In Higher Education we have been directed by the Government to facilitate students keeping records of achievement that can be carried throughout their lifetime. The imperative for the development of a progress file, or Personal Development Plan (PDP) originated in the Dearing Report (1997) and was followed up by the Burgess Report (2007), amongst many others. The PDP should give a comprehensive picture of an individual’s attainments and experiences for presentation to potential employers or other external audiences. Plymouth University uses ‘PebblePad’, a web-based e-portfolio system, to underpin, develop and collate a range of PDP activities and for students to document their achievements.
Personal Development Planning (PDP) is a structured and supported process enabling students to reflect on their learning and plan their development. The QAA’s ‘Personal Development Planning: Guidance for institutional policy and practice in Higher Education (2009) document advises that PDP must be considered in the design of programmes. PebblePad contains a range of PDP tools including action plans, CVs and the ability to create an e-portfolio, and is available to all University staff and students. To access your own personal (and private) account go to http://e-portfolio.plymouth.ac.uk and log in with your usual University username and password. You can also download ‘Overviews’, ‘Getting Started’ and ‘Quick Reference’ guides from this e-portfolio log-in page.
PebblePad can be used to support students’ PDP throughout their programme. For example, you could ask new students to create a personal statement in the ‘About Me’ section in order to introduce themselves to others as an ice-breaking exercise. This section also feeds into a CV building tool, allowing students to easily link evidence of abilities and experiences. Or encourage them to create an action plan, complete with a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis at the beginning of a module, which they could then add a reflection on later in the course. Project work could be documented through keeping a blog, with others commenting on progress or offering ideas. Alternatively gather feedback about students’ understanding of a particular aspect of your teaching through composing your own feedback form.
While each user’s PebblePad account is entirely private, assets can be easily shared with others for collaboration. There are a number of ways to do this. Assets can be shared with named individuals, who don’t necessarily have to have a PebblePad account themselves. Or you can send an asset to the web, where you’ll be given a unique web address to share as you wish. For large groups of students you may wish to set up a gateway, which can be used as an online submission system with the ability for you to mark, grade and give feedback, or to simply disperse information.
As PDP encompasses formal, informal and co-curriculum activities such as volunteering, students can use PebblePad to collect a wide range of experiences from all aspects of their lives. These can then be arranged into a webfolio – a digital portfolio that can also include photos (you can upload directly from a Flickr account) and video, therefore allowing students to create a rich and detailed resource about themselves to impress future employers! myBrand (resources to help manage digital identity) is an example of a webfolio.
Patrick McMahon (TESOL Programme Manager) and Helen Bowstead (TESOL Lecturer) kindly agreed to talk about their experiences using PebblePad with their students.
Your e-Portfolio on Your Mobile
There are now several ways to access your e-Portfolio via your smartphone.
If you are an iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad user you can download the Official PebblePad app via the Apple App Store (note: a charge may apply for the purchase of the app).
Access through to the web version can also be found in the Official Mobile with Plymouth University app, which can be downloaded for FREE at the Apple App Store for iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad, Google Play for Android devices and Blackberry World for Blackberry handsets.