ePortfolio as a Tool to Support Competency Development in Hybrid Learning

ePortfolio as a Tool to Support Competency Development in Hybrid Learning

Satu-Maarit Frangou (University of Lapland, Finland) and Pigga Keskitalo (University of Lapland, Finland)
Copyright: © 2021 |Pages: 19
DOI: 10.4018/IJAET.2021070102
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Abstract

This article presents a research-based study of the role of ePortfolios in the development of vocational students' skills. The authors discuss the process of finding a hybrid learning solution that can address the issues faced by vocational teachers and their students. The authors report on a case study using educational design research (EDR) at the Sámi Education Institute in northern Finland. Data were gathered from students in reindeer herding entrepreneurship and nature guide study programs using interviews, focus group discussions, and the feedback collected from workshops. Based on the findings of the initial workshops, ePortfolios were chosen as a tool for students to develop their vocational proficiency and showcase their academic activities. According to the feedback, ePortfolios potentially promote meaningful vocational study, particularly in the context of changing conditions when the student is far away from campus. The successful use of ePortfolios requires cooperation between students and teachers and commitment to support changes in the learning culture.
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Introduction

Ongoing changes in society and how people work call for new ways to connect academia with professional life, as per the objective of Finland’s vocational education reform (Ministry of Education and Culture, 2018). Hence, new methods are required for vocational education and training (VET) to promote the skills and aptitude needed for professional life through workplace-based learning. ePortfolios can provide a valuable tool for showcasing a student’s formal and informal learning not only to others, but also as a personal endeavor. These platforms assemble an electronic collection of a student’s achievements, such as photographs, videos, and academic journals. Furthermore, they contain observations from the students’ scholarly journey and professional development, as well as feedback from teachers and peers (Barrett, 2010; Poole et al., 2018).

The current study is based on educational design research (EDR) (McKenney & Reeves, 2018), by which the authors seek to find solutions to a variety of pedagogical challenges. In the present article, the challenge was to find a way for students in reindeer herding entrepreneurship and nature guide study programs to showcase their professional development and proficiency during practical work placements, which, in most cases, were held a long distance away from campus. Here, hybrid learning means combining face-to-face teaching with synchronous and asynchronous online learning so that students can participate from remote areas through a flexible learning experience that can be enhanced with practical assignments and by continuously changing work placements (Dana & Light, 2011; Joks, 2007; Magga et al., 2009; Sámi Education Institute, 2020). For hybrid learning contexts, ePortfolios can function as a hybrid learning arena (Lahn & Nore, 2018). The use of digital devices is commonplace in working life and constantly increasing in use among reindeer herders and nature guides. Professional training for these roles can be assisted and enhanced with digital technologies because they support students with distance learning and practical training away from campus (Lempinen, 2014), here according to study program plans. At the same time, they have the potential to connect studies with vocational work.

In the present paper, ePortfolios are discussed as a digital solution to support skills development in vocational education. In Finland, research on the state of digitalization in this field is limited (Koramo et al., 2018, p. 13). To bridge the literature gap, the following research questions serve to highlight the benefit of EDR:

  • 1.

    How do students and teachers justify the need for change in the learning culture?

  • 2.

    What key themes support hybrid learning?

  • 3.

    How can ePortfolios support hybrid learning and showcase skills development?

The current issue of professional development in skills-based vocational education is addressed by developing a tool for students to recognize and display their developing skills. The current study expands on the idea of proficiency and what ePortfolios mean practically as a learning tool for learning institutions.

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