ePortfolios for apprentices: A guide for providers and employers

(as well as: QCFs, NVQs, BTECs, Key Skills, short courses and all criteria-based qualifications).


Despite previous articles suggesting the contrary, I don’t consider all statements on the use of technology from the past as being ‘out of date’, far from it. My concern is when agencies which purport to ‘lead the way’ in the use of technology for Post-16 education, choose to ignore what has already been established for years. Such as the findings and recommendations from the Becta report on ePortfolios for apprenticeships 2009, which begins with this statement:

“We think that e-portfolios are going to be important for apprenticeships.”
In Harnessing Technology: Next Generation Learning 2008–14 (2008)

Well I didn’t see that reflected in recent advice and guidance.

As a consequence, I intend to offer a number of short articles, information and opinions, to those in the sector that may be sitting on the learning technology fence when it comes to delivering competency based qualifications. I plan to do this by cutting through the unnecessary ‘jargon’, putting the preponderance of barriers into perspective and eliminating the so-called ePortfolios to end up with a smaller choice of systems that have proven to be ‘fit for purpose’. The objective being to enable learning provider leadership to be better informed to make their  own decisions. Beginning with:

What is an ePortfolio?

A simple enough question one would imagine, but not if you are a senior manager of an organisation, realising that its current process of managing apprenticeships may not be quite as ‘cutting edge’ as is being experienced elsewhere and seeking direction. Or simply someone that already knows what is needed but has been presented with a list of supposedly insurmountable barriers, leaving no choice but to stay as they are for the time being, as there are more pressing matters to deal with.

Well staying as you are learning technology wise, is probably going backwards and I suggest that doing nothing in this climate of extreme change should not be an option.

Paper based PortfolioParticularly true for those engaged in the vocational sector in which it is estimated that less than a half of learning providers are using an ‘effective’ ePortfolio. Of those, not all are using the system (albeit proven on site) across all its departments to maximise its potential. And unbelievably, most learning providers are still using paper-based methods to manage apprenticeships, which frankly has no place for any learning provider in 2016 unless to keep the stationery suppliers in business.

And I am well aware of the ‘plethora’ of confusing information, not least because of an abundance of ‘guides’ based on outdated opinions choosing to ignore the facts, which are freely available to examine and have been for several years.

With that in mind, here is another quote from Becta’s excellent report of 2009

It has become evident in undertaking this review (ALP, 2007) that there is a considerable body of information on e-portfolios but that very little of it is targeted at learning providers and employers offering apprenticeships, or at apprentices themselves. Most of the available information relates to the use of e-portfolios in the higher education (HE) sector and there are few case studies of exemplary practice from apprenticeship programmes.

Nothing much changed there then, despite the immeasurable advances in technology for education and the hundreds of learning providers showing the way. We end up with less than half of the sector using the most advanced learner management systems, others yet to break out of the last century but seemingly unable to overcome the so called barriers to change and a significant minority that appear to be ‘accepting their lot’ apparently unaware that they may be running out of time.

Try again, what is an ePortfolio?

It depends entirely on what you intend to use it for and in my opinion as well as others, there are three main types of ePortfolio, although in practice, the first two overlap considerably, and are designed for distinctively different purposes. Certainly not assessment for apprenticeships, although the more advanced eAssessment Portfolios are now meeting the criteria for a number of HE qualifications.

RaRPA: A system designed for reflective Recording and Reporting Progress and Achievements

CPD: A system designed for Continuing Personal Development, teaching and assessment

eAssessment Portfolio: A Learner Management System (LMS) developed specifically to meet the requirements of competency based teaching and assessment in a digital age.

Of which there are many claiming to be the best, but still something of a minefield.

The short articles to follow, will be based upon a decade of hands on working with and supporting others to implement eAssessment portfolios for the work based learning sector. Plus up to date experiences shared by learning providers over several years and reference to awarding bodies and others that actually know a thing or two about ePortfolios for apprentices.

The articles are all open to comment and a selection of questions will be included in a Q & A.

All the “ePortfolios for apprentices” series of articles:

ePortfolios for apprentices: A guide for providers and employers
What is an eAssessment Portfolio? – The Good, the Bad & the Ugly
What are the barriers and how to ‘get over it’? Part one
What are the barriers and how to ‘get over it’? Part two
What are the benefits and who wouldn’t want them anyway?
What are the challenges and how others have found a way
Making a business case – to get it past finance
What next? – will depend on the Q & A

Colin Gallacher
Learning Technology Consultant


© 2016 incentive-8.info. All Rights Reserved.


  1. There are too many dinosaurs in education for change.

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