The ePPSME project has provided the Higher Education sector with reusable models and resources for an eportfolio based pedagogy to address the needs of small to medium-sized enterprise-based learners. It has enabled the University to provide HE learning opportunities to work-based learners that are bespoke to the individuals’ learning needs whilst being cost-effective and sustainable business for the University. Academic staff have an improved ability to negotiate and provide learning solutions for work-based learners and have been involved in staff development that will enable them to meet the future business of the University.
The project adopted a participative action research approach through a series of design workshops and consecutive pilot study units to develop the use of an eportfolio tool as a virtual learning environment and personal learning space to introduce and develop the learners’ reflective practice around targeted learning content. Market research was undertaken to determine common themes in business and learner needs leading to the setting of learning outcomes and content for the study units, each of which equates to 50 notional hours of learner effort. Learners can combine units of study and submit summative assessment to achieve 20 HE credits.
Initial study units in the pilot subjects were based around a webfolio structure using three types of blog-based engagement: individual activity responses, group collaborative discussions, personal critical reflections. Ease of use was achieved through targeting typical skills required for activities such as web-browsing and simple word-processing to avoid deterring learners who lack confidence in their IT competencies.
The aim of this project was to provide the HE sector with reusable models and resources for an e-portfolio based pedagogy that addresses the needs of SME based learners.
The objectives were to develop processes for:
The ePPSME project has identified a new route for learners in the workplace to access HE that can be designed to meet their own and their employers’ needs. Learners are able to build their learning within a personal learning system allowing them to develop reflexive practice and include other formal and informal learning episodes.
Learners can study a single unit as a ‘taster’ before committing to a larger course and can combine units into modules to meet their personal learning needs. Employers can support their employees in providing access to learning opportunities that will benefit their business and that will have minimum impact on employee absence from work; there are no attendance requirements and learning can be accessed to suit the learners’, and employers’, other commitments.
Speedy quality assurance and validation processes have been developed. These can be used for individual units and a range of CPD activity to ensure fast response and turn-round times as are required by many clients. In addition, it has piloted IT registration and support for learners enrolling on these smaller units of study. Auto-download and auto-publish functions developed to facilitate access to the learning materials are now standard for all users of the software.
Evaluations of the project show a widespread interest in the pedagogy and the use of the eportfolio for work-based learners whilst also recognising a preference for some face-to-face activities although this can be through virtual media such as web-conferencing software.
Key to the project’s success was the involvement of all key stakeholders throughout the project through the use of a participative action research approach, a member of the University Executive to chair the Steering Group and all key project personnel being full-time employees with time allocated for their involvement in the project.