use of an ePortfolio/log-book on the Undergraduate Midwifery programme at DMU.

Project Leads
Caroline Farrar – DMU Midwifery
Dr Rob Weale – DMU Centre for Enhancing Learning through Technology
Overview

Undergraduate Midwifery students at DMU are required to keep a practice-based reflective log book/portfolio. The aim of the portfolio is to enable students to have an up to date record of their progress throughout the programme. The portfolio is a record of learning, development of clinical skills and professional requirements for registration as well as a demonstration of the development of knowledge skills, attitudes and understanding throughout their course of study. By maintaining a portfolio students will be able to demonstrate the breadth and wealth of their experiences and competences.

Historically the midwifery portfolio had been in paper-based format. With a cohort of around one hundred students across all undergraduate levels, Midwifery staff were finding the portfolios to be increasingly cumbersome both as a means of recording and reflecting on practice and as an assessed component of the midwifery programme. To this end the Midwifery team were interested in exploring if the portfolio could be implemented in an online electronic format, in the hope that this would deliver a more efficient and effective mechanism for both the students in maintaining their portfolio, and staff in monitoring the ongoing development of the portfolio, and assessing the portfolio.

To this end a small project was undertaken, lead by a midwifery tutor in consultation with a member of CELT to identify if the current portfolio could be re-developed in an electronic online format and if so, to develop and implement it in the Midwifery programme.

Outcome

A solution was identified, and an electronic version of the portfolio was developed and has been implemented into the midwifery programme.

The ePortfolio was developed using a Campus Pack Wiki, which is directly integrated into the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) – Blackboard. Setting up the portfolio does not require any specialised skill or technical knowledge on the part of the member of staff who is setting it up; it uses the basic functionality of the Campus Pack Wiki tool.

The portfolio template is setup so that students have access to their own individual portfolio. Students cannot see each other’s portfolios, however all instructors on the midwifery programme can see all students’ portfolios. This is particularly crucial when it comes to moderating the assessment of the ePortfolios.

The portfolio is located in the Midwifery programme shell rather than in Midwifery module shells. This way there is one centralized point from which all midwifery students can access their portfolio and all student portfolios can be access by all midwifery staff. Having the portfolio in a programme shell is particularly important as the portfolio is active from when students begin their studies to when they graduate. During this time student’s move across different course modules, which makes managing their individual portfolios on a module-by-module basis impractical.

Screen shots of the Midwifery ePortfolio – click on the images to enlarge.

Screen grab of ePortfolio page screen grab of eportfolio screen grab of eportfolio Screen grab of ePortfolio page screen grab of eportfolio

NOTE: the example of a completed reflection is fictional.


 Benefits of the ePortfolio

  • Staff can access any student portfolio at any time. So to review a portfolio doesn’t require staff having to schedule a tutorial with the student and make sure that they bring the paper-based portfolio with them. The portfolio interface lists all of the students on the programme. Staff can quickly and easily navigate to an individual portfolio simply by clicking the name of a student in the list.
  • The online portfolio interface shows all recent activity across all of the student portfolios. This gives staff the ability (at any time) to identify any students who are not perhaps engaging with the portfolio as much as they should. This allows for more timely interventions – rather than discovering at a scheduled tutorial to which the student brings their paper portfolio, that they are not adequately engaging with the portfolio – by which time it may be too late.
  • At assessment time having all of the students’ portfolios located in a single online repository meant that there wasn’t a large physical pile of paper-based portfolios piled up in a corner of their office. Staff can also assess the portfolio online. Comments/feedback can be appended directly to portfolio pages by staff. Separate feedback sheets can also be appended to portfolios – these can then be locked down to prevent students from being able to update or change them
  • Students do not have to carry a large portfolio around with them. They can add to, update, edit and look through the portfolio whenever and wherever they like – as long as they have access to the internet (via desktop computer – at home or work – or a mobile device).
  • There is less chance of losing pages. When carrying around a binder of papers, some might fall out or be misplaced.
  • Organising the portfolio in terns of sections, page hierarchy and structure is less of an onerous process. In the online version students can drag and drop pages wherever they want them to go in the portfolio, and change the structure and navigability of the content relatively quickly and easily.
  • Students do not have to purchase stationary – such as a ring binder, paper, page dividers.

Constraints/issues

For the most part Midwifery students have been able to effectively populate their ePortfolio with content.

  • Some issues occurred as a result of glitches with the software. In particular where students were attempting to access the online portfolio with incompatible (outdated) computer systems and web browser software.
  • Some students were not able to access the online portfolio from work-based placements – particularly where there were internet firewalls which blocked access to external websites. This can be quite prevalent in NHS trusts.
  • Some students needed a bit of extra support in terms of familiarising themselves with the processes for adding content to the portfolio. However, having been shown the process a couple of times they became competent in its use. There are online support materials for students about how to add content to their portfolio. These can be found in the Guide to using Campus Pack Wikis section via the UserGuide tab on the Blackboard Home Page.
  • External examining of the portfolio requires that the person doing the external examining is enrolled on the programme or module where the portfolios are located. They cannot be sent a paper copy of the portfolios – unless an impractical amount of printing is undertaken.
  • There is a time overhead incurred by staff in creating new electronic versions of any templates that students are required to use to populate their portfolio.

ePortfolio portability

When a student graduates from their course they are able to take the portfolio with them in a read-only format. This means that they are not able to continue to use it in terms of actively adding and updating content – they can only export it as a read only website.

 

If you are interested in the exploring the potential for employing ePortfolios/eJournals/eLog Books to support teaching and learning, please contact your Faculty ELT Project Officer

 

CELT Case Studies

If you would like to have your eLearning practices captured and disseminated in a similar case study, please contact your Faculty ELT Project Officer

This case study was prepared by:
Dr Rob Weale (CELT)

Date of publication: March 2015