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Click on topic (5 topics) to move to section:
Welcome and Notices.
Social Inclusion and
e-Portfolios - Anna Home, University of Bristol.
Demonstration of an
ACCLIP Implementation - Fiona Henry, Loughborough College.
Accessiblity: Alternative Opportunities and Constraints - Alistair McNaught and Sue
The PETAL (Personal
E-portfolios for Teaching and Learning) Project - Ellen Lessner, Abingdon and Witney
The Joint Accessibility and Portfolio SIG Meeting was hosted by
TechDis, York, on 10th March 2006.
Introduction, Welcome and Notices.
Helen Richardson, CETIS gave an
introduction to the
JISC-CETIS Portfolio SIG (HTML format),
introduction to the
JISC-CETIS Portfolio SIG (PowerPoint format - 130Kb).
Sharon Perry, CETIS gave an
introduction to the
Accessibility SIG (HTML format),
introduction to the
Accessibility SIG (PowerPoint format - 70Kb).
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Anna Home gave a presentation on social inclusion, widening participation and e-portfolios.
The presentation began with two definitions of social exclusion. The ODPM (Office of the
Deputy Prime Minister) Social Exclusion Unit states that it happens when people suffer from a
series of problems; whilst the Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion at the London School
of Economics defines it as happening when an individual cannot participate in society's key
activities for reasons beyond their control.
So why is there a lack of participation in higher education? Education is just one sub-area
of social activity where exclusion can occur for reasons such as:
- psychological barriers;
- a low level of formal educational attainment;
- lack of knowledge of formal opportunities.
A couple of Government reports were compared and contrasted with regard to:
- target groups;
- sphere of society;
- who pays;
- who benefits.
Examples of such reports include
"Inclusion Through Innovation:
Tackling Social Exclusion Through New Technologies" and
Participation in Higher Education" (PDF Format - 368Kb). The "Inclusion Through
Innovation" report has a section (pages 30-31) on how ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) can
tackle early years exclusion and educational underachievement.
Anna visited eight portfolio projects, which were part of JISC's DEL (Distributed
E-Learning) Regional Pilots, and briefly described two of them - FILE-PASS and ePistle.
Independent Learning using E-Portfolio and Associated Suppport Systems) Project is based
in Lancashire and Cumbria (the University of Central Lancashire is the lead institution), and
uses MyPortfolio based on Open Source Portfolio v. 1.5. The results of the project will be
available at the end of March 2006. One of its aims is to evaluate the potential of
e-portfolios for "isolated learners" in order to facilitate access to HE (Higher Education)
opportunities. Isolated learners include:
- adults who have not engaged in learning since leaving school;
- people (young and old) from deprived backgrounds;
- ex-offenders on a Skills for Life Programme;
- visually impaired learners;
- adult returners studying for an NVQ (National Vocational Qualification) Certificate in IT
At present, the MyPortfolio software only has limited preference settings and is not yet
fully accessible to visually impaired learners. However, one of the key aims of the project
is to test the software with such users and to make it accessible.
The ePistle (E-Portfolios Student
Learning) Project is based in the West Midlands, lead by the University of Wolverhampton,
and uses PebblePad (commercial) and ePET (open source software) e-portfolio systems. The aim
of this project has been to establish the potential of e-portfolio in supporting learners'
progression from school to FE (Further Education), FE to HE, and FE and HE to employment,
and in contributing to student retention.
The first focus group interview had been done with one cohort of FE college students using
PebblePad and two key questions were asked:
- Would students show an e-portfolio to an employer?
- Do students plan to continue using their e-portfolio after they have finished their
Some of barriers to using an e-portfolio which were identified included:
- Lack of access to the internet;
- Lack of access to download Flash at work if non-work programmes are not allowed to be
- People who already work with a computer could find that it is too much to keep an
- People who do not work with a computer could find that there is not enough time or are
too tired after work to update an e-portfolio.
When PebblePad was first developed, it was designed to be easy and fun to use. Developers
are now working to make it accessible and accessibility testing in collaboration with the
RNIB (Royal National Institute of the Blind) is planned.
Accessible design benefits everyone, not just people with special needs and e-portfolio
tools must be usable and accessible, especially for learners who may not have much
confidence. On top of this, supported e-portfolio processes (where trained tutors support
learners) have the potential to contribute to lowering barriers to participation in HE. If
they are well-designed, they can help to build self-confidence.
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Fiona Henry gave an introduction to the e-portfolio work in Loughborough and, in
particular, their work in implementing the IMS ACCLIP (Accessibility for Learner
Information Package) Specification.
Loughborough College's progress file is an e-portfolio and was part of the LP3 (Developing
Learning and Teaching Aspects across FE) project being run in partnership with Loughborough
University, the RNIB Vocational College and DfES (Department for Education and Science).
One of the aims of the project has been the transfer of student data from FE to HE or
Accessibility has been foremost in this work and although the view has always been
inclusive, due to the nature of the funding, this initially led to a narrow to focus on
visual impairments. At present, only the display component of the ACCLIP Specification is
being implemented but work is underway on changing cursor size and access keys are
available for JAWS users.
