Using E-Portfolios for Active Student Engagement in the ODeL Environment
This study explored the use of e-portfolios in fostering student engagement with their lecturers, content, and other students during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Although e-portfolios are still a relatively new trend in developing countries, they are becoming an alternative teaching and learning tool in distance education and online environments. Research has placed e-portfolios as channels through which important skills such as self-directed learning, critical thinking, and lifelong learning can be infused. Most research has focused on students’ perceptions of e-portfolios and/or implementation and adoption thereof, and not on how lecturers can design learning objects that foster active student engagement with the e-portfolios.
Within an interpretive paradigm, the research followed a qualitative approach. Semi-structured interviews were held with nine purposefully selected lecturers in the College of Education (CEDU) and College of Human Sciences (CHS) in a South African ODeL university and document analysis reviewed undergraduate and postgraduate e-portfolio modules. A thematic approach was employed to analyze data.
This study adds to the existing knowledge on how lecturers can design learning objects that foster active student engagement with the e-portfolios taking into consideration the three presences of community of enquiry in designing learning activities and this study suggests a definition of portfolio for better understanding in a different context.
The findings revealed that e-portfolios can promote active student engagement in Open Distance eLearning (ODeL) spaces.
The study recommends that lecturers should design learning objects in e-portfolios that require a high level of level student engagement. The study also recommends that higher education institutions (HEIs) provide lecturers with appropriate technical support and relevant continuous training on the design and development of learning objects in e-portfolios.
Researchers can expand the study to other ODeL institutions of learning in Africa to validate the findings and find more options.
E-portfolios by their nature are designed to promote personal reflection, collaboration, and digital literacy among students, and thus are appropriate vehicles through which active student engagement can be fostered.
A broader study can be conducted on how lecturers can design learning objects that foster active student engagement with e-portfolios for educational purposes.