When many staff and students think of the core learning technologies used at the University of Kent the following usual suspects immediately spring to mind:
- Moodle – understandable as most of us spend a good portion of our lives interacting with the virtual learning environment (VLE).
- Turnitin – as it is used in the submission and marking of assignments.
- KentPlayer – especially as there is currently a big push to increase usage of the lecture recording service across the institution.
Have we forgotten anyone? Well, as it turns out, yes we have! The one that many forget about is…
Since its introduction it has been used to varying degrees by schools across the institution such as in Music and Fine Art where students have compiled a research file as part of an assessment; it has also facilitated the Academic Advisor system; and seen students themselves use it to facilitate collaborative group work and to reflect on their experiences of years studying abroad and their experience of coming to the University of Kent as a whole.
In recent years usage has waned but things are changing as the platform has enjoyed somewhat of a renaissance of late. One of the biggest users (as of writing) is the Employability Points Scheme which ‘rewards students for active engagement in extracurricular activities’. In practice, the EPS team use the platform to administer the scheme and to provide an interface where students can log points gained for activities they have undertaken (such as volunteering) where they also develop valued ‘soft skills’ outside of their academic studies that are increasingly being sought after by employers. Once students’ have gained enough points they are able to apply for rewards such as valuable work experience with local employers and scheme sponsors.
Through working closely with the EPS team, we here at the e-learning team (being the service owners of MyFolio) identified that the scheme’s use of the platform was not taking advantage of its core functionality which would enable students to collate and reflect on their experiences and the skills they had gained by producing a reflective e-portfolio.
This then sparked an intense period of collaboration between the teams and, after numerous meetings and iterations, and a criminal amount of coffee, we emerged and the My EPS Journey e-portfolio template was born! The template not only boasts placeholder journal entries that students can replace with their own but there are also sections providing guidance on how to add multimedia in the form of images and video and their employability points total is automatically pulled in and updated.
EPS participants are also enrolled into a group within MyFolio where they can engage with more information about the scheme, interact with each other via the available forums and share their completed ‘My EPS Journey’ e-portfolios with their peers in the spirit of inspiring friendly competition and peer review to raise the bar as to what can be achieved. Participants are also encouraged to take advantage of the ‘secret url’ functionality where a url that cannot be searched by Google can be created for the e-portfolio which students can then send to potential employers or link to from their CVs and LinkedIn profiles which then enables their intended audience to access the e-portfolio without the hassle of having to arrange a University login.
In keeping with this spirit of friendly competition, the EPS team ran a competition in 2015/16 to promote engagement to see who could create the best My EPS Journey e-portfolio using the template as a basis. While numbers were modest, those who did engage produced some really nice examples. Their feedback on the template and the supporting guidance materials has since been invaluable as we have continued to develop and hone the template and surrounding audio visual guidance and processes in preparation for the next wave of participants joining us on the next EPS journey.
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