Networked Learning Conference 2008
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Flourish:the ecpd project

Symposium convenors: Sarah Chesney and James Howard
Centre for the Development of Learning and Teaching, University of Cumbria.,

Symposium Introduction

This symposium focuses on the conference themes of Embedding Networked Learning in Institutions and Networked Lifelong Learning. This symposium will discuss the rationale, aims, methodological approach and user experience underpinning Flourish: the eCPD project, a Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) funded study under the Users and Innovations programme.

Flourish aims to give staff in a newly created university the opportunity to engage with an eportfolio first hand for their own continuing professional development. This study of staff approaches and attitudes to using an eportfolio is judicious, with the national driver for personal learning spaces (DfES 2005), the growth in eportfolio use throughout the educational sector and society's current fascination with user created online content as embodied in the Web 2.0 phenomena.

The symposium presenters represent a 360° perspective of Flourish and will include presentations from:

  • The Educational Developer
  • The Software Developer
  • The Staff User

The first paper will give an overview of the Flourish project, which is managed by the Centre for the Development of Learning and Teaching at the University of Cumbria. The paper will discuss how the project team aims to embed a staff eportfolio within existing working practices and CPD processes. It will evaluate one specific approach to overcoming the challenges encountered when introducing staff to new technologies, against the backdrop of competing pressures and time demands in a newly formed, geographically dispersed university.

Building on the first paper, the second paper focuses on the development and enhancement of educational software and how the e-portfolio chosen by the Flourish team (in this case PebblePad) has been adapted to suit the needs of professional teaching, learning and research staff.

The third paper offers the audience a view of the project and the use of an eportfolio from the perspective of a member of staff at the University of Cumbria. This member of staff started using the eportfolio whilst studying for the compulsory to new staff Post Graduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education. This paper discusses the experience of a non traditional learner against the background of the current UK national agendas including Widening Participation.

Introduction - .pdf

Flourish: the eCPD Project: Supporting the integration of eportfolios for continuing professional development.

James Howard, Sarah Chesney
Centre for the Development of Learning & Teaching, University of Cumbria ,


Recent years have seen an increased focus on the use of eportfolios within Higher Education to aid student progression and achievement. However, the potential benefits of eportfolios as a tool to augment the continuing personal and professional development of staff remain an under researched area. The University of Cumbria's JISC funded Flourish project aims to partly address this imbalance by initiating the wide-scale implementation of eportfolios into the existing working routines of academic, service and administrative personnel.

This approach rests on the belief that eportfolios will present tangible enhancements to such processes. By providing a central 'personal space' where resources and experiences can be collated, stored and reflected upon, the professional development of staff is linked to a defined, cohesive structure. As the related applications become routine and familiar, structured development may more readily become integrated into existing practices. Furthermore, as staff levels of comfort with the software increase, they are perhaps better equipped to support students in their use of eportfolios.

At the heart of the Flourish project is a focus on the training and support structures required to support the sustainable integration of an eportfolio within the context of an institution undergoing significant transition. In response, the project team have developed a series of support and training mechanisms that are aligned with a rolling process of research and evaluation. The aim of this iterative approach is to critically assess the relative impact of each form of support as it is trialled, in order to further understand the integration process and inform future patterns of support.

This paper reports on the delivery of a key element of the support strategy developed, a two-day 'e-learning retreat', assessing its impact as an original approach to supporting deep integration of the eportfolio software. Building on qualitative data gathered during the retreat and in the weeks following the event, four analytical themes have been identified:

  • The need to provide the time and support structures required for engagement with the eportfolio software
  • The benefits of team Vs individual development when integrating eportfolios into existing work practices
  • The challenge of separating the professional from the concerns of their profession during staff development
  • The necessity to continue the momentum of integration once back in everyday working contexts.

Evidence suggests that the retreat successfully addressed challenges associated with the introduction of new technologies. However, issues remain in relation to the long-term integration of eportfolios that will inform future iterations of the support put in place. These centre on the need for a defined focus and outcome to the retreat activities and a reconsideration of the membership of the teams invited to attend.

Full Paper - .pdf

About PebblePad

Shane Sutherland
Development Director, Pebble Learning,


ePortfolios are purposeful collections of digital items presented to distributed audiences to present a view of the portfolio author commensurate with the perceived, or articulated, expectation of that audience. Increased eportfolio activity in the UK was largely driven by Personal Development Planning and is, more recently, being driven within and beyond Higher Education by Continuing Professional Development and Professional (Re)Accreditation.

Developing an understanding of the needs of eportfolio users, by reference to prior learning technology experience and direct user involvement, was an essential aspect of the design process which led to the creation and subsequent implementation of PebblePad which is now the most widely used eportfolio/personal learning system in UK HE.

The design, development and implementation stages PebblePad's evolution are discussed herein along with an exploration of a single system is able to be used by teachers and students alike for myriad purposes. It is the versatility of the system that led to its selection by the JISC-funded 'Flourish' project focussing upon staff use of an eportfolio to support their personal e-administration.

Full Paper - .pdf

E-Portfolios: A Student Perspective

Kim McGowan
Learning and Information Services, University of Cumbria,


This paper looks at the learner experience of using an eportfolio from the perspective of the part time, non-traditional learner enrolled on the Post Graduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education at the University of Cumbria. The learner, who is also employed at Cumbria as an academic librarian, reflects upon the use of an eportfolio to support a post graduate course.

In addition the author has worked to engage with the eportfolio by aligning use to existing work practice. She has logged this experience and discusses the advantages and disadvantages of eportfolio use in educational and professional contexts and considers the implications for learner support in an era when UK universities are widening participation in Higher Education.
The paper looks at:

  • the motivation of the specific non-traditional learner to engage with the eportfolio:
  • the value of the learner's engagement with the eportfolio application:
  • whether other systems would have been as useful, or more useful than the eportfolio application:
  • a potential area for development?;

In considering the value of the eportfolio as a tool to support study and existing work practice the author considers ease of use, time and administrative burden in relation to existing systems. The characteristics are viewed from the perspective of a non-traditional learner who left full time education prior to the information revolution. Learners starting university in the UK are already expected to use a range of password controlled electronic resources and applications. Traditional 18 year old undergraduates may come to university at ease inhabiting a personal digital space. However, at least 42% of UK learners are part time and non-traditional. In terms of eportfolio use these learners will be disadvantaged from the outset.

The author reports that learning to use the application can be time consuming and that learners can be hampered by unreasonable expectations, by a lack of understanding, confidence and technical skill. Nevertheless the author concludes that these issues can be resolved with judiciously applied support and training and that the eportfolio does have the potential to add value to both academic and professional practice.

Full Paper - .pdf




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