University of Appled Sciences Munich (GERMANY)
About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN12 Proceedings
Publication year: 2012
Page: 3828 (abstract only)
ISBN: 978-84-695-3491-5
ISSN: 2340-1117
Conference name: 4th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 2-4 July, 2012
Location: Barcelona, Spain
The online social work degree program “BASA-online”, offered jointly by a network of higher educational institutes across Germany, targets a special group of learners: Practitioners in the field of social work who lack a formal degree or training, but who can enroll in the program, study alongside their job in a combination of online modules and face-to-face lessons and can thus obtain a bachelor’s degree in social work. The special challenge of this study program is to carefully take into account the work experience of the students, enable the students to reflect critically on their day-to-day practice, and enrich their practice by applying new theories, thus leveraging the special potential of students who combine academic studies with work experience as a truly lifelong learning endeavor.

The paper presents a case study of an innovative educational design that was specially developed to tackle this challenge. At the core of this design, e-portfolios are used as a means for teaching, learning and assessment, following the concept of the “reflective practitioner” (Schön 1983). E-portfolios seem particularly well suited to the context of online learning and are increasingly recognized as valuable tools for lifelong learning and student-centered teaching. For example, students can document their work experience as well as their newly-gained theoretically knowledge. They may also decide to use the e-portfolios for job applications, documenting their individual life-long learning process.

Within the case study, the paper describes and analyzes the educational design in detail, with a special focus on the role e-portfolios play in it. In addition, the complex process of introducing such a new format for teaching and assessment will be investigated. Among others, the following questions will be considered: How to introduce students to both the idea and the technology of e-portfolios? How to develop assessment criteria that avoid “defensive reflection” (Häcker 1996), i.e. forms of reflection that are simply presented for getting a good grade, but do not advance a student’s competencies and insights? How to integrate e-portfolio software into other tools for online learning already used?

This educational design has been elaborated and refined within two projects funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research in Germany (BMBF). The design was first developed using the results of the research project USuS (Study Trajectories and Study Success in Bologna Programs) and is now in the process of being mainstreamed within the “Quality Initiative for German Higher Education” and the university’s development project “Fit for the Future” within this initiative. The paper will include relevant findings and lessons learnt as well as approaches taken and initial barriers to overcome that resulted from these projects. Conclusions and recommendations in the final part of the paper will inform educational designers, researchers, and other stakeholders in higher education who might be confronted with a similar design challenge.
Online learning, e-portfolios, Bologna process, elifelong learning.