Wednesday, 18 December 2013

e-Portfolios for the reflective learner - How did it go?

From the 9th to the 16th of December we ran an online course entitled 'e-Portfolios for the reflective learner'. This course has emerged from UCS' new Digital Literacies Programme -, along with another online course based around LearnUCS' quiz engine and objective testing.

For this course however, we used our Mahara system to help and guide students in building an e-portfolio and raising their awareness of being a reflective learner.

You can see the pitch for the course here -

And take a look here to see how we structured the course -

The interest in this course was surprising, accumulating 30 signups, mainly from the student base here and given just a week to signup, I feel this is quite an achievement and I think highlights the effectiveness of our communication channels and use of social media.

We opted for the manual administration of user accounts and group access as we have just undergone a large upgrade and authentication shift with Mahara and wanted to adjust to the new processes first.

Once the student accounts had been created and added to the course group in Mahara they were all notified by email about their new accounts, a video introduction from the course facilitator and a means of communicating back to the facilitator if they had any issues logging in.

Where the course was concerned, there were 8 pages in total, the first page being an introduction to the course, support models and a light touch approach to answering the question, what is an e-portfolio? After the introduction the students are now into the tasks and activities, weaving the students through the why's and how's of being reflective and using the different tools in Mahara to help facilitate this, such as, the journal tool, the planning tool and finally bringing it all together into an e-portfolio page which they submit to the course group.

After submission, they are introduced to the 'Where next?' page which detailed where students could go to find out more about being reflective or other digital literacies programmes they might find helpful.

The support model consisted of the facilitator monitoring the discussion forums (which were used) and messaging through Mahara, which wasn't used much, students were expected to manage their own time with the tasks and had access to all the content from day one.

I'm pleased to say that 43% (13 Students) of the cohort submitted a brilliant array of portfolios, I was even more happy with the fact students had begun to experiment with other elements, such as adding images and videos even though this was not a task or assessed in any way.

Here are some comments from students about the course:

Student 1:
When I first opened Mahara, I had absolutely no idea where to start, however following the tasks has helped me find how easy it actually is to use. I think that I will use mahara more often[sic] in the future, as it will probably help me de-stress and clear my head a little better.
Student 2:
I wouldn't have used Mahara without the e-Portfolios for the reflective learner course. I found it quite confusing at first and wasn't really sure what was meant by terms such as 'pages' and the different content.
I found working through the main features during the short course very useful, and by understanding the main features, the use of other features became clearer.
Student 3:
This experience has been positive for me as I have been able to understand how to become a more reflective learner in a effective and efficent[sic] way. Furthermore, I have been able to identify my learning style, which has benefit me in identifying what skills I need to develop to improve. Although the experience has been positive I did struggle with getting used to the programme, at which some face to face contact would have been helpful in supporting my learning.

You can infer from the above that some students struggle with simply picking up a system and running with it as I guess we wrongly assume the latest generation of tech savvy students should be able to do. I think the way we guided the students through the 'why' as the first priority helped with this transition. Once a student could see the benefits of using the system and being reflective, they were happy to move forward to the 'how' section.

One of the things we were keen to track was how much time was spent not only facilitating the course and supporting students but also the creation and administration of the course, you can see a rough tally for our online courses here -

All 13 students who submitted their portfolios before the end of the course received a Certificate of Achievement for completing the course.

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