Transformative eLearning and Portfolio Careers in Higher Education

Transformative eLearning and Portfolio Careers in Higher Education

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-6956-6.ch013
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Distance learning has become a mainstream reality with the disruptive impact of the global pandemic COVID-19, pivoting to online delivery of learning across all sectors of teaching and learning. Within work-integrated learning (WIL) contexts, the digital storytelling program outlined in this chapter provides transformative and immersive digital workplace contexts and narratives to position student projects as professional work-oriented learning. The value of using a digital storytelling strategy is its capacity to give learners agency in skills acquisition and personal growth, preparing graduates for curating their stories across lifelong change and uncertainty. This chapter has positioned the digital narratives of work-oriented learning as contexts for learners to develop portfolio career mindsets best suited to a future world of work. This mindset will lead graduates to the concept of a portfolio career which is adaptable to disruptive change and flexible in transferring skills and knowledge across a range of positions and tasks.
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With the impact of a global pandemic and resulting disruptive uncertainties, there is a dramatic acceleration in the need to recognize responsive approaches to transformative eLearning. Universities have been forced to reconsider, for instance, how work-integrated learning (WIL) can be enacted through an eLearning environment to develop graduates responsive to constant change. This chapter explores a transformative approach via a digital environment of networked scenarios encouraging career narratives that integrate WIL into a portfolio career mindset.

The disruption to WIL caused by the pandemic was immediate in Australia, identifying ‘a significant disruption with a drop in WIL placements across the country’ (Kay, McCrae and Russell, 2020, p. 439) as institutions attempted to pivot to WIL online. The Australian Collaborative Education Network (ACEN) 2020 report indicates that the COVID-19 pandemic has increased awareness of WIL opportunities, particularly the development of ‘alternative and innovative approaches to WIL and the use and integration of virtual and online experiences’ (2020, p. 1). As one of the results of the eLearning pivot during the pandemic, WIL was required to enlarge its focus from graduate employability towards ‘values clarification, the development of capabilities that lead to adaptability and resilience and a more in tuned [sic] awareness of the needs of the world’ (Kay et al., 2020, p. 501). These WIL findings highlight the need to review transformative eLearning and WIL experiences from the point of view of contemporary graduates establishing their careers during ongoing disruptions.

The pandemic of 2020 has highlighted disruption and change within Higher Education and resulting digital responses to that disruption. An additional complexity has been the direction of many professional and generic degrees in the arts and humanities towards endorsing a work-integrated learning approach to enhance graduate learning outcomes and career development. Within the terms of a pandemic, internship and study abroad options have been curtailed, and offered in digital formats which require greater flexibility in identifying what is required as a workplace experience.

This chapter will look closely at transformative eLearning based in and arising from experiential learning principles and philosophy, as a process for developing immersive digital narratives mirroring authentic workplace experiences. The growth in work-based learning and WIL professional areas of training and education, and the debates related to them, has strong alignment with contemporary experiential learning as seen through a Deweyan lens. The early twentieth century pragmatic educational philosopher John Dewey identifies experience in education as largely a practical and active engagement with problems. Dewey (1916) talks of education as the ‘reconstruction or reorganisation of experience which adds to the meaning of experience, and which increases ability to direct the course of subsequent experience’ (p. 76). This somewhat reiterative process of growth arises from interaction with the natural environment – other people, social communities, the world around the learner. As the Dewey scholar Pring (2007) states, growth arises from the ‘transformation or reconstruction of experience, self-realisation’ (p. 25). Critical theorists such as Dewey, further adds Kadlec (2011), are interested not so much to generate some form of final principle, but ‘to improve our capacity for tapping into the critical potential of lived experience in a world defined by flux and change’ (cited in Seaman and Nelson, 2011, p. 19). Experiential learning principles have informed the development of many problem-solving approaches to transformative experiences since Dewey’s considerations of education and experience. One such exploration of WIL problem-solving, the focus of this chapter, has centred on authentic digital work-oriented scenarios, networked into a story world which develops that practical Deweyan reconstruction of experience. This has become even more relevant as HE explores eLearning programs that deliver authentic WIL options.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Future World of Work: Adaptive and ever-changing approaches to working within the knowledge revolution.

Agency: An individual’s sense of control and faith in own ability.

Work-Integrated Learning (WIL): Process of transferring learning from disciplinary studies to relevant experiences and incorporating reflection on that learning.

Experiential Learning: Learning process which includes both action and reflection.

Digital Scenario or Storyworld: A creative and cohesive story experience across multiple traditional and digital delivery platforms.

Global Pandemic: Epidemic of an infectious disease crossing national borders and having world-wide social, economic, and political ramifications.

Authentic Learning: A learning approach that is active, self-directed and contextualized to real world situations.

Digital Curation: Process for selecting, maintaining, and archiving digital assets for present and future use.

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