Telling E-Portfolio Stories 09
What are the benefits of supervising
placement students electronically via
their e-portfolio reflective learning diary
Pritpal Sembi
Senior Lecturer in Film Studies – University of Wolverhampton
The Film Studies department runs a 3rd
level placement module called Student
Part of the assessment for this module is a
Reflective Learning Diary weighted at 30%
Traditionally done ‘on paper’ but we are
trialling the blog function in Pebblepad so
that students can deliver electronically
Film Studies are very new to Pebblepad!
What is Student Link?
An accredited placement learning module
validated in the School of Humanities,
Languages & Social Sciences in the early 1990s
Allows students to use their academic skills
within a professional environment
Students negotiate their own learning outcomes,
which form the assessment criteria for their final
project submission (ie portfolio of work, video)
Students can find their own placements or apply
to ‘off the shelf’ placements
Examples of Placements
BBC Birmingham (documentary research for
factual dept and Countryfile)
After-School Film Club
Script writing & editing
Hotbed Media (programme ideas)
PowerPack films (ADHD documentary)
Pre-production research for several other local
independent producers/directors (ie casting,
location scouting, sourcing funding, etc).
Benefits of Student Link
The Student Link module has had a very
positive impact upon many involved
It links our Subject with the local, and
even national, economy (ie Momentum)
It links our Subject with local filmmaking
initiatives that are often below the radar
It makes our subject more appealing
It convinces parents at Open Days!
Background to the Research
Duffy [et al] (2008,9) argue that there is little
information on the use of e-Portfolios in UK HEIs
and ask whether there is a ‘generalisable eportfolio advantage over p-portfolios’.
They also argue that ‘Reflective practice is
deemed to be an essential skill for placement
learning and life long learning but there is little
evidence on how it is achieved and some
difficulties in how it is assessed’ (2008,9).
Demonstration of Diary
Students gave consent to show diaries
(Sem One 12&19/11, 3&10/12)
Research progress so far
Piloted 4 successful trials of Pebblepad
usage in Semester 1 & 2
Student submits their learning diary to
their online blog and feedback can be
given almost immediately
Entries are time-stamped so we know if
they do it on time
Feedback can let staff know of any
potential problems
Anecdotal Findings (Semester 1)
The single trial student from semester 1 enjoyed
using the Pebblepad system to record her
The supervision of the trial student was
considerably less time-consuming than usual
Student diary entries were much more reflective,
evaluative and lengthy than paper based ones
The student grade was measurably higher than
the average ‘paper-based’ approach
Anecdotal Findings (Semester 2)
3 students involved in this subsequent trial with
mixed results. Pebblepad was made ‘compulsory’
for all placement students in this semester
One student did OK, another deleted all my
feedback when updating her diary entries
The other needed massive encouragement &
training throughout and submitted very late
Student diary entries were still more reflective,
evaluative and lengthy than paper based ones
The student grade was also still higher than the
average ‘paper-based’ approach too
Focus Group Questions
What is your understanding of the reflective learning
diary in Student Link?
Did you complete the learning diary regularly or just
before the deadline? Why?
Did you feel fully supported by your tutor whilst on
What is your understanding of Pebblepad?
How did you find using Pebblepad for completing the
How do you feel about tutors interacting with Pebblepad
to supervise students exclusively via electronic means?
Do you think Pebblepad should totally replace the paper
If there was one thing, in your control, that you could
change about Pebblepad what would it be?
1st Focus Group Findings #1
Found the weekly blog input quite
invigorating & refreshingly original
They liked the structured diary proforma as
opposed to a blank open-ended form
Students found the blog quite motivating,
especially on the days when they thought
they had achieved little on placement
Tutor comments on student blogs assisted
with their experience the next day
1st Focus Group Findings #2
Students were VERY wary of Pebblepad before their
placement, but really liked it afterwards
Students found it user friendly overall
Students felt that electronic supervision alone might
work, if supported by email and telephone
Students didn’t feel a tutor placement visit was at all
necessary, unless there’s a problem, and some
would even find it ‘embarrassing’
Students felt Pebblepad shouldn’t totally replace
paper portfolios – better to give students the choice
whilst strongly encouraging Pebblepad
Students would definitely recommend Pebblepad
Has Pebblepad been a Success for
Supervising Placement learning?
Develop how to rigorously measure the benefits of the electronic
approach, compared to the paper-based approach, for both staff
and students
Possible ‘measurements’ include: focus group interviews,
individual interviews, length/quality/breadth/reflexivity of diaries
(content analysis), supervision time allocation, participant
questionnaires, outcome achievement, grading, DELPHI.
How can we ensure these measurements are as accurate,
appropriate, objective and controlled as possible?
How can we be confident that any measured positive changes
are due solely to e-portfolio usage and not variations in student
ability, placement suitability, and other factors (ie technophobia,
student apathy, etc)?
Developing the criteria for measuring the success of the trials is
the most pressing and urgent goal of the research at the
The next step
Fully evaluate the focus group interview
Continue to encourage the use of
Pebblepad during placement modules
Embed the innovation once we know there
are enough tangible and positive benefits
for staff and students
To consider
In their conclusion, Duffy [et al] (2008,74)
suggest that ‘It is the message and not the
medium that is most important. It is more
important to have a portfolio with the right
content and an appropriate assessment and
feedback strategy, than to implement a hightech solution to delivery.’
They also suggest that ‘there is not enough
evidence yet that they [e-portfolios] assist
students to improve the quality of their
reflection.’ Duffy [et al] (2008,76)
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