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Monday, 1 August 2011

Attraction, Retention and Inclusivity - Part 1

Picture: Off on a mystery bus-tripThroughout the whole of this last month I have been researching for an article on 'ePortfolios - Attraction, Retention and Inclusivity' - and it has really taken up most of my time. The topic of Retention is not easily found within the annals of UK educational research. Admittedly, the topic of retention has been of more immediate concern in the USA where Colleges, in particular, have had to face up to serious 'drop-out' rates - in some cases 45%. But this whole area of study becomes much more difficult to 'nail' when looking at the specific relationships of ePortfolios to Attraction, Retention and Inclusivity.

And thus, particularly relevant at this time when many students are facing their first big adventure of joining a new institution (well here in the UK at least), or other students will shortly be starting their last year of study before moving 'up', I want to explore the impact that ePortfolios might have on 'Attraction'.

And thus to explain the image: Getting onto an old-fashioned bus, alone, in, as it were, a foreign country, not knowing quite where you are going and whether this bus will get you there is all part of the challenge that every young student must face. But how much more reassuring, how much more attractive it would be if there was someone there who can converse with you and reassure you that you are heading in the right direction. Identification of landmarks or signposts reassure the traveller - and this is exactly what the ePortfolio can do through 'buddying' systems that allow pairing of the new Freshman with one who has gone before.

But secondly, and perhaps more significantly, an institution that already uses an ePortfolio will certainly be more attractive to the young student just leaving mainstream education, where an ePortfolio system has been in use, possibly for several years. Institutions that have already adopted an 'ePortfolio-centric culture' will be open to small-group working, collaborative learning, of peer-review and feedback; where, inevitably, students and faculty understand something of each other.

Thirdly, and perhaps fundamentally, an 'ePortfolio-centric' institution will have recognised the place of a Web2.0 culture, where the student can use the applications with which they are already familiar, with mobile devices and interactive systems, with on-line assessment tools. This is the culture with which our 6th-form students are becomming increasingly familiar. They will easily recognise from brochures, websites and visiting promoters those institutions that have '21st Century Learning' already embedded and those who have not. The question is obvious: Which sort of institution would our young students find most attractive?

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