Random stuff from Simon Cotterill !

We have a paper published in a special issue of the International Journal of Clinical Skills:

Cotterill S, Horner P, Teasdale D, Ellis J, Thomason JM, Vernazza C, Bradley PM, Peterson J, Skelly G, Ball S. Effective embedding and integration of ePortfolios in medical and dental curricula. IJOCS. 2011; (5): 18-23.

The paper identifies different ways in which ePortfolios can be embedded and integrated with the curriculum. This is important because embedding and integration can be a key factor in the level of engagement with portfolios. The paper draws on the wider literature and on specific case studies from undergraduate medicine and dentistry at Newcastle. It also included early evaluation of Dynamic Learning Maps, which provides a new approach for embedding portfolio learning within online curriculum maps.


David Kernohan of JISC writes about online distance learning: “To me, one of the enormous surprises regarding the Browne review of Higher Education funding was the complete absence of any mention of online or blended delivery.”

To that I’d add; the experience in the Netherlands when student fees increased was a dramatic increase in applications to their Open University. This was driven by younger applicants, where previously distance learning had been predominantly mature students / work based learners.

It is fairly safe to predict that as UK student fees increase more young people will likewise opt for cheaper distance learning, rather than traditional campus-based HE. Even, the more surprising that distance learning isn’t addressed in the Browne report.

English students might find distance learning cheaper than studying in Scotland or Wales, and definitely England 😉

The Quality Assurance Agency for HE (QAA) have began Consultation on the Academic Infrastructure. The proposal is for the existing infrastructure is to be restructured as a Code of Practice for standards, quality and enhancement. The deadline to respond to the consultation is 1st March 2011.

The part of the proposal that is most relevant to e-learning is the new section (B3) ‘Guidance for learning and teaching as relating to issues of quality and enhancement (including
e-learning, learning and teaching strategies, staff development and supporting innovative practice)’.

In relation to ePortfolios: The QAA
Personal Development Planning: Guidance for institutional policy and practice (2009) are given as an example of the type of guidance that would be referred to in this new section (B3).

In my mind these PDP guidelines aren’t substantially different to the earlier 2001 PDP recommendations. However, their inclusion in this consultation document signals the ongoing commitment to PDP and its likely inclusion in QA institutional audit.

NARN Publication

We have a new publication published in the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. This was a special issue of the journal incorporating studies from 16 HEIs produced as part of the National Action Research Network on Researching and Evaluating Personal Development Planning and e-Portfolio Practice (NARN). NARN was funded through the HE Academy NTFS scheme, with the aim of advancing our understanding of ePortfolios, personal tutoring and PDP pedagogies.

Our study in Newcastle investigated the use of blogs to support community dialogue, reflection and evidencing in education. Pedagogy and technologies were refined over a 3 year period and the blogs are now embedded in the PGCE programs. This also built on our previous JISC work and the blog, linked to structured outcomes, was used to update other portfolios in 2009/10, where students can now link blog entries to evidence multiple skills as part of their appraisal processes.

NARN was useful in furthering my understanding and practice of Action Research. Much of what we do with new technologies loosely falls into this category; where as practitioners we are often adjusting both pedagogy and technology in response to evaluation feedback (in this case focus groups, interviews, questionnaires and informal feedback). Action research suits this immature /fluid development stage in which the researcher is also a participant, whilst more structured and ‘independent’ research is more appropriate for the later, more mature implementation stage. The NARN community provided constructive criticism and a useful sounding board for new ideas at regional and national meetings. Publishing 16 studies was a big achievement for NARN, especially with many of us writing the papers mostly outside of the ‘day job’!

Further details about NARN

Cotterill SJ, Lowing K, Cain K, Lofthouse R, et al. Blogs and e-Portfolios: can they support reflection, evidencing and dialogue in teacher training. Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education, 2, 2010.

Our final report for the ‘North of England XCRI Testbed’ (NEXT) project is now available at:

This was one of a number of JISC funded projects taking forward the XCRI specification for the eXchange of Course Related Information.

The XCRI specification is becoming an increasingly important way of sharing and advertising course information. It is a step forward in supporting more flexible education, including multiple provider scenarios.

European Journal of Dental Education

At last our consensus paper on Dental ePortfolios has been published in Novembers issue of the European Journal of Dental Education. This was coauthored with Janice Ellis, David Teasdale, and Mark Thomason.

The paper followed a national consensus meeting organised with CETL4HealthNE, which involved representatives from Dental Schools around the UK. There is currently diverse practice in portfolios and clinical logbooks around different Dental schools, many have institutional ePortfolios but also use separate paper-based log books. The article is part of a process of trying to establish more consistency across Dental Schools, which would benefit learners, particularly when they make the transition from undergraduate into vocational training.

We have a long-standing collaboration with The School of Dental Sciences, where our ePortfolio and clinical logbook are embedded in clinical learning and assessment. The portfolio is used at the point of learning in clinics, where it supports assessment with instant feedback, as well as facilitating reflective learning. A key advantage of the Web-based system over paper is that summaries of grades, procedures are always up to date and readily accessible through the ePortfolio. The Dental portfolio received a commendation in the recent internal subject review. We also host the Dental portfolio for St Mary’s University of London. The reference for the paper is:

Ellis JS, Teasdale D, Cotterill SJ, Thomason JM. Is a generic UK e-portfolio for dentistry desirable and achievable? Eur J Dent Educ 2010; 14:254-6