The Challenges and Benefits of using Google Sites for e-portfolios

At the Technology Enhanced eLearning Education (TEEE) Festival (8th-12th September 2014), Cheryl Reynolds from the School of Education and Professional Development delivered the session ‘The challenges and benefits of using Google Sites for eportfolios’.

The session outlined how Google Sites was a way for students to write, organise and share their e-portfolios, instead of using the traditional way of printing out the portfolios. Students have the possibility to create something similar to a small website which they can structure and populate in the way they want. They can also write and post Blog or Vlog posts, as well as track their overall progression. Using Google sites has had excellent feedback from tutors and from students. They commented on how it has streamlined their submission and assessment practices, improved their level of engagement with the self-assessment process and allowed them to represent their learning in novel ways that are shareable with a wider audience.

Image Source: Natalia Rosca

Image Source: Natalia Rosca

Benefits to students:

  • Usability – excellent, user-friendly interface that produces slick results.
  • Privacy and Control – only student, teacher and course administrator will be able to see their e-portfolios and other people only if the students give permission to them.
  • Portability – you can connect to Google Sites wherever you are and via any smart device.
  • Digital literacy and multimedia usage skills.
  • A new and interesting approach to portfolios.
  • Easy to keep track of what you have done and comments from tutors.
  • The potential to share the eportfolio with peers, mentors, employers and prospective employers

Cheryl comments: Unlike other proprietary tools, Google Sites offers the trainee teachers a solution that they can deploy in their own teaching with their own students.  Just by signing up for a free Google mail account, they can create and share their own eportfolio template with students so that they in turn can develop digital literacy. Our provision, therefore, has a greater potential impact on our trainees’ students than eportfolio tools that are not available to them in this way, such as Campus Pack, SharePoint or PebblePad.

 Benefits to tutors:

  • Manageability – easily accessible, easy to control and everything is online in one place
  • Mobility – connect anywhere via any smart device
  • Flexibility – can mark from anywhere at any time on any device that has internet access
  • Digital literacy – develops expertise in the use of tools that map well to the Mozilla web literacy standards (, which represents the sorts of skills that people will need when working in an internet age.

Institutional benefits

  • Streamlined, paperless moderation and examination, with the ability to do this remotely.
  • Ensuring the institution is adapting to the needs of students and tutors in an internet age and not being left behind in this regard. This in turn is good for the quality of the provision and for the reputation of the institution.

Cheryl comments: Our ‘digital estate’ is as important to the future of the University as our physical estate. The environments we offer online need to be impressive. Google environments have the advantage of being slick and ubiquitous.

Challenges for students:

  • Logging in – as University of Huddersfield uses the Microsoft platform, students need to have different usernames and password rather than log in via the established student portal.
  • Digital Literacy – whilst many of our trainees are highly digitally literate, some have a lot to learn in this regards. Some students don’t currently have positive dispositions towards technologies and find the call to engage with technology challenging.

Challenges faced by tutors

  • Digital Literacy – as with trainees this varies widely and it is challenging to ensure that staff across large and dispersed provision are confident in the use of the eportfolio for personal development planning.
  • Time management – you can easily get ‘sucked into’ e-portfolios and spend a lot of time on them.
  • Transparency – everything that a tutor does, such as correcting a task, writing comments etc., is visible on the eportfolio with exact dates and times.
  • Security – see above

 Institutional challenges

  • Providing a cost effective and institutionally supported eportfolio system as part of the single sign in.

Institutions may want to sign up to the framework agreement negotiated by the Joint Academic Network (JANET). Colleges and universities in the UK, are eligible to sign up to Google Apps for Education using a contract approved by Janet as meeting UK legal requirements. This Cloud Services for Education Agreement give colleges and universities peace of mind in relation to security, resilience, legal and data compliance, cost and functionality.

See more on the JANET Google apps for education page

Posted by Karolis Pantelejevas and Natalia Rosca, Project Assistants on work placement with the Teaching and Learning Institute (TALI). Additional comments by Cheryl Reynolds.


About talintuoh

Supporting and connecting colleagues to develop inspiring and innovative teaching and learning
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