Fifteen recommendations on the meaningful use of ePortfolios in Higher Education

Studying and work environments are in constant transformation due to globalization and the exponential advancement in technology. Having this in mind, the European Union has stated in numerous of its policy documents (e.g. the Modernization of Higher Education strategy, the European Employment Strategy – Employment guidelines, the Digital Agenda for Europe) that the European citizens’ lifelong learning and career management skills as well as digital competences need to be strengthened. In practice, this means for example developing pedagogical practices and the relevance of world of work in education, diminishing the gap between labor market needs and graduate skills, and promoting the right skills of the citizens for the modern digital economy. The common factor in all these is the development of lifelong learning competences i.e. civic competences, transversal skills, cultural awareness and critical thinking. In addition, the strategies to improve lifelong learning competences need to address digital competences as well, either in formal education or in the workplaces.

This policy framework has been the basis of the Empowering Eportfolio Process EEP project (2016‒2018) funded by the European Union’s Erasmus+ programme. EEP was designed to improve the ePortfolio process in higher education taking into account the assessment and guidance practices, enhancement of students’ digital competences, and the connections to the world of work. The higher education partners from Denmark (VIA University College), Belgium (Katholic University of Leuven, KU Leuven and UC Leuven-Limburg, UCLL), Finland (Häme University of Applied Sciences, HAMK), Ireland (Marino Institute of Education, MIE) and Portugal (Polytechnic Institute of Setubal, IPS) have given their valuable input in creating the understanding about the successful use of ePortfolios, which can be further examined in the EEP article collections: Students’ (Kunnari & Laurikainen 2017), Higher Education (Kunnari 2018), Employers’ perspectives on ePortfolios (Laurikainen & Kunnari 2018) and Empowering ePortfolio Process (Kunnari & Laurikainen 2018).

Recommendations video

In the final phase of EEP, the partners collaboratively concluded the results in the project into fifteen recommendations for practice that provide the most important directions for the future development of ePortfolios. These recommendations demonstrate the optimal future conditions for meaningful and effective utilization of ePortfolios at students’, teachers’, higher education and employers’ level. However, it is important to acknowledge that each higher education institute has its own development phases and thus, not all the recommendations can be interpreted as the next possible steps in each country.

Recommendations article on HAMK Unlimited Journal

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A great and empowering experience

In September 2016, we started with the Erasmus+ project ‘Empowering ePortfolio process’, together with five other higher educational institutes from Belgium, Denmark, Ireland, Portugal and Finland as project leader.

For UCLL, the project was performed in the educational bachelor programme ‘Biomedical laboratory technology’ (BLT). The team of instructors consists of a combination of professional bachelors, masters and/or masters with Ph. D. degree. The educational programme BLT has level six of the Flemish Qualification Framework (related to European Qualification framework) and has a duration of three academic years. The first year is a common year for all the students. From the second year on, students can choose between ‘Pharmaceutical and biological laboratory technology’ (FBT), which is more biomedical research related, or ‘Medical laboratory technology’ (MLT) that is more related to the clinical field.

Within the project, we had a lot of interesting and empowering meetings at the different locations to discuss and work on our different pilot activities, but we also disseminated to our colleagues.

Our Biomedical laboratory technology programme will implement an ePortfolio for the first time in their curriculum in September 2018. Especially for organizational issues, a pilot was performed in March 2018 containing just one small task about the choice students have to make between FBT and MLT. The portfolio coordinator found the tool we used, MyPortfolio, which is available within our Toledo-platform, a useful and clear tool. Also students did not experience a lot of problems. Only a few questions were asked. To introduce the portfolio to our students, the portfolio coordinator started with an introduction session, where she used a lot of screenshots. This small pilot strengthened the user-friendliness of the tool and gives self-confidence to the portfolio coordinator.

Other tasks will be further developed and refined in the next couple of months. It will be a challenge since the ePortfolio will be implemented in the overall curriculum and not just in one curricular unit. This was very important for us because one of the aims is to make intercourse and interdisciplinary generic competences more transparent and visible within the BLT study programme. In this way, students have the opportunity to grow and learn about different generic competences in a fluent way.

