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Marc Zaldivar, Virginia TechMarc Zaldivar is Conference Chair for Virginia Tech Conference Nov 7-8

Enabling Deep Learning with ePortfolios: PebblePad's 2013 Webinar Resource
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Listen to the May 1, 2013PebblePad  eportfolio webinar - The Ultimate Activity Portfolio: Personalisable, Distributable Portfolios As Online Workbooks.  Presented by Shane Sutherland, PebblePad

Contact: Shane Sutherland

The following questions are a compilation of the questions and concerns identified in an informal polling of eportfolio community members. The answers are the vendor's responses.

What vision or understanding of learning informed the design of your tool?

PebblePad is based on the idea that we learn many different things in different places and at different times.In order for these varied learning experiences to become meaningful, they need to be identified and reflected upon.This is not a natural process and learners require assistance to develop these skills – PebblePad uses a range of tools to provide scaffolding to support learning ad development

Learning is also enhanced through dialogue, both internal and with others.For personal learning to become life-wide and life-long, learners need a tool that provides a private, secure space that they can take with them and has the flexibility to support learning in any context.

In brief, it must provide prompts and scaffolding for recording and reflecting on learning, and enable sharing and communication with others to further enhance opportunities for learning.

How does your vision of learning promote a student-centered approach to education? (e.g. student ownership of his/her learning)

PebblePad is all about personal learning and enabling users to take responsibility for their own learning.Inbuilt and tutor- provided templates guide and scaffold the learning process so that all learners can work independently, while sharing options provide the opportunity to work collaboratively with colleagues.

All content within the PebblePad environment is totally user owned and controlled, and interaction with work in this environment is by invitation only.While ‘others’ will often provide a purpose for use what is actually done within PebblePad is always user determined.The more the user engages with the personal learning space the richer and more rewarding the products of learning will be.By drawing upon, and making connections between learning in all contexts learners are able to see the relevance of their educational experience.

Does your tool allow students to control permissions? Can they share with people outside of the institution? How? (e.g., advisor, prospective employer, etc.).

Users have absolute control over who sees what, for how long, and what they can do with it.They can share directly with other PebblePad users as well as with external users e.g. potential employers.Permissions include view, copy, comment, and collaborate

Users can also share assets by publishing them to the web and sharing the PebblePad generated URL.

It is not unusual for several thousand portfolio items to be assessed at once for a given course. To support assessment PebblePad includes an integrated sub-system called ATLAS which provides rich and powerful assessment tools. Users choose to submit work to ATLAS but once on ATLAS the faculty have control over all of the decisions necessary to the assessment process.

What is the process for inviting feedback on work or artifacts?

In addition to the sharing options described above the more ‘formal’ process of assessment and feedback is conducted through ATLAS.

Faculty create assessment areas on ATLAS called workspaces where users submit work to deadlines set by the faculty. Feedback added on ATLAS can be viewed instantly by users, though faculty can choose to ‘hold’ feedback for later release.

Describe how your tool promotes and supports student-to-student collaboration.

The process for sharing work with others is very simple and is presented as an option whenever a new piece is created.Sharing involves live links to work in progress so actively supports formative feedback and engagement between students about the development of the work.In addition to view and comment permissions, work can also be shared for collaboration.Students then become co-owners of the piece of work and can each contribute to its development.The level of control that students have over their work and the permissions given to others helps to give them confidence in the sharing and collaboration process.

Permissions within the PebblePad assessment space (ATLAS) allows tutors to organise more formal peer assessment (which can be anonymous).

Describe how your tool promotes and supports student-to-faculty collaboration.

All of the above describing student-to-student collaboration applies equally to student-to-faculty collaboration.Students and staff all have the same PebblePad accounts – there is no differentiation between users for basic functionality.

Faculty with access to ATLAS have access to a range of additional tools that primarily support feedback and grading.

How does your tool support and encourage the reflection process for students and faculty?

Reflection is built in to every component of PebblePad.Every template finishes with a reflective prompt, and the questions within the templates prompt users to consider varied aspects of their experience.As described above, this applies equally to students and faculty.

PebblePad also provides tools for all users to create their own bespoke templates to further facilitate reflection and self-assessment.The focus is always on creating records of experience that reflect and enhance the personal learning of the user.

How does your tool address and support institutional level assessment needs (e.g., aggregating student data and generating reports for accreditation)?

At an institution level PebblePad can generate reports about student usage of the system including data about active users, shares, asset types, and file uploads.These reports can be provided for any group of users that can be identified within the system.Importantly, it is not possible to generate reports that undermine any aspect of the user’s privacy.

The PebblePad system contains an integrated ‘institutional’ space called ‘ATLAS that provides all the tools required to support the assessment process (including supports and resources around assessment for learning).

