Hey there, fellow exhausted souls!
Can you believe it? We’re finally coming towards the end of the academic year, and boy, has it been a fun ride! Our WiseFlow pilot has gone from strength to strength as we support academics through a new assessment process. More importantly, we have successfully run two separate assessments using our innovative approach of using WiseFlow as a reflective portfolio – the first use case of this we know about! We’ve grown, learned, and potentially discovered an exciting prospect for the future of reflective portfolios at Portsmouth University, so let’s take a moment to reflect on the journey we’ve been on.
You may have read our previous blog post on “Unlocking the power of WiseFlow: Transforming ePortfolio assessments” where we discussed the possibilities of using WiseFlow as a viable reflective portfolio platform and the benefits a reflective portfolio approach brings. For students, this helps develop their metacognitive skills and self-awareness as learners over a period of time. Academics, on the other hand, can use reflective portfolios to assess students’ learning outcomes in a more comprehensive and authentic manner. This is all part of our wider WiseFlow pilot to provide one integrated assessment platform that serves our current (and future) assessment needs within Portsmouth University, which Mike Wilson spoke to us about recently on our podcast – you can listen here.
Teach Well and Research-Informed Teaching
This year we ran two reflective portfolios within WiseFlow as part of our pilot project – to test the water and find out if this was even possible. The first was within our Researched Informed Teaching module, which supports early career academics to apply their learning in educational enhancements into their own contexts, through reflection and innovation. Students will draw together higher education policy, research methods and educational developments to build students knowledge for their future work. Secondly, we ran a reflective portfolio in our new level seven Teach Well: Principles to Practice module, which is a professional development route for those in roles related to supporting student learning. Students in this module embark on a pedagogical journey through three pillars of practice for teaching well in higher education, gaining the confidence to critically evaluate learning and design approaches and reflecting on what it means to teach well across different modes of study. We recently caught up with Maria Hutchinson who runs this module in our podcast series, if you missed this one, you can listen here.
We’ve worked closely with these academics and our support teams to develop reflective portfolios for these modules that can be used as a summative assessment vehicle which is both intuitive for learners and versatile enough to encompass a broad range of tools which enable the course learning outcomes to be demonstrated in an engaging and meaningful way.
What the students said…
Following the submission of reflective portfolios into WiseFlow, we sent out a survey to participants to gain their feedback and views. Some of the headline figures are detailed below…
- 90% of students found the WiseFlow reflective portfolio easy to navigate
- 90% of students agreed that a reflective portfolio suited this type of assessment (compared with traditional essay-based assessment methods)
- 82% of students felt their own students would enjoy using a reflective portfolio in WiseFlow
- 71% of students enjoyed the interactive assessment methods, such as histograms, voice recorders etc.
- We received multiple comments about the clear instructions that were given on how to access and use Wiseflow as well as its reliability and stability as a platform. Many users also commented positively on the functionality that WiseFlow offered compared to previously used portfolio solutions.
Students also commented on…
- If there was a need to add another system to Portsmouth University’s available assessment platforms – “There are too many platforms for submitting the work, Moodle, ePortfolio, WiseFlow, it is really confusing and frustrating that is necessary to learn how to use different platforms for different modules.”
- The lack of formatting transfer from applications such as Word, when copying and pasting into WiseFlow – “Transfer of formatted MS Word document to WiseFlow could be improved. Currently, the document format is lost during the cut & paste process which then requires more effort to re-format within the WiseFlow portal.”
- Better integration with Moodle and WiseFlow – “I’d like to see direct access from Moodle”.
The data presented highlights the positive reception of WiseFlow as a reflective portfolio solution by students. The high percentage of students that recognized the suitability of a reflective portfolio as an assessment method, in comparison to traditional essay-based approaches and praised its usability is a really positive sign. The positive feedback on the interactive assessment methods further emphasizes the adaptability of the question bank in a traditional FlowMulti assessment to be used in an innovative way.
However, some concerns were raised by students, such as the frustration of managing multiple assessment platforms at the university, indicating a need for better integration. This all links to our Digital Success Plan to (re)design robust assessments to meet the needs of the diverse student population within a blended and connected setting and incorporate a robust specialist end-to-end assessment platform. Our aims in the project were to make it easier for academics to design assessments, easier for students to find their assessments and feedback, and support staff by reducing the manual workaround assessments for academics. During the next stage of the pilot project, integration into our current systems is a top priority and will alleviate these challenges. Furthermore, the lack of formatting transfer from applications like Word to WiseFlow was highlighted as an area for improvement. These critical comments provide valuable insights for further refining and optimizing the WiseFlow system.
The evidence is clear to see – WiseFlow has the ability to provide a viable solution to reflective portfolios, with a bit of refinement – it could be excellent.
What the staff said…
It was also vital to us that we gathered feedback from our academic staff.
- 100% of staff agreed that WiseFlow allowed them to develop their assessment in ways that were not previously possible
- All staff agreed the WiseFlow reflective portfolio allowed them to fully cover learning objectives and meet the needs of their students
- We received multiple comments about the speed of the platform, intuitive nature and search functionality which made the verification/moderation process seamless. Staff also commended the accuracy of the rubrics for grading and how new interactive elements made them rethink how they could better use this type of functionality in the future.
