Herman, Clem and Kirkup, Gill
Learners in transition: the use of ePortfolios for women returners to science, engineering and technology.
Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 45(1),
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In 2002 the UK Government produced a report highlighting the problems faced by women returning to employment in science, engineering and technology (SET) after a career break. In response to this report, a national strategy was developed, with funding from the UK's Department of Trade and Industry and the European Social Fund 'Equal' Programme, to address the issues highlighted by the report. One of the key parts of the strategy was the creation of a short (100 hours), online course by the Open University (UK) aimed at supporting and empowering women who were returning to employment in SET after a break. An ePortfolio forms an integral part of the course experience. This paper reports the experiences of the first group of 100 women who participated in this course. A range of data sources have been used to analyse the responses of participants to the course including questionnaires, emailed 'critical incident' narratives, discussion board postings and telephone interviews. This paper draws on that evaluation research to discuss the perceptions that women scientists, engineers and technologists had about the usefulness of personal/professional development planning (PDP) and an ePortfolio in helping them re-enter employment, and their intentions to use it in future. Some of these findings can be generalised to other groups (either employed or not) who might benefit from a similar approach, i.e. developing an ePortfolio through a set of structured and guided e-learning activities
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