It's all in the planning and preparation.
Successful eportfolio implementation is all in the planning and preparation. Over the past decade we have been involved in a great number of initiatives with a diverse range of organisations, and we've learned more than a thing or two about what works and what doesn’t when it comes to eportfolio implementation. In this blog post I'll bring together some of this learning and intersperse it with the latest insight and stories of success from some of our existing customers. If you're considering portfolio implementation, you can also download some useful free resources from our own implementation toolkit.
It is clear that factors such as a robust tool, good pedagogy, and skilled and enthusiastic staff are all very important, but even with these things in place, many implementations are unsuccessful in the long term. Why?? I believe success hinges on 4 factors; indeed the best eportfolio implementations are strategic, holistic, supported and have senior buy in With these four things in place, the hard work of the teaching and support staff on the ground has a fighting chance of being both successful and sustainable, and likely to translate into real outcomes for the organisation and all of its members. Let's have a look at these key factors in more detail ...
1. Senior buy-in.
The initial push for an eportfolio implementation often comes from the teachers within an organisation, as it should. The key to successful implementation is that the initiative is then adopted by senior management and it receives a genuine endorsement from up high.
A high-level decision to move forward with an eportfolio implementation must be accompanied by the following elements:
- A clearly articulated purpose behind the decision.
- A working party with representation from all stakeholders to lead and guide the implementation process.
- A consultative process for the selection of an appropriate platform.
2. A strategic plan for roll-out.
It is much better to start with great success on a smaller scale than moderate success at a larger scale. Generating positive, local use case examples is crucial to building momentum and growing successful use.
A strategic plan should consider the following:
- Priority areas – the purpose behind use should immediately suggest priority areas for use.
- Early adopters – who will receive support to be the first to implement?
- Targets – what is your timeline for implementation for at least the next three years?
- Process for ensuring quality rather than just quantity (for sustained growth it is essential that all use is good use).
3. A holistic approach.
Portfolios, by their very nature, are about life-wide and lifelong learning. Whether at a program, faculty and/or institution level, portfolio use needs to be embedded in all aspects of the learning journey.
The benefits of a holistic approach include:
- Maximising value for money – the more extensive the use of the tool, the better value it represents for the organisation and all of its users.
- Normalisation of the tool – the more extensive the use, the more the tool becomes part of the everyday learning and teaching environment.
- Easier to support – a tool that is used extensively is easier to resource and support.
4. Resources to support the troops on the ground.
Do not just buy the technology and hope for the best! Any technology implementation requires a support structure to be wrapped around it and eportfolios are no different. In fact, the transformative nature of eportfolio learning means that initial resource requirements are perhaps higher than with other new technologies. Ideally, the following should be in place:
- A technical team to support integrations with other systems.
- A pedagogical team to support teachers in their use of the tool.
- A central team to support central service initiatives.
- Plans for sustaining project resources.
The implementation toolkit
With the above factors in place the ‘real’ implementation planning can begin. Based on our extensive experience, and further validated by advice published by Jisc and the outputs of the Catalyst for Learning project, we have developed a dedicated Implementation Toolkit to guide this planning process. Through a series of workshops the representative working party can use the Toolkit to work on the following:
- Clarify project team roles and responsibilities
- Understand the product
- Vision and purpose for use – ensuring everyone is on the same page and using the same language
- Project plan – priorities, milestones and timelines
- Understanding the different users
The Toolkit also helps identify needs and processes for:
Pauline Porcaro recently used the Toolkit to develop an implementation plan for Swinburne University. See below for her feedback about the value of these resources. If you would like to know more, you can download your own free copy of the Toolkit. We hope you enjoy learning about our approach and if you need us to come into your organisation and help you line your ducks up (or even work out which ducks you need) we can do that too.
Uys, P. (2007). Enterprise-wide technological transformation in higher education: The LASO model.
International Journal of Educational Management, 21(3), 238-253.