ePortfolios for apprentices: What Next?

For this the last article on the subject of ‘ePortfolios’ I had anticipated that the content would be based on questions raised throughout the series by way of the ‘usual channels’ and whilst there have been a few direct requests for advice, there are as many comments as questions, mostly positive which is encouraging. But such is the nature of the medium, comments are more difficult to respond to than a live or even virtual audience without having more information. For example, one comment was – ‘my learners detest e-Portfolios’ to which my answer might have been, ‘as a former work based learning coordinator, I know for a fact that none of my apprentices liked paper based, barely understood the content beyond the ‘next instruction’, may even have detested them, best tell me more’. But social media is no platform for such a discussion and a snappy response might be construed as me being at best, ‘picky’.

So I have chosen to conclude the series using the following ‘comment’ to a previous article about ‘challenges’, with my response, which more or less covers ‘what next’. I have followed that with a few questions of my own, all of which are addressed to the many learning providers who have yet to break out of the last century, technology wise. Without whom I would never have felt the need to produce the articles in the first place. Well not quite true, if the only alternative offering of a ‘guide’ is based on research and case studies from more than a decade ago, biased to HE and the findings of a questionable survey on assessment, then someone has to say something. In this series of articles, the observations and opinion are my own, is impartial, the knowledge is current and my credentials can be backed up by 12 years of hands on experience and the feedback from learning providers that have taken the advice.

A comment to an earlier article ‘What are the challenges

“The biggest challenge is the quality of the software you choose I have tried ‘……….’ and it was a nightmare. Even though I was an advocate of e-portfolio; after that experience I would be cautious of trying it again.”

My response was: –
“A simple comment is impossible to respond to effectively as I don’t know the circumstances that the ePortfolio was ‘tried’ and as the past six articles in this series includes the importance of ‘choosing’ the right quality of software, I see no point in repeating it through a discussion on this platform. But it may be helpful to say that in my opinion, any learning technology software or system is only as good as its objective, strategic planning, top level commitment and innovative staff development that goes into using it.

The most obvious examples where this appears not to have occurred, especially  by colleges, although not exclusively include: Interactive Whiteboards that aren’t used interactively a Moodle (VLE) that is little more than a repository and costly devices purchased with one-off funding which end up in a cupboard for the lack of a purpose or strategy. So why imagine choosing and using an Assessment ePortfolio might be any different? and whether or not this applies to your own experience the quality of these products, soft and hardware, are not in question as proven across the country (world). Just the application. Which if poor or non-existent is very likely to be ‘a nightmare’ and caution would be a good approach.”

My question (s)
Q.1. If an employer in say July 2017, requires a system to manage and monitor its apprentices using a process in keeping with every other function of its business, is it likely they would consider using a method which revolves around a single folder of paper to hold every piece of information related to an employees training and only accessible and able to be interpreted by an individual or two?  – And if the answer is NO never in a million years – or words to that effect – then

Q.2 How likely will it be that an employer would consider choosing a learning provider to manage their employees/ apprentices that does use such a process, however prestigious the building, whatever the most recent rating –  And if the answer is – NOT LIKELY then….

Q.3 Is it conceivable that an explanation as to why such an important and complex feature of their business has to be ‘managed’ using a paper based method, is due to any of the reasons (barriers) given, including – ‘That’s the way we have always done it’, is likely to be acceptable?  – And if the answer is NO…… then

Q.4  Perhaps the question should not be why use an advanced Assessment ePortfolio, surely it should be why use a paper based portfolio?

done-it-this-way2-295x300I appreciate that to many learning providers I have been preaching to the converted and of course they know far more than I do today and my thanks go to those contributors, individuals, LMS suppliers and practitioners who have shared with me their wisdom, experience and best practice. Especially regarding readiness to impending changes of frameworks, qualifications, Trailblazers etc.

And I look forward to hearing from those yet to read these observations and on the oft chance that they’re ready to challenge the ‘status quo’, then I look forward to supporting them in the challenge – an exploratory discussion costs nothing, doing nothing, may cost more.

The complete collection of articles will be published and made available as a free download in the next few days.

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?

Colin Gallacher
Learning Technology Consultant


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