A. Egan1, A. FitzGibbon2, E. Oldham2

1Marino Institute of Education (IRELAND)
2Trinity College Dublin (IRELAND)
In this paper, an analysis of the introduction of ePortfolios in a College of Education college is presented. The college has two distinct groups of undergraduate students; the majority (four year cohorts with approximately 120 students per cohort) are preparing for teaching children aged 4-12 and graduate with a B.Ed degree; the other stream (four year cohorts with a range of 20-49 students per cohort) are undertaking a general education degree and graduate with a B.Sc. degree. The technology director – the first author of this paper – has responsibility for increasing the use of technology in teaching, learning and assessment across the college, and the introduction of ePortfolios is part of her general strategy.

From among ePortfolio packages, the freeware system Mahara was chosen because of its ease of use, widespread adoption by other educational institutions, and price considerations. In September 2012, to test the product, identify any problems with the software and overcome any emergent issues, the software was restricted to one cohort in the B.Sc programme and their lecturers. A dedicated website was used which required a username and login details separate from those for other software applications. Uptake was optional. Only five of the 28 B.Sc. students used the ePortfolio tool, and then only to a limited degree; for those that did so, their focus was on presentation of ‘online CVs’ for use during their work placement. The technology director solicited feedback from staff and student users during this pilot phase, and identified four major difficulties: problems with access and password issues (Perceived Ease of Use PEU); no perceived advantage in using ePortfolios (Perceived Usefulness PU); lack of interest in using technology (a problem with staff teaching on the course as well as with the students)(PU); and the usual barriers (e.g. lack of confidence (PEU) in using technology, lack of time). Solutions were found for some of these; in particular, a ‘single sign on’ was introduced, with a link from the college’s virtual learning environment to Mahara, so that password issues were circumvented. For those that did use the ePortfolio an advantage was noted, namely being able to send an online multimedia CV via email to a work placement supervisor. Their CVs stood out as a result of the multimedia dimension, and samples of their work could be viewed by potential employers clicking on the link sent, and being able to view content therein.

The tool was reintroduced in 2013 and made available to all college students (B.Ed and B.Sc). It was specifically to be used by second year B.Ed students (N=118) during their school placement. The advantages of having an ePortfolio were outlined to students, based on feedback from their peers during the pilot study (B.Sc students). When they entered the college, their self-reported technology expertise and level of technology acceptance were measured via an on-line questionnaire that elicited relevant background information and aimed to determine what, if any, barriers to uptake of technology are in place. Their ongoing use and reactions are being monitored. Initial findings show that the interest of both staff and students in the B.Ed. programme has been stimulated, with one staff member even asking ‘why was this [tool] not made available to all of us?’