As digital innovation continues to advance, the growth of electronic portfolios (ePortfolios) has established another horizon for learning. Medical educators are looking to assimilate the rewards of this relatively new mode of learning into our practice.
An ePortfolio can be described as a purposeful collection of information and digital artefacts that demonstrates development or evidences learning outcomes, skills or competencies (Cotterill, 2007). So how does an ePortfolio or digital portfolio differ from a traditional portfolio? In other words, what aspects of this instrument are altered by digitalization? Undoubtedly, data and learning experience can be portrayed in richer detail and complexity through the use of multimedia. (For a learner taking a patient’s history, compare video footage to a written account of that same event). But more importantly, the reflective ePortfolio enhances the opportunity for prompt information sharing with a supervisor and/or peers. Subsequently, from a social constructivist perspective, many experts suggest deeper reflective learning occurs (Hall, Byszewski, & Sutherland, 2012; JISC, 2008; Lorenzo & Ittelson, 2005). Although, this argument is not always borne out in practice with one study determining no benefit in aiding reflection (Vernazza et al., 2011).
The ability to share learning with colleagues in an ePortfolio is highly desirable. Both individual and group learning can be achieved. This is drawn out in a case study reflection of a senior faculty member in emergency medicine who describes a medical error (Chisholm & Croskerry, 2004). This portfolio entry is shared with the faculty. Not only was a learning experience created for the physician and the faculty, but, by publication, many more in the global medical community have benefited from the story. The element of sharing and feedback in ePortfolios is essential.
Portfolios, in general, are learner-centred and engender self-regulation with the capacity for personal development planning (Kardos, Cook, Butson, & Kardos, 2009) as part of life-long learning. Beyond this, they also serve as evidence of achieving goals (competencies or skills) which may be set by the learner, the supervisor or the faculty.
However, the implementation and maintenance of an ePortfolio system has its hurdles. There are the initial costs of developing a tailored system and the ongoing technical maintenance. Learners have found it to be time-consuming (Gardner & Aleksejuniene, 2008; Vernazza et al., 2011) and additional effort may be required to become familiar with the chosen technology. There are security and intellectual property issues. Questions are likely to arise around evaluation parameters when it is used as a component of assessment.
Currently, the Australasian College of Emergency Medicine (ACEM) employs a paper-based Professional Development Portfolio for trainees. It includes a general log sheet where reflections may be recorded. The actual trainee participation rate is not known. Currently, “no party (employer, ACEM or DEMT/Supervisor) has the right to requisition it” (ACEM, 2013) but, hopefully, with regard to supervisors, this approach will be revised in the near future. A staged roll-out of an online learning portfolio is expected to be introduced later this year with completion by 2016.
Within the Emergency Medicine Certificate (also administered by ACEM for non-trainees), an ePortfolio already exists with the ability to invite colleagues including one’s supervisor to view and make comment on entries. As a supervisor, I have found this insightful and a useful barometer of the learner’s skills in clinical reasoning.
In the future, after years of accumulated experience is logged by and for our trainees, we will have a rich seam of knowledge describing the details of the learning journey whereby our basic trainees become advanced trainees and finally emergency medicine specialists. This database of knowledge constructions and attitudinal transformations, in itself, has the potential to be a powerful resource for ACEM educators in optimizing our training program and continuing to create competent specialist care in emergency medicine.
ACEM. (2013). Using the Professional development Portfolio. Retrieved 20th April, 2013, from https://www.acem.org.au/members.aspx?docId=610
Chisholm, C. D., & Croskerry, P. (2004). A case study in medical error: the use of the portfolio entry. Academic Emergency Medicine, 11(4), 388-392.
Cotterill, S. J. (2007). What is an ePortfolio? Retrieved 20th April, 2013, from www.eportfolios.ac.uk/definition
Gardner, K. M., & Aleksejuniene, J. (2008). Quantitative and qualitative analysis of student feedback on ePortfolio learning. Journal of Dental Education, 72(11), 1324-1332.
Hall, P., Byszewski, A., & Sutherland, S. (2012). Developing a sustainable electronic portfolio (ePortfolio) program that fosters reflective practice and incorporates CanMEDS competencies into the undergraduate medical curriculum. Academic Medicine, 87(6), 744-750.
JISC. (2008). Effective Practice with e-Portfolios. Retrieved 20th April, 2013, from http://www.jisc.ac.uk/media/documents/publications/effectivepracticeeportfolios.pdf
Kardos, R. L., Cook, J. M., Butson, R. J., & Kardos, T. B. (2009). The development of an ePortfolio for life-long reflective learning and auditable professional certification. European Journal of Dental Education, 13, 135-141.
Lorenzo, G., & Ittelson, J. (2005). An overview of e-portfolios. Retrieved 20th April, 2013, from http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/eli3001.pdf
Vernazza, C., Durham, J., Ellis, J., Teasdale, D., Cotterill, S., Scott, L., . . . Drummond, P. (2011). Introduction of an e-portfolio in clinical dentistry: staff and student views. European Journal of Dental Education, 15, 36-41.