SHEFFIELD HALLAM UNIVERSITY: Use of e-portfolios in Social Sciences
This case study described the introduction of an e-portfolio system to support personal development planning (PDP) on a social sciences course. The e-portfolios were introduced in the first year of the course in a module which was primarily concerned with core skills. The e-porfolios were to replace a paper-based approach to PDP which was recognised as being of limited value to students. Most students appeared to approach PDP in a very superficial way. There was a desire to promote PDP as a means by which students could reflect more deeply on their learning and to foster a community of practice.
A commercial e-portfolio tool (PebblePad) was selected and this operated separately from the university's VLE. PebblePad enabled students to prepare webfolios containing evidence in a range of media, including text, audio, video and web-based materials. It also facilitated group work, sharing work in progress, and feedback. PebblePad was considered to be visually attractive, with a simple interface.
The initiative was successful in that students seemed to be motivated to engage with it far more actively than had been the case with the previous system. Students also welcomed the ease of use and the ability to collaborate and receive feedback. The team believes that PebblePad has moved from a 'bolt-on' to an embedded aspect of the course.
However, the introduction of PebblePad was funded through special sources of funding and it was not clear whether funding would continue to be made available. Furthermore, PebblePad was maintained outside the university's VLE and was therefore not integrated into it. An interesting point was also made about the inertia that exists amongst some academic staff towards the introduction of elearning initiatives:
"Whilst course teams are motivated by the pedagogic potential of new technology and, working 'at the chalk face', are acutely aware of the need to motivate students and enrich their learning experiences, the policies and practices of large, bureaucratic institutions are shaped by many other considerations. This disjunction can make pedagogic innovation hazardous. In addition, in a context of increasing staff workloads and pressure, the tendency to inertia is strong: if a pedagogic approach is new and untried, it is a risky and time-consuming business to experiment with it; in contrast, to continue to do what you know has worked reasonably satisfactorily in the past, despite its drawbacks, is the safe option."Personal commentary
I found this case study interesting because the experience of the team accords precisely with my own experience of PDP. Students do not engage with PDP in the intended manner, and they tend to approach it very superficially. We have introduced an e-portfolio system which has had some success, but this project seems to have successfully embedded the e-portfolio in the course, which I don't think we have quite managed. I think the success of the project may lie in the quality of the e-portfolio product (PebblePad) which is far superior to the integrated facilities available in VLEs such as Blackboard.
SHEFFIELD HALLAM UNIVERSITY: Use of video case studies to highlight issues in Qualitative Research Methods
This case study described an initiative implemented on a postgraduate Qualitative Research Methods module on an MA Social Science Research Methods course. Essentially the project consisted of integrating a series of links to video material within a research methods module. The video material included content from established resources at other universities, as well as material from Goole Video and YouTube. This was supplemented by the author's own material
The video material provided a basis for introducing visual research methods to students, and also provided material which could be used interactively in lectures and workshops.
I selected this case study because I thought the case study was using video-based material to provide guidance to students in the conduct of research. I obviously misinterpreted it because the video material in question is actually research material itself. Whilst I don't doubt the value of this approach in research methods training, I don't actually see it as being particularly innovative.