Thursday, 25 February 2016

PebblePad Irish Users’ Group Meeting Notes


The first PebblePad Irish User Group meeting took place in the RCSI on Wednesday 10 February. It was hosted by John Couperthwaite and Debbie Holmes from PebblePad, and featured colleagues from TCD, DCU, UCC, GMIT, WIT, and NUIG; some of which are currently using PebblePad alongside others looking to keep a watching brief on ePortfolio developments and uses in higher education.

NUI Galway Context

Following the cessation of the Learning Objects suite of tools in NUIG, a number of professional-based functions (e.g. Nursing and Midwifery, Engineering, Adult Education) have spoken to me about their interest in pan-programme ePorfolio solutions; and specifically those with post-graduate access options. We do not have access to BB-native portfolios as this requires the Community System which comes with a considerable price tag. I attended this session to gauge the current state of play from PebblePad and the wider user group and found it extremely useful.

Key Features of PebblePad

  • This ePortfolio solution is branded as an ‘Award-winning ePortfolio, assessment and metering technology’
  • It is being widely used in the UK and is gaining some traction in Ireland (see below)
  • PebblePad is utilised primarily with:
    Applied curricula such as Medicine, Nursing and Midwifery, Teacher Education (i.e. those with work placement requirements);
    Competency-based domains (i.e. those with professional body dual accreditation requirements such as Accountancy and  Pharmacology); and
    For wider institutional functions such as careers, alumni and disability services
  • It is a cloud-based service and can be used as a stand-alone system or integrated through VLEs via a building block (e.g. BB, Moodle, Canvas etc)
  • The building block allows institutions to nominate the specific modules where the ePorfolio can be deployed. This means that it is possible to arrange a licensing model for 100 users which can be administered locally. 
  • The building block facilitates single sign-on via VLE
  • In line with other learning technologies (e.g. Blackboard Collaborate) PebblePad is moving away from Flash and Java-based infrastructure(V3 of PebblePad) towards HTML5-based technology (V5 of PebblePad) which will facilitate an improved use experience on a range of devices.
  • USABILITY:  it is easy to populate ePortfolios through drag and drop and it looks very professional (different themes etc)
  • PRIVACY: students manage their own assets and permissions (which allows them to invite/disseminate their ePortfolios - full or partial - to specific internal or external audiences)
    (1) PebblePad access across an entire programme cycle allows students and instructors continuous access to all students’ work, thereby circumventing VLE annual roll-over restrictions.
    (2) Graduate students have lifelong access to their assets (e.g. workbooks,ePortfolios)
  • MOBILE: Pebblepad has an app for IoS and Android devices  
  • SUPPORT: Individual users commented on the high quality of PebblePad initial training and suppo

User Group Presentations


Programme Coordinator and Lecturer
Noreen described how GMIT were using PebblePad with a group of BSc Digital Media and Society students. The first rollout of the BSc was in 2013 with the final 4th year being delivered in 2016-17.
The use of PebblePad has developed over the first three years from digital asset creation/management, towards submission of portfolios for academic assessment (using templates with pre-populated questions), and now onto student industry placement. The year 4 emphasis will be towards developing projects that can be showcased to multiple audiences during both the programme schedule and following graduation from the BSc programme.


Lecturer in Organic and Pharmaceutical Chemistry
UCC, UL, TCD, UCD,  IT Tralee and NUIG are part of the ePrePP consortium, an eLearning Platform in Preparation for Professional Practice. This initiative is partly funded by the National Forum.
The focus of Eileen’s presentation was how UCC used PebblePad to mimic the 147 professional competencies required by the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland Core competencies framework IIoP. The competencies had to be mimicked due to copyright restrictions of the actual framework.  They used PebblePad as a CPD tracking system by exposing all students to the same resources (i.e. they had better control via the PebblePad rather than through a range of modules in Blackboard).
Eileen and her team were drawn to PebblePad due to (1) the inbuilt tracking  (i.e. student activity is date/time stamped therefore UCC can track activity hours and run learning analytics);  and (2) the reporting outputs that they could use for professional accreditation/certification. They use workbooks (customised for assessment/placement etc) which are employed as a competency self assessment tool.


Occupational Therapist, TCD Disability Services
Kieran works on the TCD Career Pathways Project (transition to employment project for students with disabilities) as part of their Student Ambassador Programme.
This project is run directly with PebblePad, rather via the VLE. Disability services work closely with the 74 students to develop their portfolios towards career progression and have created a wide range of ‘template’-type activities for students to complete.

Further Information

There are a number of National Forum seminars looking at ePorfolios in Feb-March. See:

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