Generally, students have liked the e-portfolio process. All 16-19 full time FE students
and work-based learners in the college are supported by a progress tutor. Electronic
(interactive) portfolios seem to have a greater impact on helping learners to develop their
skills and to record their learning - perhaps more so than when using the two dimensional
The implementation of the ACCLIP Specification allows students to modify display
properties. The system already recognises their AT (Assistive Technology) preferences and
automatically sets it up. The font, font size, text and background colours can all be
changed and a preview function allows the user to see if the changes are appropriate,
before changing the whole screen. Many of the tutors have black text on a pale blue
background as it is easier on the eyes, while the fashion for the students is a rather
Gothic red on black! Feedback so far has been very positive as many students find it easy
to use. Once preferences have been set up, they can then be used across all Loughborough's
websites (a "one-stop shop") so that students do not have to change their preferences on
each site (this feature is only available in the e-progress file at the moment, but it has
been tested across the whole site and does work, although it has not yet been fully
As well as developing the electronic progress file for FE students, a version for KS3 (Key
Stage) and KS4 is being piloted in ten Leicestershire schools, and an adult version is due
for launch at the end of March. Each school piloting the KS3 and KS4 version has the
school's own branding and is a simpler version of the FE system to take into account the
younger age group. It has a smaller number of fonts and background colours and is similar
to the original ACCLIP implementation developed at the beginning of the project, which now
has more functionality. However, if it is adopted across Leicester and Leicestershire,
then the released version will include the same features as the post-16 version. The KS4
version is slightly more complex than the KS3 version and data is stored on Loughborough's
server. The adult learner version has less guidance packs but combines more in the way of
A demonstration of the progress file was then given. The progress file is linked to the
colleges' MIS (Management Information System), so the student does not need to re-enter data
(this was tedious in the paper-based version). The progress file helps students develop
their UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admission Service) statement and students can develop
a number of personal statements for various contexts. There is also student tracking in the
College and electronic registers will soon be available for tutors to use in conjunction
with the e-progress file. This will enable progress tutors to have a more complete view of
their tutees so as to monitor their progress on a more regular basis. Students are not able
to change any institutional content but can change and amend their own content. Students
can also set permissions on who can see what data.
Samuel Persse, who has been developing the progress file implementation with Fiona, then
gave a demonstration of importing ACCLIP preferences from another system.
TILE (The Inclusive Learning Exchange) also
implements the ACCLIP Specification and Samuel wanted to see if it was possible to import
TILE preferences into Loughborough's system. TILE's preferences are a little more complex
than Loughborough's at the moment. However, once the ACCLIP preferences were created in
TILE, a web service was used to import them into Loughborough's system. A small amount of
"tweaking" was necessary to account for the extra functions which TILE uses, nevertheless
the concept has been proved. The next stage is to determine whether it is possible to
import and export ACCLIP profiles from other places.
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Alistair McNaught and John Sewell, facilitated by Sue Harrison, gave a virtual presentation
on e-portfolios and accessibility. Alistair McNaught began by outlining some of the
constraints regarding accessibility of e-portfolios. These included:
- Authentication, which can be very difficult for some learners, e.g. pre-literate students
or students using a screen reader. Many technologies do not consider AT as standard and
lock it out.
- Whether accessibility standards should apply to the student's content - if learners put
potentially inaccessible content, such as a video, into their e-portfolio, should it be
- Use of e-portfolios can be time-consuming or confusing.
- People who are not skilled at using a computer are at a disadvantage. Also despite the
fact that a disabled user may be a competent computer user, there is still an extra layer of
AT with which to contend.
- There is little accessibility guidance available for e-media.
- One size does not fit all.
- A solution for one set of users may provide a barrier to other users.
- Over 50% of respondents in David Tosh and Jeff Haywood's study
& ePortfolios: Making It Worth Their Time" (PowerPoint format - 2Mb) stated that
system technology was the main barrier.
John Sewell then addressed the balance by showing examples of accessible e-portfolios:
- Linkage College in Lincolnshire has a timetable on each student's e-portfolio. There are
shortcuts and simple accessibility options available with just one key press. Students can
add photos and videos to their e-portfolio to show their accomplishments, which are then
measured against their ILP (Individual Learning Plan). For example, a student's progress
through a course can be demonstrated in a series of photos at each key stage of their
achievement. Commentaries can also be added that play as the slide show runs and photos
and videos can be displayed sequentially.
- The Orpheus Trust in Surrey is a residential performing arts centre for young disabled
artists. Students record their progress using Digital Blue video and still cameras.
- The HFT (Home Farm Trust) Life Stories Programme uses technology to store a student's
life events. Students use PowerPoint to put together their life story and this can
increase their student confidence and communication with others.
These examples show the power of portfolios and they can bring great rewards, but these
rewards can only be gained if the system is accessible. Therefore, system usability,
accessibility and interoperability are critical to ensure compliance between a student's
preferences and the technology that they use.
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Ellen Lessner gave a presentation about the use of the MyWorld portfolio system in the PETAL
Project. Part of the PETAL project is looking at setting user preferences in the MyWorld
software, which has great potential. A viewlet builder may be developed to allow users to
see the effects of their preferences before actually going ahead with them. Although there
are a few accessibility and usability issues with the software, these are being addressed by
On the whole, users have thought the idea of using an e-portfolio worthwhile and one
particular benefit of the software is that presentations can be customised for different
audiences. Students are encouraged to use the e-portfolio software in order to gain tutorial