Using electronic portfolios to support the integration of workplace learning and vocational education and training in the Scottish construction industry

In recent years the prevalence of e-portfolio systems in vocational education and training has been on the rise. Initially considered little more than digital repositories, they have become synonymous with the development of meta-cognitive skills and are widely recognised as being effective mechanisms for recording and creating value from workplace learning.

A case study of the existing integration of e-portfolios into a modern apprenticeship program delivered by a Further Education provider is presented, and a coherent approach to future development, design and implementation of learner-centred portfolios is proposed. This qualitative study aims to establish the extent to which e-portfolios can enhance academic and vocational learning experiences and outcomes in the construction industry in Scotland. Drawing on cultural consensus modelling, questionnaires and semi-structured interviews with key stakeholders, the study creates a narrative of learner experiences and employer expectations of e-portfolios. In particular, the key challenges of communication, collaboration and consistent training opportunities are discussed. The FEAT model (functional, educational, administrative and technical) is adopted to frame the common themes emerging from the research. The research will be of particular value to further education institutions, student groups, awarding bodies and training and funding agencies.

Three key research questions are posed:

1. What are the conceptual understandings of implementing e-portfolios in vocational education and training within the research community?

2. How effectively are (paper-based) portfolio systems currently used to support the integration of workplace learning and college based learning in the Scottish stonemasonry and conservation industry?

3. What are the perceptions of key stakeholders in the industry towards developing a robust e-portfolio framework supporting the training of modern apprentices in Scotland?

Early results suggest that existing mechanisms for integrating workplace and college-based training are ineffective. Common themes emerging from the research include inconsistent training opportunities for apprentices working with a diverse range of employers, insufficient opportunities to engage in critical thinking and problem solving in the workplace, lack of communication between key stakeholders in the apprenticeship training community and a general willingness to explore the integration of learner-centred e-portfolios into the existing curriculum.

This research is being carried out as part of Masters of Education Programme at the University of Strathclyde.