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Teaching Reflective Skills and PDP to International Students: How effective is the use of PebblePad?

The aim of this paper is to discuss a pilot study designed to enhance international postgraduate students’ reflective skills in their Personal Development Planning (PDP) as part of their master’s course. A cohort of students in a special module used an e-portfolio, PebblePad, to create an action plan and a webfolio as reflective assessments that recorded their learning achievements and career aspirations. The paper discusses some of the issues related to teaching PDP to international students, the author’s initial perceptions on the benefits of using PebblePad and examples from the anonymous feedback from students collected at the end of the module.

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Learners’ initial expectations and experiences of ePortfolios

This paper discusses the findings of a pilot study that explored learners’ preliminary expectations and experiences of using an ePortfolio. ePortfolios have the potential to support learning and personal development due to the multiple roles they can play in the learning environment; however, student engagement has been varied. A mixed-method approach assisted in developing a rich picture of learner experience and use, and findings suggest that tutor and learner need support to understand the complexity of the tool. Furthermore, data protection and alumni access need to be addressed at an institutional level before appropriate resources are committed to implementation.

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Student learning technology use: preferences for study and contact

This paper reports some of the results from a mixed-method research project to evaluate learners’ experiences of e-learning at Oxford Brookes University. Here we present the analysis of responses to a survey completed by 1,180 full-time undergraduate students. The survey aimed to elicit patterns and preferences in technology use by this group. It was found that students prefer to study at home, many using their own laptops to get online. Once online, students most frequently engaged in activities related to accessing and reading online learning materials. Students used a wide variety of communication tools to contact friends and peers but a narrower range to contact tutors, with a preference for e-mail. The implications of the findings are discussed in relation to the provision of learning spaces and technology on campus and the impact of institutions and courses in influencing how and where undergraduates study.

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Developing a successful academic identity for ‘non-traditional’ students

During the Autumn semester of 2007–08, pilot research in the use of electronic portfolios was carried out across nine modules, at all levels from first year to Masters, and in six different departments. The pilot that was most successful, in the sense of generating most student activity, was on the Foundation Degree in Community Sports Coaching (Cricket). What was noticeable about these students was that, although they were ‘non-traditional’ students (e.g., non-standard entry qualifications, first in family to go to university, etc.) they very quickly adapted to the electronic portfolio. They seemed to see it as a showcase for their prior sporting and other achievements, and then as a repository for evidence of further sporting and academic achievement as the course progressed. Anecdotal evidence from the students themselves is presented in support of this view. In addition, the students could also be considered ‘digital natives’ with some previous experience using social networking websites such as YouTube for similar purposes. Finally, as members of minority ethnic cultures, the students also presented a positive self-identity, for example choosing well-known black cricketers for their learning object exercise. The evidence in the pilot appears to show that the use of the electronic portfolio to present prior achievement in this way also encouraged these students to upload evidence of academic achievement during that first semester. This was not apparent in the other pilot modules involving students with more ‘traditional’ academic backgrounds. It may indicate that compiling an electronic portfolio of prior achievement is an effective ‘way in’ to HE for students who may otherwise struggle with traditional approaches to learning and teaching. Finally, we provide evidence that underlines recent work on students’ use of Web 2.0 services to create a personal learning environment or distributed ePortfolio.

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Investigating student experiences of e-learning using the Diary Interview Approach

This paper outlines the methods used to explore student experiences of e-learning at Sheffield Hallam University. Placing e-learning in the context of the holistic learning experience, the diary interview approach (Zimmerman and Wieder, 1977) was employed in order to collect rich personalised accounts of our students’ experiences. Whilst the study highlighted that each student has differing experiences, here we will discuss the common experiences and what has been done at an institutional level to address issues emerging from the study.

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Evaluating Systematic Transition to Higher Education

This research note outlines progress made on a twelve-month Higher Education Academy (HEA) funded e-learning research project. The focus of the project is on evaluating systematic transition to Higher Education. Pre-entry work has been undertaken at both Bournemouth and Bradford Universities in order to better understand the student experience and provide appropriate support measures to enhance initial transition into University. Our work has been beneficial in providing insights into the student experience of transition by providing rich data for analysis of the student experience of e-learning (during transition and induction in particular) and on how students feel about starting University, and their initial support needs. This paper discusses our project aims, methods and preliminary findings in order to understand more about student needs and what student hopes and concerns are when thinking about arriving at University.

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