Traditional Use of Digital Portfolios in Educational Institutions
Chaudhuri (2017) describes digital portfolios as an evolution of the long-existing portfolio method, which is enhanced through the use of modern technologies, and the author suggests that the popularity of e-portfolios is an extension of the popularity of e-learning. Some of the modern trends in digital portfolios include their integration into an increasing number of education fields (portfolios are exiting the niche of language and art subjects) and their steadily growing popularity (Brown, 2015; Chaudhuri, 2017).
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For instance, Chui and Dias (2017) review the use of Weebly for foreign language studies while Avila, Sostmann, Breckwoldt, and Peters (2016) and Willmarth-Stec and Beery (2015) discuss the employment of WordPress and Evernote for medical and nursing education. Other trends include the integration of various multimedia features, the employment of advanced and more modern technologies (like cloud e-portfolios), and the continuous attempts to make the interface more simple, attractive, and user-friendly (Brown, 2015; Chaudhuri, 2017).
Pegrum and Oakley (2017) report the considerations of two educators from a pre-service education program that is used for teachers in Australian higher education institutions. Since 2011, this program has been adopting digital portfolios, and according to the educators, the outcomes of their integration are positive. The educators report that the initiative progressed towards providing its students with increased customization and autonomy in their portfolios, which is a positive development. Also, the educators focus on the organizational issues that were encountered and demonstrate that the engagement of the key stakeholders (students and educators) has ensured the effective and near-universal use of portfolios in the program.
Integration of Digital Portfolios
Certain costs are likely to be involved in the integration of digital portfolios, including the expenses related to the platform, equipment (if absent), and, possibly, training. Avila et al. (2016) point out that certain platforms can be costly, but they examine a free open source software (WordPress) and demonstrate that it can be used for the development of a very effective portfolio system. Also, Chaudhuri (2017) reports that the required technology (computers and mobile phones) is becoming increasingly ubiquitous in the modern world. As a result, Avila et al. (2016) and Chaudhuri (2017) report that digital portfolios can be less costly and resource-consuming than traditional ones.
Some of the key benefits of e-portfolios are related to the use of the portfolio method (digital or not). In particular, portfolios promote reflection and collaborative learning in students and teachers and student-based approach in institutions while providing a flexible framework for progress teaching and assessment for teachers (Anderson & Staub, 2015; Chui, Au-Yeung, & Cheng, 2015; Kilbane & Milman, 2017). However, some of the outcomes are also e-portfolio specific: they include some training in information technology management for every stakeholder, as well as increased affordability, environment-friendliness, and speed of communication (as compared to paper portfolios) (Chaudhuri, 2017; Chui et al., 2015).
Students provide positive feedback, stating that e-portfolios are convenient and useful for collaborative learning and reflection (Avila et al., 2016; To, 2017). Pegrum and Oakley (2017) mention the enhanced customization opportunities for e-portfolios. Avila et al. (2016), Kilbane and Milman (2017), and Willmarth-Stec and Beery (2015) also report that supervision and assessment are facilitated by digital portfolios, which is a positive outcome for educators and institutions. Finally, educators and other institution staff can also employ digital portfolios to organize personal work, which helps them to enjoy the above-mentioned student benefits as well (Anderson & Staub, 2015; Kilbane & Milman, 2017).
Professional Development and Training Initiatives Needed to Facilitate the Implementation of the Digital Portfolio System
The platform needs to be chosen after consultation with the key stakeholders, especially educators (Chaudhuri, 2017; Willmarth-Stec & Beery, 2015), but a preliminary suggestion is Weebly. Weebly is a free blog-type platform with simple access, protection of the ownership rights, and attractive and understandable interface, which makes it very simple to use (Chui & Dias, 2017). The ease of use is crucial for a training platform and might be considered a key factor in the choice of one, followed by affordability and accessibility (Chaudhuri, 2017). Weebly provides the required training on its use, and it also has a relatively intuitive interface (To, 2017), which explains its preliminary choice.
The major stakeholders of digital portfolio use are students and educators. The latter should extensively study the platform before the former (Chaudhuri, 2017); then, they can be employed in teaching students to work with it (To, 2017). To this end, educators can use the Weebly training course and combine it with practice. However, according to Pegrum and Oakley (2017), it may be useful to customize the guide to fit the needs of the institution. The time of training is another consideration. In their Weebly trial, Too (2017) devoted only one hour to debriefing the students, which led to an insufficient understanding of some of the platform’s features.
Avila et al. (2016) report a similar issue. Therefore, longer and more practice-focused sessions are required for students. Chaudhuri (2017) also warns against assuming that students are “technology natives” and cannot have problems with the training. Instead, they should be provided with sufficient time and an opportunity to report issues and ask questions.
Avila et al. (2016) and To (2017) did not evaluate the progress of the trained students, which may have accounted for the difficulties in mastering the platforms that their subjects reported. Therefore, an assessment of the outcomes of the learning sessions may be needed. It may also require the development of a customized assessment tool. Additionally, a more continuous assessment or monitoring can be proposed, during which the information on the issues encountered by the stakeholders should be collected and evaluated. The issues and their solutions may also be included in the guidelines on the platform use and future training courses (Pegrum & Oakley, 2017).
