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The structure of the Spanish higher education is suffering a deep change to adapt to the framework of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA). This fact results in the reorganization of degrees and subjects. However, there is little information about how the students organize their time and work during the year. This is at least the case of Agricultural Engineering in the Universitat Politècnica de València (UPV), where students have reported several times a lack of coordination between subjects, leading to an unbalance between high and low homework load periods during the year. The re-structuration of the degrees provides a good opportunity to organize better the task distribution for students.
Portfolios are powerful tools, since students may provide an overview of their work on each subject. By obtaining information on students’ time use, it is possible to optimize their work throughout a better planned schedule. In the UPV there is an increasing interest on this topic and several actions are being performed. In the frame of these actions, the aim of this work was to obtain information about the students time use in the subject “Livestock and Environment”, which belongs to the 5th course of Agricultural Engineering. To this aim we developed a portfolio aimed to monitor the time consumption of students. This subject includes theoretical and practical sessions, with 48 and 12 hours respectively. The subject counts with 22 registered students, from whom 18 attend regularly to the class sessions. The portfolio was designed as a simple sheet that students should fill weekly. They were asked to reflect on the objectives of the week, the relationship among them and the work developed before in the subject, the tasks developed and delivered and the attendance to tutorial classes. In order to achieve a higher participation rate, 10% of the final mark (in a 10 points scale) of the subject was assigned to the weekly filling of the portfolio.
Most of the students (73%) filled the portfolio sheet during at least one week, while the percentage of students that filled the portfolio every week from the beginning of the course was around 60%. About 50% of the students filled less than 50% of the total sheets. These results may indicate that most of the students got implicated in the work, despite the low weight of this task on the final mark. Nevertheless, the number of students who never filled any sheet is considered high by the authors and different strategies should be implemented in order to increase participation. The summary of the weekly objectives made by students matches with the objectives presented by the teachers. All the students who filled regularly the sheets and completed the portfolio, found a clear relationship among the objectives of the subject in consecutive weeks. The design of the portfolio did not allow to clearly monitoring the time used by the students when they were not in the classroom. An improvement of the model sheets is needed in this point. Finally, since students did not attend to any tutorial session, there was not any useful information obtained from this topic in portfolios.