Unravelling the what and the why of PebblePad.

by Richard Dando


Unravelling the what and the why of PebblePad.

~ Platform and Pedagogy ~

MARCH 16th 2021· by Richard Dando


If you’ve been keeping an eye on the adventures of Team PebblePad over recent times, you’ll already know that we’ve been experiencing a period of extraordinary growth and our mission to help universities transform the learning journey continues to gather momentum. Over the past six months we’ve seen a raft of talent join the business, including Chief Revenue Officer Kenny Nicholl. We’ve also been thrilled – and more than a little proud – to welcome new partner organisations into the PebblePad Community, including latest arrival, Deakin University

It’s unquestionably an exciting time to be a PebblePaddler. However, when it’s all forward momentum it’s easy to become preoccupied with future-gazing at the expense of taking stock of where you’ve been. We’ve recently undertaken a transformation of our website, an activity which prompted a moment to pause and reflect on where we’ve travelled from and an opportunity to look at why we are seeing PebblePad - and the pedagogies we’ve been advocating since 2004 - rapidly transitioning from the university nice-to-have to the must-have list.

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PebblePad is used in so many beautifully creative ways that even after 17 years I still stumble when trying to describe it succinctly.


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Not just an eportfolio (or even a Swiss Army Knife) 

For many years we described PebblePad as ‘not just an eportfolio.’ We’re often asked if PebblePad is ‘like’: an eportfolio? A VLE/LMS? A system for recording competence? An assessment engine?  PebblePad is probably a little like parts of each of those things, but none of those comparisons are accurate. Historically, our uniqueness has been both our greatest asset and our greatest challenge, at least from a perspective of coming up with a succinct response to the question “What is PebblePad?”

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A 'What is PebblePad?' Presentation from 2012.

Furthermore, when your customers fondly refer to your platform as the Swiss Army Knife for Learning and Teaching - and you begin to consider all the practices your platform supports, both on and off-campus, from application to graduation – it makes summing up the ‘what it is’ in a pedagogical nutshell a little challenging. But perhaps this is not the right question to be asking … the fact remains that there was/is nothing quite like PebblePad, so perhaps trying to define it by comparing it to something else is always going to be an exercise in futility.

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A 'What is PebblePad?' Presentation from 2014
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But what does it do?

Asking what PebblePad does (rather than what it is) - and the types of teaching, learning and assessment activity it supports - is probably a far more useful question, and one that you don’t just have to take our word for – we’ve hundreds of examples of practice from our partner organisations that demonstrate the real impact PebblePad has made to learner engagement and success and, more importantly, how that impact has been realised.

PebblePad is first and foremost about enabling student-centred pedagogies and experiential learning initiatives, and while no two customers use PebblePad quite the same way, there are commonalities that illustrate how PebblePad makes that real difference to student success. Universities around the globe use PebblePad to bolster their institution-wide capacity for supporting learning activity on and off campus - in any context, at any scale, from application to graduation. In a nutshell, PebblePad is used to:

  • Scaffold Successful Learning Journeys
  • Nurture Wellbeing and Engagement
  • Assess and Feedback on Learners' Experiences
  • Help Learners Share and Showcase Success

For students, this means practically a system that supports them in planning for their learning; recording and reflecting on their experiences; and to collect, curate, share and showcase evidence of their evolving capabilities. And this, across their entire learning journey, at every stage and in every context.

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A 'What is PebblePad?' presentation from 2021

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Transforming the learning journey

As PebblePad races towards its 20th birthday, our growing success has necessitated a pause – it’s made us stop and critically analyse why more and more universities are buying into what we do. And so, we’ve refined and honed our definition of what PebblePad does. And here it is in its simplest form …

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We help universities transform the learning journey, delivering unrivalled capability when it comes to student-centred learning, scaffolding end-to-end learning journeys that make a real difference to student success.


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It’s a statement we are confident in, supported by the varied and truly creative use to support learning by an increasing number of partners in a variety of contexts. When we reflected on how PebblePad is being used at an institution-wide level with partners like Griffith University, the University of Birmingham, Leeds University and Deakin University, any concerns that we may have over-egged the PebblePad pudding dissipated.  

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A uniqueness that is becoming increasingly relevant 

While our definition of what PebblePad is may be newly crafted, the constituent parts of the messaging, just like our platform philosophy, retain many of the characteristics from when PebblePad was a fledging eportfolio platform. In this respect, our new messaging is all about refinement, not reinvention, and the things that have always differentiated PebblePad, still hold true (we’re now just much better at articulating them). Yes, we are, of course, evolving, we’re getting better at what we do, but we’re not modifying our raison d’être. Because it’s clear that what we do - and what we've always stood for and what has made us unique - is becoming increasingly relevant in an evolving higher education landscape.

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Richard is PebblePad's Head of Brand & Communications and joined Team PebblePad as a consultant in 2012 after working in a range of L&D roles in the charity and technology sector. On any given day you're likely to find Richard with a sketch pad and more coloured pens than you can wave a stick at, leading on all things creative and strategic on the communications and brand front. Richard is super passionate about all things PebblePad, and spreading the word about PebblePad and the amazing things it can do really has become his technology baby. Outside of work, he’s the proud dad of two happy, human children.