Brown (2015) reviews arguments in favor of such monitoring and approves of it. The author points out that the training process is likely to be continuous and take some time, which is why regular reviews of usage issues can be a helpful tool for monitoring progress.
Role of Leadership in the Implementation Process
Leadership is crucial for the successful implementation of change, and the communication of the information pertinent to innovation is one of the most significant leadership activities in this respect (Brown, 2015; Pegrum & Oakley, 2017). The specific choice of a communication strategy can vary depending on the organizational needs and traditional methods of communication, but several suggestions can be made.
Initially, the communication of the information is likely to require contacting the key stakeholders through formal and semi-formal dissemination methods employed by the institution: they can include statements during meetings, online forums posts, articles in the newspaper of the institution, and so on. These methods should be motivational and informative (Pegrum & Oakley, 2017). Pegrum and Oakley (2017) highlight the fact that after the implementation begins, substantial guidelines should be provided to the stakeholders. The news about the change, especially the highlights of achievements, should be communicated in a timely manner through frequently-used (popular) communication channels.
Throughout the process, it is necessary to highlight and prove the benefits and importance of change (Pegrum & Oakley, 2017; Willmarth-Stec & Beery, 2015). Finally, the communication should not be one-sided; the feedback from the stakeholders should be gathered and regularly addressed in leaders’ messages (Brown, 2015; Chaudhuri, 2017; Willmarth-Stec & Beery, 2015).
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A way to justify the importance of digital portfolios consists of demonstrating its qualities that are needed by the organization (Chaudhuri, 2017). The needs of the institution should be assessed, and this process can be facilitated by requesting feedback from key stakeholders. After that, an evidence-based explanation of the value of e-portfolios for students, educators, and institutions should be in order (Pegrum & Oakley, 2017; Willmarth-Stec & Beery, 2015).
The studies that show the effectiveness of digital portfolios in dealing with the determining organizational needs, as well as the attitudes of the students and educators towards this method, should be reviewed and presented in a concise way by the leaders. An effective way to communicate this brief information is a presentation. A more detailed report should also be available to anyone interested. The challenges and negative aspects of the chosen platform (for example, technology issues or curriculum adjustments as a result of training inclusion) should be mentioned and justified; solutions for them should be provided.
Pegrum and Oakley (2017) highlight the need for addressing the challenges and perceived challenges reported by the stakeholders as well, which is why the collection of feedback information may be necessary for effective change justification.
Anderson, D. M., & Staub, S. (2015). Postgraduate digital badges in higher education: Transforming advanced programs using authentic online instruction and assessment to meet the demands of a global marketplace. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 195, 18-23.
Avila, J., Sostmann, K., Breckwoldt, J., & Peters, H. (2016). Evaluation of the free, open-source software WordPress as an electronic portfolio system in undergraduate medical education. BMC Medical Education, 16(1), 1-10.
Brown, S. (2015). The Impact of the ePortfolio tool on the process: Functional decisions of a new genre. Theory into Practice, 54(4), 335-342.
Chaudhuri, T. (2017). (De)constructing student e-portfolios in five questions: Experiences from a community of practice. In T. Chaudhuri & B. Cabau (Eds.), E-Portfolios in higher education (pp. 3-19). Singapore: Springer.
Chui, C. S., & Dias, C. (2017). The integration of e-portfolios in the foreign language classroom: Towards intercultural and reflective competencies. In T. Chaudhuri & B. Cabau (Eds.), E-Portfolios in higher education (pp. 53-74). Singapore: Springer.
Chui, H. L., Au-Yeung, H. K. C., & Cheng, G. (2015). Reflective practice with digital portfolio for teacher readiness and maturation of prospective teachers within the TPACK framework. In K.C. Li, T.L. Wong, S.K.S. Cheung, J. Lam, & K.K. Ng (Eds.), Technology in education. transforming educational practices with technology (pp. 156-162). Berlin, Germany: Springer.
Kilbane, C. R., & Milman, N. B. (2017). Examining the impact of the creation of digital portfolios by high school teachers and their students on teaching and learning. International Journal, 7(1), 101-109.
Pegrum, M., & Oakley, G. (2017). The changing landscape of e-portfolios: Reflections on 5 years of implementing e-portfolios in pre-service teacher education. In T. Chaudhuri & B. Cabau (Eds.), E-Portfolios in higher education (pp. 21-34). Singapore: Springer.
To, S. K. M. (2017). Integrating student e-portfolio into a statistics course: A case study. In T. Chaudhuri & B. Cabau (Eds.), E-Portfolios in higher education (pp. 89-102). Singapore: Springer.
Willmarth-Stec, M., & Beery, T. (2015). Operationalizing the student electronic portfolio for doctoral nursing education. Nurse Educator, 40(5), 263-265.