Case Study: Using PebblePad to boost employability

Background

Work Based Learning and Volunteering has been a key feature of the Criminology/Policing Programmes within Plymouth Law School for a number of years. One of the key aims of the School, and the University, is boosting the employability of its learners. Consequently, in 2014 the Volunteering in a Policing or Criminal Justice Setting module was made available to Stage 2 learners, many of whom were seeking a career in the police service. This module aims to enable learners to enhance their personal development through practical work experience in a voluntary placement within a local criminal justice-related agency. Consequently, provide the opportunity to develop and enhance lifelong employability skills and capabilities. Clearly Pebblepad could play a key role as a platform to record, develop and evidence these skills being available to learners ‘free for life.’

Past experience and previous research (Richards, 2011) provided insights into some of the characteristics of learners; their attitude towards unfamiliar technology in particular, which can impact on the outcomes of the module and engagement with Pebblepad:

  • Learners’ lack of experience and confidence in using reflective practice and experiential learning in their personal development, including the use of action plans now so common in many professions.
  • A tendency for learners to overestimate their key skills (particularly technology), knowledge, experience and behaviours, and often have insufficient or undeveloped evidence ready for future job applications

What we did

The main challenge was to design an ePortfolio template which would provide resources for learners that would have utility both within academic assessments and personal development underpinning their lifelong employability. This also allowed focusing on the needs of particular job roles. There was also a unique opportunity to engage employers and learners in a collaborative process.

The content included workbooks for enhanced self-diagnostics through skills audits focusing on the actual evidence of skills/attributes employers are seeking. This informed self-directed personal and professional learning (planning, reflection, managing, evidencing and showcasing) through the learners volunteering experience. Specific workbooks including reflection sheets were provided to record this experience in a format prepared for future use in job applications focusing on the particular skills and attributes required.

Student Feedback

Some of the learners developed so much enthusiasm for the ePortfolio that they have volunteered to be ePortfolio buddies for future learners to complement and boost the University’s IT teaching resources. The success of the project and the identified utility of the unique learning ‘space’ have meant the evolution of new ePortfolios for all Stage 1 learners from both Criminology and Policing Programmes and potentially the Master's Programme.


Lessons learned

The key lessons learnt are:

·       The importance of learner engagement from the beginning, in particular inviting volunteers to collaborate in the development and design of resources to ensure that they are specific to their needs and easy to use.

·       The need to avoid assumptions that learners will engage with a new digital platform just because it’s there. Having some true advocates to build and sustain engagement of the whole cohort is essential.

·       The importance of true partnership between academic staff and learning technologists to develop a collaboration based on trust, enthusiasm and a passion for innovation. Regular meetings and contact were crucial to success


Future work / plans


●     Align and integrate further with the Plymouth Compass portfolios

●     Collaborate with Academics involved in Induction to foster a positive first impression of the usefulness of the Pebblepad platform

●     Include a 'me in a minute' video as an opening page