When the ePortfolio was launched in August 2007, my initial approach was that of caution and scepticism.
I was concerned that, rather than facilitate learning and assessment, it might hinder progress and create unnecessary extra work without additional learning benefits.
I had an inclination toward more traditional learning methods, and the thought of adjusting to online education was somewhat daunting. Despite this, I had to leave behind pen and paper and embrace progress.
I tried to approach the ePortfolio with an open mind, and even a degree of enthusiasm.
The ePortfolio is accessed via the RCGP website and initially I spent a couple of weeks familiarising myself with the site and exploring the various functions.
The first login page displays a main menu listing the sections of the ePortfolio, and from there it is possible to navigate around the various areas.
I soon saw the unique selling point of the ePortfolio was the fact that it could be used at anytime from anywhere there was internet access. It was handy not to have to carry around folders of paper.
I would recommend taking time to look at the site between patients, especially when starting out as a registrar when you have the luxury of extra time. This way, the ePortfolio gradually becomes an integral part of the daily surgery routine.
As well as exploring the ePortfolio myself, I spent time with my trainer navigating through the various sections and discussing any issues that arose.
The learning log, as its name suggests, creates a record of any learning experience undertaken. At the time that I started using the ePortfolio, the headings under which a learning activity could be entered were: clinical encounter, professional conversation, tutorial, reading, course/certificate, lecture/seminar, or out-of-hours session.
As well as creating a record of learning activities, the log is structured in such a way as to encourage reflection and stimulate further learning activities, which I found a great benefit.
This is achieved through the various subheadings under which each entry is recorded. For example, to record a tutorial the subject and aims of the tutorial are entered, followed by an explanation as to why this subject was chosen, what was learnt, and what the trainee would do differently in future. Lastly, there are sections to record further learning needs and how and when these will be addressed.
The learning needs that my trainer and I identified acted as the basis for further reading, discussion or were incorporated into future tutorials. In this way, the learning log became a basis on which to build throughout the registrar year.
I prepared short presentations for tutorials that could be uploaded along with the learning log entry, as could scanned copies of course or lecture attendance certificates.
Each learning log entry has to be linked to at least one of the curriculum statement headings by the trainee. Once the entry is complete and marked as 'shared' by the trainee, the trainer can view the entry, add a comment and link it to the relevant professional competencies.
We were then able to monitor how much of the curriculum had been covered, and more importantly, identify any deficiencies.
At the end of a busy surgery, the last thing that I sometimes felt like doing was going online to record a learning activity, but I would advise trainees to keep the log as up to date as possible. Filling in entries retrospectively is not fun.
What, to me, initially seemed like potentially extra hassle became second nature, and I recognised the benefits of the learning log, which developed into a comprehensive record of my learning.
I had a number of queries regarding the ePortfolio during my registrar year. Many of these could be resolved by further investigation on my part, or through discussion with my trainer or other trainees.
However, for some I needed online help from the ePortfolio. I found the online support was very good; my enquiries were all answered within a few days.
Personal development plan
I found the personal development plan (PDP) slightly less useful than the learning log, but that may have been because I tended to use the log rather more.
There seemed to be an element of overlap between the two, although the PDP concentrates on the identified learning objective, and how and when this will be achieved. Usefully, entries from the learning log can be linked to the PDP.
My reservation is that there could be repetition of information entered into the PDP and the learning log.
Overall, the ePortfolio provided a sense of ownership and responsibility for my learning in a way that seemed more individually directed and tailored than I had previously experienced.
1. Take some time to familiarise yourself with the site whenever you have a few moments to spare.
2. Fill in learning log entries as you go rather than retrospectively.
3. Each learning log entry has to be linked to at least one of the curriculum statement headings.
4. Discuss any difficulties with your trainer or other trainees early on.
5. Do not hesitate to use the online support if required.
- Dr Jafri is a salaried GP in Chingford, Essex
- This article was reviewed by Dr Anwar Khan, a GP partner and trainer in Chingford and associate director, London Deanery GP department
- This topic falls under section 3.6 of the GP Curriculum Centre 'Research and Academic Activity',
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