Exploring the pedagogical value and challenges of using e-portfolios as a learning tool for nursing students: a single longitudinal qualitative case study with Activity Theory as an analytical framework

Ghallab, Eman (2017) Exploring the pedagogical value and challenges of using e-portfolios as a learning tool for nursing students: a single longitudinal qualitative case study with Activity Theory as an analytical framework. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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With the advances in technology and computers, e-portfolios replaced paper based portfolios in many higher education institutions and professions, including nursing (Skiba, 2005; Garrett and Jackson, 2006). They both have some overlapping benefits but the most important benefit of eportfolios over the paper based version lies in its potential for meaningful interaction and network structure (Butler, 2006). The existing literature, therefore, suggests that e-portfolios may have some added pedagogical value. Understanding this added value through research can provide valuable data for academic, clinical and administrative staff on how to implement and use e-portfolios effectively to support students’ learning. According to the literature review, there was a lack of a detailed and comprehensive study on benefits and challenges of using e-portfolios for nursing students. Hence, this study explored the pedagogical value of eportfolios and the contextual challenges that influenced its effectiveness as a learning tool from the perspective of the key stakeholders: students, tutors, and curriculum planners. The study used qualitative instrumental case study to collect data through initial and follow up interviews, online observation and document analysis. The data were collected for a period of 21 months. The participants in this study included 14 students, 11 tutors, and 6 curriculum planners. The study employed critical realism as philosophical approach and Activity Theory as a methodological and analytical framework.

This study contributes to the literature through being the first longitudinal empirical inquiry in nursing education that adopted Activity Theory to explore the pedagogical value of e-portfolios and the contradictions that may influence their perceived value from student and tutor perspectives. The findings of this study show that the e-portfolio allowed for a more student-centred approach to learning through providing these four affordances: (1) Fostering communication and interaction between the students and their peers and tutors. The findings indicated that the e-portfolio allowed for a flexible, instantaneous and ongoing online communication that helped the students to stay connected, seek feedback and support share their work, experiences, and any personal information with their tutors and raise their awareness of any issue they thought would have an impact on their learning and progress, at any time and from anywhere using their mobile devices. It also allowed them to create and participate in different online learning communities with their peers to exchange experiences and ideas, learn from and support each other. (2) Supporting formative assessment through facilitating formative feedback and self-assessment. The eportfolio offered the tutors unlimited and flexible access to any work shared by their students, and this enabled them to formatively assess their students’ performance and progress towards achieving the desired learning outcomes, spot more quickly those who were struggling and in need for remediation, and provide them with immediate and more personalized feedback specifically tailored to their needs. Moreover, the reflective nature of the e-portfolio and its structure encouraged continuous self-assessment through prompting the students to iteratively look back and reflect on their collection of evidence and experiences. This iterative process allowed them to develop a better understanding of their own strengths and weaknesses and engage in selfdevelopment, make connections between their seemingly disparate learning experiences, hence, see a comprehensive picture of their learning. (3) Scaffolding the reflective process. The findings indicated that e-portfolio, through its inbuilt structured reflective templates, acted as a scaffold for the students who were struggling with writing reflection. These templates were perceived to have made their attempts at reflection easier and stimulated them to think deeper about their experiences. Improvement in their reflective writing was noted by some tutors and students after using the templates for a considerable amount of time. (4) Allowing for multiple modes of presentation and self-expression. The multimedia capabilities of the e-portfolio allowed the students to present evidence of their learning and express their thoughts and feelings in variety of modes such as videos, images, audios, and texts. Creating and combining multimedia evidence and materials enabled for presenting a more realistic and authentic view of their experiences and integrating information from different sources to show the multifaceted nature of these experiences. Interestingly, being able to present learning and achievements in multiple modes encouraged the students to view the e-portfolio as a potential tool to apply for jobs after graduation.

With regard to the challenges and contradictions, mainly secondary contradictions emerged in the context in which the e-portfolio was used. The majority of these contradictions, for example, technical issues, the tutors’ perceived complexity and inefficiency of the e-portfolio system, the students’ underdeveloped digital literacy, and the limited access to computers on placements, have had a short term or less harmful effect on the use and the perceived value of the eportfolio. But, contradictions such as the mismatch that existed between the students’ expectations and the tutors’ perception of the frequency and adequacy of feedback that needed to be given in the e-portfolio appears to have had a more detrimental effect on the students’ motivation to use the e-portfolio.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Wharrad, H.J.
Windle, R.
Keywords: Activity Theory; Eportfolios; Nursing portfolios; Nursing education; Nursing students
Subjects: W Medicine and related subjects (NLM Classification) > WY Nursing
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences > School of Health Sciences
Item ID: 48373
Depositing User: Ghallab, Eman
Date Deposited: 23 Apr 2018 12:14
Last Modified: 07 Feb 2019 17:46
URI: https://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/id/eprint/48373

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