Jisc case studies wiki Case studies / Blossom
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Lead Contact: Sarah Chesney (sarah.chesney@cumbria.ac.uk)

JISC Programme: JISC Users & Innovation Programme

Lead Institution and Partners: University of Cumbria 


Case study tags: e-portfoliosblossom,university of cumbriae-portfolios for applicationemployability drivers for e-portfoliose-portfolios for cpd and pdp,practitioner perspectives on e-portfolios,institutional perspectives on e-portfolios,online learning


Background & Context


What is the background to the e-portfolio initiative?


The Blossom project grew out of the JISC funded Flourish project.


Blossom looked at similar practices of using e-portfolios to support staff continuing professional development (CPD) across the HE sector.


Blossom contacted a number of UK HE institutions for information. Key practitioners from the institutions were filmed talking about their work in this area. The approach would, it was hoped, give others who might be interested, a chance to see how e-portfolio are being used for CPD and how other institutions are embedding this approach to recording CPD electronically.


Use of e-portfolios to enhance staff CPD is still in its infancy and the interviews allow the viewer a peek into how this innovative way of recording and reflecting on practice is being used in the sector.


What were the aims and objectives of the initiative?


The case studies aimed to get a picture of the use of e-portfolios for the purpose of supporting staff CPD, gauging the climate and current scale of implementation for this.


It was originally envisaged that the study would encompass a wide range of technologies that support this but the project was unable to establish a full range of e-portfolio systems to investigate.


It was anticipated that the video case studies conducted would demonstrate a broad view of the use of e-portfolios for CPD in higher education; viewers of the project outputs should be able to build an informed perspective of current use of e-portfolios for CPD based upon the collection of testimonies collected.


The likely beneficiaries of the project were thought to be those considering using e-portfolios for CPD within their organisations. It was hoped that they would be able to use the resource to inform them of the benefits or otherwise of the approaches used.


How was the initiative implemented?


The project was managed by within the Centre for the Development of Learning and Teaching at the University of Cumbria.


The project was closely linked to a number of projects. It was able to draw information and expertise from the Flourish project.


The overall approach was based on questions that were being asked during the implementation of the Flourish Project at Cumbria. The collation of questions was carried out by collecting responses from prospective interviews via email.


Collaboration with a wide range of partners allowed this project to obtain a wide range and focus for the use of e-portfolios for CPD.


Interviewees were filmed in situ at their respective places of work. Each interview was undertaken in a similar way with the same questions and structure.


Permission was granted by all involved for the material to be disseminated online and in the form of DVD.


Technology Used


What technologies and/or e-tools were available to you or did you seek to develop?


PebblePad e-Portfolio was the central tool with regard to e-portfolios.


Digital videos were shot of all participants.


The videos were made available online in an accessible format by Synote annotation system - based at Southampton University. Synote makes multimedia resources easier to access, search, manage, and exploit for learners, teachers and other users through the creation of notes, bookmarks, tags, links, images and text captions synchronised to any part of the recording. Although the new version of Synote is now available this short demo of the previous version is still useful to get a quick overview of what Synote can do. Synote won the EUNIS Dørup E-learning Award 2009.


Success Factors


What are the key outcomes of the initiative?


The key tangible outcome is a DVD of video interviews with practitioners talking about their use of an e-portfolio for Continuing Professional Development (CPD) of staff. The DVD was made available for distribution across the HE sector including the Emerge community and attendees at the Flourish/e-PIP workshop of 2009.


The practitioners featured on the video interviews are drawn from HE institutions across the UK:


  • Susi Peacock at Queen Margaret's University, Edinburgh
  • Phil Vincent at York St John's University
  • Neil Currant at Bradford University
  • David Eddy at Sheffield Hallam University


The video case studies conducted demonstrate a broad view of the use of e-portfolios for CPD in higher education; viewers of the project outputs should be able to build an informed perspective of current use of e-portfolios for CPD based upon the collection of testimonies collected.


The video case studies have also been made available online.


An additional benefit of Blossom is that it has allowed Flourish room to reflect on its progress and impact internally and has also helped in the dissemination of work and findings to a wider audience.


What follow-up activity will be/has been carried out as a result of the project?


e-Portfolio use for CPD is not yet widespread across the Higher Education sector. Further work in this area investigating how e-portfolios are used would be of benefit to the HE sector. This project has provided a great insight into the use of e-portfolios for staff development and the video case studies go some way to highlighting current practices and innovations within selected Higher Education institutions of the use of e-portfolios for CPD. Application of lessons learned from Blossom is ongoing in future work on the use of e-portfolios for CPD.


Blossom has directly affected other project work at the University of Cumbria, particularly the Flourish work, and has impacted on many aspects of this, staff engagement, practical issues and staff training.


Future work for this project includes continuing the relationship with the partners involved in order to maintain contact and share useful advice and good practice.


In addition, it would be useful to have an up-to-date online area where practitioners and the other stakeholders could contribute or search for information about the current state of e-portfolio use for CPD across the sector. This is an emergent area with a need for professional bodies and practitioners to have good case studies to refer to when making their own decisions.


Video case studies will be available online for three years, hosted by the University of Cumbria's streaming media server. DVD copies are also available allowing for a longer term, durable and offline output of the project to be accessed.


Lessons Learned


What are the lessons learned from the project?


The project team felt that there was some room for some improvement in the approach taken.


  • The collation of questions was carried out by collecting responses from prospective interviews via email. This proved difficult to manage and would definitely have benefited had this process been facilitated by using a wiki for collaboration
  • Upon reflection there were things relating to the project's approach that could have been improved upon. Areas for improvement included the practical implementation and tools selected to a more methodical approach to interviewing technique


Further Resources


Blossom blog - https://portfolio.pebblepad.co.uk/cumbria/viewasset.aspx?oid=50341&type=webfolio