Can e-Portfolios assist students' learning in the work place? Exploring students' demonstration of their professional work experience through e-Portfolios in the Construction Management and Nursing disciplines
E-portfolios have increasingly come to the fore as a means to enhance students’ learning, and in particular, to enhance work integrated learning. Nevertheless, literature often warns of putting too much emphasis on these online technologies as the answer for improving students’ learning experiences. Professional bodies in Australia require nursing and construction management university students to engage in practical/clinical placement experiences, such as working on construction sites and in clinical settings, as a requisite component of the undergraduate degree. This paper explores whether e-portfolios have a role to play in documenting and demonstrating the skills gained from work integrated learning experiences in relation to students’ undergraduate studies. A recently awarded Australian Learning and Teaching Council project entitled ‘Facilitating work integrated learning through skills-enabled e-portfolios in the construction management and nursing disciplines’ conducted at the University of Newcastle, Australia, is investigating work integrated learning and assessment in the two disciplines. Students in these disciplines are required to complete periods of industrial/clinical experience. The project’s main aim is to develop a learning framework that will showcase to students how their university courses relate to each other and how the skills and competencies they acquire on campus and off campus (during work integrated learning experiences) can be integrated to enable them to graduate as qualified professionals. A component of the project aims to explore whether eportfolio platforms and e-learning technologies can both facilitate and support students’ learning and engagement with their work integrated learning. Derived from the outcomes of the project’s initial phase, this paper presents the development of a learning framework that encourages reflective learning during work based activities. It then explains how this framework can be incorporated in e-portfolios. The framework may be embedded into different e-portfolio platforms and used as a reflective tool assisting students to link the knowledge gained from their placement/industrial experiences with the theoretical concepts learnt at university. Potentially, students could use their e-portfolio following graduation to demonstrate the acquisition of professional skills relevant to their respective fields. Further, data gathered on students’ responses to the use of e-portfolios will be taken into account to illustrate the advantages and disadvantages of using e-portfolios for work integrated learning.