Staff also commented on…
- Comparisons to previously used portfolio platforms – “Historically the module used [another portfolio system] which was really clunky and didn’t work well at all. I really liked that Wiseflow could be scrolled across (as opposed to clicking through each page) and the layout was great”
- Design elements within the marking interface – “It would have been useful to have had the comment box movable (I work with two screens and being able to drag the box to another screen to write on would have been a nice touch – several times I had to keep opening and closing the box as I wasn’t able to see the text underneath it)”
- Having more time to explore the platform – “I did not feel I had enough time to play before it went live for students, but this was not WISEflow’s fault – it was just timing”.
As an honest answer, we’ve been blown away by our staff feedback. The unanimous agreement that WiseFlow enables new possibilities for assessment development speaks very highly of this solution and its potential in enhancing the teaching and learning experience for students at Portsmouth University. The potential to create authentic assessments through the use of reflective portfolios is exciting. The accuracy of the grading rubrics was also very highly commended – allowing students to have a greater chance of achieving a clear and defined target and making academic decision-making easier, fairer and more accurate. In terms of developmental areas, the movement of the comment box is a fair point – we’ve heard from other academics about the size of the comment box before – hopefully, something that WiseFlow’s New Marker Journey will alleviate.
Where do we go from here?
As we raised in our first blog post – the reflective portfolio solution in WiseFlow is far from perfect, with a few simple tweaks the solution could become very appealing. Sadly, some of these are out of our hands and lie within the code of the platform. We’ve learnt a lot during the duration of this assessment as a project team, including developmental areas we have highlighted for the future.
The single biggest limiting factor when using a reflective portfolio is when using a file upload question type. This is limited to twelve files that are no more than 10Mb each – multiple file upload questions can be used, but will still have limits on them. We have approached WiseFlow about this for development purposes, however, we have yet to have any significant movement on removing this limit. The removal of this limit puts WiseFlow in an incredibly powerful position to offer another “string to their bow” in terms of assessment choice and would truly open up the use of reflective portfolios within the platform. Sadly, with this limit in place, using reflective portfolios with some faculties such as our Creative and Cultural Industry, where students would regularly upload large .psd, CAD files, HD video, and high-quality audio etc) is just not a viable option. Creative students will often build a “portfolio career” and we would love to be able to work with them on developing reflective portfolios, but this limit stops us. Until this is removed, careful consideration must be taken at the planning stage of an assessment as to whether the reflective portfolio is the correct solution. Further to this, other limitations must be considered – for example, once the reflective portfolio is live for students to complete, it cannot be altered, changed or adapted. During the pilot, we’ve worked extensively with academics and our support teams to iron out any issues prior to release. Careful planning and consideration must take place in the authoring phase of an assignment, which will then be rigorously checked prior to release – in the same way an exam would. This has worked at a small scale but we would need to ensure appropriate support mechanisms are in place at a larger scale.
Our student feedback gave us valuable insight into the process of using WiseFlow. Although reflective portfolios save every 10 seconds, if a student deletes a file or a piece of text and exits the platform, this cannot be recovered. Over the duration of the assessments that took place, we encountered one reported instance of this. We also had some reports of formatting that will not copy from Word documents. Again, we approached WiseFlow regarding this and it is recommended to copy/paste plain text from Word and finish the styling in the text editor of WiseFlow. Although this solution works, having formatting that copies across would make students’ work translate much easier – particularly for those who write on external documents before copying into the platform at the last minute (like myself). In terms of progression beyond WiseFlow, we’d love for students to be able to take their work from the platform and have the ability to store it themselves or share it beyond the WiseFlow platform. Currently, there is no solution to this. A “zip folder” that contained all exports and uploaded files of any inputted answers into WiseFlow would be a great starting point. Again, we’ve put forward the idea to WiseFlow, but have yet to have any movement on this.
Where do we take our pilot now?
Although these are risks with using a reflective portfolio solution in WiseFlow, the prospect and the potential gain of this authentic assessment are exciting. We’ve taken the plunge and proven the concept works, highlighting potential development areas which we really hope get some traction and we’d like to think WiseFlow will be open to listening to these developmental ideas. As for our pilot project as a whole, we move into a second phase of the pilot with a continued focus on reflective portfolios but also some other areas of assessment we have struggled with in the past, such as large file submissions. We have a plethora of training and support we are actively developing and working with local teams to ensure staff feel confident using the systems.
We continue to have a waiting list for academics who are wanting to work with us to develop reflective portfolios in WiseFlow. I find myself meeting with academics on a weekly basis to discuss potential projects and reflective portfolio solutions in their disciplines. So far, we’ve done no real advertising, and this interest has been created from word of mouth and from those who have used it as students. We are keen to share our experiences with other Universities in WiseFlow user groups, who are actively keen to explore this and want to learn about our innovative approach. However, we need to be open and honest about the limitations that this solution has at the moment. Collectively, we might hold enough power to make change happen but until that point, caution must be taken before embarking on a reflective portfolio to ensure this is the correct fit for assessment.
The potential of this solution is game-changing, not just for us, but for a lot of other Higher Education institutions across the world.
The future of reflective portfolios in WiseFlow is exciting – keep watching this space.
Credit Image: Photo by MidJourney