We try to motivate students to work on 21st century competences and become next generation graduated students which contribute to the expectations of the working field and we hope all the stakeholders can benefit from it.

We thank all the national and international partners from EEP to inspire us within this project and we invite you all to watch our summary movie.

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Devaere Karolien
Karolien.devaere@ucll.beucll

 

 

Time flies – outcomes on the way

Editing and preparing our next publications has shed light to the developing use of ePortfolios. Our next publication, coming out soon, is focused on employers’ perspectives how digital portfolios can be used to make hiring process more successful. It seems that even though employers ask applicants to provide digital material and videos, they do not always use the word ”portfolio”. We will present many interesting viewpoints of employers and discuss how digital portfolios can help to match the young employees and jobs in the best possible way.

The following publication, coming out later this spring, will be focused on teachers’ and organizational perspectives, which we have already explored and developed in our pilots. So in that sense, the articles in that publication make us to classify and clarify what are the most essential aspects in creating an empowering process. What does it mean in teachers’ work and how it need to be seen from the organizational standpoint?

Time flies 🙂 We had a successful training week in Leuven in February. Big thanks for our Belgian partners for hard work organizing the week, it was very intensive and effective helping us to reach our goals. This spring we will focus on finalizing the publications and progressing with our pilots. The project will end on October 2018, so we still have some time for collaboration 🙂

 

A lot of interesting work

Currently, Belgium is preparing the next training week taking place in Leuven from 19/2/2018 till 23/2/2018. On Tuesday 20/2/2018, a dissemination event “Practices on ePortfolio” will be organized where all of you are invited. More information on this event is available here.

Specifically for UC Leuven, I can inform you that we are preparing the pilot activity of the ePortfolio which includes the strategy for students to make a considered choice between our two different educational degrees. With some preliminary questions such as ‘How do you make this choice?’ and ‘Which elements influence your choice?’, we help students from the first year to choose between ‘Pharmaceutical and biological laboratory technology’ (FBT) or ‘Medical laboratory technology’ (MLT). A choice students have to make after they finished our first year.

This pilot activity will be the first time that ePortfolio is introduced in our educational program ‘Biomedical laboratory technology’. With the help of this EEP project, we will not only show students the benefits of ePortfolio, but also to our lecturers and other stakeholders like internship mentors.

In March, we will start with one activity of our ePortfolio, as mentioned before, but in September we will implement our ePortfolio completely as part of the three year study cycle in our educational program. The main aim of our ePortfolio is to make some learning outcomes, of which the most are more generic competences, more visible in our curriculum. The structure of the ePortfolio is as indicated in this figure:

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Our ePortfolio will consist of three parts, each containing several tasks. The parts are ‘Lifelong learning’, ‘My (study)career’ and ‘Social responsibility’. Additionally, ‘My personal growth’ contributes to all other parts and can be seen as a fourth part. Each part will offer some (reflective) tasks that students need to combine in their ePortfolio.

The pilot activity is a part of ‘My (study) career’.

You can imagine that during this period there is a lot of interesting work to be done on ePortfolio at UC Leuven.

Karolien
UC Leuven ucll

Exploring the perspectives of the world of work

Work life perspectives are very important in developing ePortfolio practices. Right at the moment we are exploring the processes in recruitment (education to work life and vice versa)  where ePortfolios can be utilized to make personal professional competences transparent. The other aim  is to raise awareness of representatives of the world of work what kind of new possibilities there could be with the use of ePortfolios. So it is not just collecting something which already exist, but also to collect and co-create new ideas and examples from the interviews with work life representatives from different professional fields, and from different kind of employers.

VIA will lead this process and we are happy to share our preliminary outcomes after the meeting in Ireland, MIE in September 13. – 15.9.2017.

Training week– March 21th to 25th

The first Training Week of the Project took place in the School of Education of the Polytechnic Institute of Setúbal (ESE / IPS) from March 2017, 21st to 25th and culminated with the second dissemination event – Multiplier Event.
The training week was dedicated to the theme “Building ownership of students – empowering assessment and guidance methods” with the participation of the partners from the various countries.
It was an intense week in which we lived very interesting and diversified experiences. We began the work sharing results of the Output # 3, at the School of Education of Setúbal balconies space.

