What do you want from an ePortfolio?

Discussion of the NHS ePortfolio has been reignited on Twitter this evening, sparked by the publication of a paper in The Clinical Teacher “Evaluation of an established ePortfolio.”

The conclusions are:

“Continued support is needed for both trainees and supervisors in portfolio-building skills and in using the e-portfolio as an educational tool. Trainee tailored feedback is needed to ensure that portfolio-based assessment promotes lifelong, self-directed and reflective learners.”

My favourite quote is:

“Trainees remain unconvinced about the educational value of the e-portfolio”

An understatement perhaps?

The NHS ePortfolio

The comments this evening included some by people who have not been part of previous Twitter discussions, but they echo many sentiments I have heard before, and many comments on this site. They include frustration about the software itself, as well as complaints relating to the burden and perceived utility of workplace-based assessments.

So, it’s 2013, a New Year. Time to take a fresh look at the world and think about how we can turn all this frustration into positive change.

  • What do you think is the purpose of an ePortfolio?
  • What do you, as a trainee, want from an ePortfolio?
  • What value do you find in workplace-based assessments?

I will be writing more as soon as I get time – on funding and commissioning, on the need for trainees to join together across specialities, and on the future in the eyes of the various stakeholders. In the meantime please leave your comments here.

We need your voice. We need a better system – sometime before I become a Consultant would be nice……


5 responses to “What do you want from an ePortfolio?

  1. Also important to link in with the Undergraduate community, who are also using a variety of ePortfolios, of differing degrees of sophistication (and frustration!)

    All UK ePortfolios including undergraduate ones should be working /towards/ a common OPEN data standard (eg LEAP2A is an existing open standard), alowing data to be portable between ePortfolios not silo’d, and ideally they should be converging on some common user interface elements/layout and standard features. How could one learn to drive if the steering wheel and pedals were in different places in every different car you drove?

    I would also reiterate the advice I give anyone using any webform for inputting data – use the ‘Lazarus’ add-on for Firefox/Chrome/Safari, it saves the data as you type (encrypted if you wish) and can reinstate the data if the webform crashes or loses what you have been typing.(depressing common, certainly on the RCGP ePortfolio I had the pleasure of using for 3 years!!) http://getlazarus.com/

    ePortfolios are undoubtedly here to stay, and they CAN be good for trainees, students, and their educators! We need to reduce siloing, and improve usability. Keep up the good work @_elljay_ !!


  2. Will anyone ever read this??

    Hi everyone,
    Having just spent the afternoon uploading things onto my RCPCH eportfolio I thought it might be about time to share some of my thoughts with @_elljay_ and you all. It goes without saying now that we need better software and of course an app, but the main thing which is bothering me about my portfolio now is this question:
    “will anyone ever read this?”
    I already know the answer of course – “probably not” – at most my ARCP panel will look at the development log main page and think that I’ve put a lot of things on there (without opening any), before moving on to the main event – checking that I have done x number of WPBAs (again probably without actually looking at them in detail). My supervisor will do something similar at our reviews, unless feeling in a particularly inquisitive mood. I’ve had an eportfolio of some sort since 2006, so I know the score. It can be pretty depressing to think of all the time spend crafting reflections on courses, clinics, critical incidents etc and no one to pat me on the back and say “well done”. So, have I spent the last 6 years bitter and twisted about the whole thing? Well…maybe at first, but now I realise that it doesn’t actually matter to me if no one reads most of the content. The reflections are still incredibly useful if just one person reads them – me. I have used them when preparing for interviews (reminding myself of times where I was in a difficult situation with colleagues or whatever, so that those answers roll off the tongue easily), when reviewing learning points from subspecialist clinics, when deciding which areas I need to have more experience in, to help distill out the key learning points for the future with complex cases, etc etc. I know that I like the reflective style of learning which will not suit everyone, however I do think that reflecting on our clinical experience is important otherwise we will struggle to grow, or risk repeating the same mistakes.

    It has taken quite some time for me to accept that it’s ok if no one but me reads my eportfolio. I think it would be good if the colleges could address this issue early on in trainees’ eportfolio life, to try to avoid some of the disinterest/disdain which seems so rife when the e-word is mentioned. So, what I would like from an eportfolio:

    -a change of culture amongst supervisors: reflecting is encouraged, supported, and discussed at reviews or via eportfolio messaging
    -a change of culture amongst junior trainees: benefits of reflective entries spelled out at the beginning of each placement, know that it is not just to please your ARCP panel but can actually help you be a better doctor!
    -a change of culture amongst senior trainees: encourage newer trainees to get the most out of their logging, maybe by becoming official ‘mentors’ who could have a role/log-in on the eportfolio for a junior colleague.

    A more intuitive and accessible package would of course help facilitate this, but without a culture change I doubt we will get the best from our eportfolios (even if they were sponsored by Apple!).

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Nadine. You hit on some really important questions. I have also asked myself “will anyone ever read this?” but perhaps now ask “who am I doing this for?” Like you I’m a reflective learner, and find value in writing down my thoughts. I like to come back to things later, and have also found my notes very useful for interview preparation. But as you point out not everyone finds value in this. I would like my ePortfolio to be more flexible in terms of content, easier to organise and find things I previously entered, and to have a better mechanism of sharing reflections or events I would like to discuss. I think the real value of an ePortfolio should be that an individual can set goals, track their development, and be proud of their achievements. It should also support and enhance the relationship between trainee and supervisor. For this to happen we really do need a change of culture, and it’s hard to see how this will come about. But a more intuitive software package that fitted better with real world practice would smooth this process. If the trainees loved their portfolio, the seniors would be persuaded eventually!

  3. Do you think it would be helpful if trainees received notifications when their supervisors looked at their eportfolio content?

  4. That’s an interesting question, Ben. I think some trainees would want this and others wouldn’t. I suppose it also depends how that process would work – how would a trainee be notified and what would it say? ‘Dr X accessed your portfolio’ or ‘Dr X spent 23mins logged into your portfolio’ or ‘Dr X accessed your summary overview and read 2 reflections’. Does the system have the capability for this? As a general principle options would be good (ie user settings which allowed you to decide whether to be sent an email, or have a popup when you logged in). This is an interesting thought but there are other things to do with user interface, data visualisation and the ever elusive app that would be higher up the priority list for me.

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