Legal Skills student feedback on “automatic creation of templates”

The aim of the widget of the Portfolio Templates widget was to ease and, where possible, to automate the creation of the portfolios. In fact the project bid sets out the aim like this:

Portfolio Template widget provides students with a clear framework within which to work in their portfolios by automatically creating the pages and templates required when selecting a Portfolio option. The structure of these frameworks would be pre-determined by tutors or others.

Later, the core project team at the time (Maria, Karsten and me) created scoping documents that articulated the purposes of the widgets more clearly in terms of instructors and users. The e-Portfolio Templates widget was described thus:

Instructors Students
Benefits of the Templates widget Instructors can specify a pre-existing structure for students to use in their e-portfolios, outlining required templates or pages and putting these templates or pages in a particular order. Students can select a structure to load their e-portfolio with all the pages they need or that are required of them.

So, what did the students say about using the tool?

Of the evaluation forms we received (165 in total, across the 7 workshops we ran in October), all seemed to unanimously agreed that the tool made setting up the required e-portfolios easy, simple or likeable. As one student said of the e-portfolio:

“Easy since it builds itself.” (q1, E11)

One commented that the e-portfolio was time-saving, despite not having seen how one would create the e-portfolio without the widget:

“I liked the fact that everything was on the system therefore saving us time.” (q2, D23)

The widget not only saved time then but also did so demonstrably, even to those without knowledge of how long the process took previously (anything upward of 45 minutes). This may have been down to the fact that the screen that shows while the templates are being loaded says the process will only take a few moments — and generally delivers on that promise. The student is also notified as each template is added. One has to wonder if they would feel it was as time-saving, had the loading screen simply told them to wait.

These facts may have helped make the portfolio more likeable, as seen in the two comments below:

“Didn’t have any issues, liked the fact that it built the portfolio subheadings for us.” (q2, B4)

“I like the fact that the tables are already in the portfolio. Also, I had no problems.” (q2, F4)

Note in that last quote that the student doesn’t even seemed think of the automated addition of templates as a process he had to wait through — they are simple “already” there.

Other feedback suggested that students may have some familiarity with cumbersome tools or arduous tasks in which they are asked to set up everything from scratch:

“I liked the fact it was automatic — I didn’t have to make each element by myself.” (q2, G22)

This point is an important one to bear in mind when we come see the students’ feelings about using electronic portfolios as opposed to paper-based ones (to appear in a future post soon).

A couple of complaints about the automated creation of templates feature did creep into the feedback.

“It was easy to follow, and most of the parts were already set up. However, it is not easy to find in Blackboard.” (q2, B6)

“PRO It was simple to set up. CON One of the section in the career portfolio didn’t load.” (q2, E16)

The problems with finding of the tool in Blackboard may have been down to the students’ general lack of familiarity with Blackboard and the fact that it was embedded within a course (which they would anyway have needed to access to get to relevant resources). The section of the career portfolio that didn’t load was identified as a technical glitch in the workshop itself and I then helped the student recreate the portfolio properly.

Largely though, and as witnessed by members of staff present at the workshops:

“It was just a breeze.” (q1, F5)

I will publish my next post on what students thought of the prompts that are supposed to guide them through creating their e-portfolios. It should be available from 4pm next Monday (30th).

About Guy

I am currently Enhancement Officer (for Education Technologies) at the University of Reading. I am also studying for a Masters in Research at the University's School of Systems Engineering.
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