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Gallery Walking at ESE/IPS

The topics covered on the second day of the training week were ePortfolios assessment methodologies and feedback. There were workshops organized by Portugal and Ireland, respectively, that challenged us to reflect on the importance of these two aspects of ePortfolio as strategies for learning and evaluation.

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Assessment Feedback

Throughout the training week work sessions, there were many moments in small groups where we shared ideas and were built a sense of belonging to a community. The group has always been available to work on the different proposals, and fundamentally it has maintained a critical sense and the will to construct a healthy and engaging work environment.

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Metaphors Eportfolio at a distance

On Thursday we also participated in two workshops with various themes. The Danish team brought us a proposal to use metaphors as catalysts for reflection and collaboration. The Belgian team offered us reflections on a number of critical issues in an ePortfolios development experience.
The last day of workshops was dedicated to an extracurricular ePortefolios experience presented by the Belgian team. We finished it with a session about the use of Badges, dynamised by the Finnish team, in which we also worked in small groups.

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I-portfolio Badges

The construction of a community is not made exclusively from moments of sharing on the theme of this community. The moments of leisure, where informal conversation allows us to share other interests, are catalysts for the creation of bonds between its members. In this sense, the Portuguese team organized the training week in collaboration with CIMOB, that accompanied the group in some visits to the region.
Two cultural visits were organized to the european team: the José Maria da Fonseca Caves which include Casa Museu and the Water Mill of the Moorish Estate.

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José Maria da Fonseca Caves Water Mill of the Moorish Estate

One late afternoon to stroll in Lisbon, in the gardens of Belém, was another moment of leisure.
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Gardens of Belém, Lisbon

The Multiplier Event took place on the 25th in the ESE amphitheater, subordinate to the topic What triggers students to create ePortfolios? This was the space and the time where the partners shared their work to the national and foreign stakeholders who attended the event.

 

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Dissemination Seminar – What triggers students to create ePortfolios?

In short, it was an arduous week, enriched by the proposals presented and by the availability that all showed to reflect on them. Each of us got a little richer and consequently the project was valued.
In September we will have more work together … this time it will be in Ireland.

Portuguese Partners from ESE/IPS
Ana Luisa Oliveira Pires
Maria do Rosário Rodrigues
Ana Maria Pessoa

An exciting month

March will be an exciting month for us with the planned training/dissemination in Portugal, Setúbal, were we will be able to share students perspectives and experiences regarding ePortfolio amongst different partners.

The UCLL-pilot is the educational program ‘Biomedical laboratory  technology’ which is located at two different campuses (Leuven-Diepenbeek) due to a recent merger. At the moment we are working on a common curriculum for both campuses which takes into account the recent and future evolutions in the working field and tackles some existing problems. A lot of ideas concerning ePortfolio are circulating. We want to use ePortfolio to solve some of the existing obstacles like visualization of generic competences and optimalisation of internship assessment. During the project contacts with project partners make those ideas change, extend,…

At this stage we don’t use an ePortfolio yet and that’s why the questioning of  our students might  have a slightly different outcome compared to the other partners. For us –and hopefully also for you- it was very interesting to ask our  senior year students whether they think an ePortfolio would be useful during their internship, for example to communicate between different stakeholders.  Besides that, the questionnaire also focused on more general aspects like students motivation to work with ePortfolio and the supports they need. For us, the results of the questionnaire reflect students ideas and perspectives on ePortfolio. Due to the fact that students are the educational clients of our curriculum, these ideas and expectations will be taken into account while  implementing ePortfolio into the new curriculum.

Besides our meeting in Setúbal we will have a lot of international contacts at our campus in Leuven this month, since we are organizing an international week. This annual event was organized for the first time in 2008

The objectives of this week are:

  • make an offer to students who do not participate in international exchanges to develop their international competences;
  • pooling visits of international partners and offer them an interesting, inspiring and vibrant week;
  • strengthening our partnernetwork (national and international);
  • initiate international education and/or research projects.

Over the years this event has grown bigger and bigger. At this moment we welcome over 50 national and international partners and ± 60 incoming international students.

We are looking forward to meet all our international partners this month!

Ellen – Karolien UC Leuven

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