Workspaces on ATLAS provide a space for academics to manage assessment submissions from large groups of students and support formative and summative feedback and processes such as grading, validation, blind marking, double blind marking, peer review, anonymous peer review, and external assessment.All grades can be exported as CSV files for import into other gradebook systems.

Does your application integrate with enterprise systems? Which ones? Do you have examples of effective integration in support of advising or other student services you can share?

PebblePad utilizes open standards and common processes wherever they are available and appropriate. For the purposes of authentication and access these include LDAP/AD, CAS, Shibboleth and OAuth. PebblePad also supports Leap2A, IMS eP, Atom, RSS and more recently IMS LTI. Specifically:

PebblePad can integrate with a variety of enterprise systems:

  • Integration with the student management systems enables automated account creation and management, linking of gateway groups to courses or units of study, and automatic population of personal details such as contact details, prior qualifications and current course grades into the About Me section of PebblePad.
  • The Blackboard 9.x block enables single sign-on, creation of PebblePad assets within the Blackboard environment, direct links to PebblePad gateways from Blackboard, Blackboard resources on PebblePad gateways, and a dashboard within Blackboard showing activity within PebblePad.
  • The Moodle 1.9 and 2.0 blocks enable single sign-on, creation of PebblePad assets within the Moodle environment, and the export of Moodle blogs, forums, assignments and resources to PebblePad.
  • Integration with TurnItIn enables students to submit their own work to TurnItIn or tutors to submit student work to TurnItIn via the gateway.

What is the main strength of your application?

The main strength of PebblePad is that it has its origins in the university environment and its design is based on principles of effective teaching and learning.It promotes a student centered approach to learning and its flexibility and ease of use engages all parties in the learning experience.

Whilst the most effective uses of PebblePad emerge from well designed curriculum activities it has been proven to provide effective support for learning in contexts as diverse as preparation/transition to university and independent professional development/accreditation.

A further strength is the depth and extent of the active user community. PebblePad is the most used ‘portfolio’ system in HE in the UK and Australia, but is also successfully used by a number of professional bodies and a global airline!

What weaknesses have been identified relative to the user experience and shared with you?

One of the systems greatest strengths – its flexibility – is also one of its weaknesses as users (particularly those charged withpromoting its use with students) are often unsure where to start with the tool. That is, the tool itself is not difficvutl to use but the variety of ways in which it can be (and is) used presents a challenge to course and programme designers.

Drawing upon contributions from our very active community we have now published 3 helpful books; two books of case studies and a guide to effective pedagogical practice with PebblePad – a 300 page handbook entitled Pebblegogy.

Please share some examples of user feedback.

… I am in the middle of marking 15 individual portfolios - part of a new module at level 6.Having given the students only minimal contact time (lecture) on the webfolio element, saying that I wanted to see what they could 'make' of the task with the facility that is Pebble, I am just loving the imagination that the students are unleashing ... and what they reveal ...all down to the options they have with Pebble - enjoying marking hurrah :)

Dance Studies Lecturer (University of Wolverhampton)

Just another thing which you may like to pass on to the team in the UK. I spent all of yesterday getting really immersed in templates and setting up mock workspaces. I really think that the thought and planning that has gone into the design and workflows is very impressive.

Learning Designer (La Trobe University)

I have enjoyed learning about PebblePad. It really is about the coolest system I have worked with yet. It took a bit of time to appreciate its potential (with the Community component, etc.), but once the penny dropped, I think it is the future of learning. That’s a big call, I know, but I actually think it has so much potential for that proverbial life-long and life-wide learning that it will easily transcend institutional learning systems.

Portfolio Manager (JCU)

I used PebblePad as part of my Social Work Level 2 placement, when I first found out about my involvement in PebblePad I was very resistant to it.

Upon reflection I feel that even though I had competent IT skills, it was something new and I didn’t like the idea of my portfolio not being in front of me in hardcopy.However, I used this as an opportunity to learn a new computer programme and I absolutely love it now, it has so many benefits.I feel that the primary benefit was because it was accessible anywhere, I used it every day, from updating and uploading work to writing a journal.Furthermore I feel that my understanding of the National Occupational Standards greatly improved because of the way in which they were set out on PebblePad, as you were identifying work, applying in it practice, considering your practice framework and then reflecting upon them.I would argue that this promotes good practice and continuing professional development.Not only does it enable IT skills development but you can compile a portfolio with one programme, you can upload, add links, personalise it, present it professionally and it is so easy to use.It is also environmentally friendly.

I would argue it is a fantastic programme and I will be very disappointed if I am not able to use it for my level 3 placement. 2ndyear Social Work student (University of Gloucestershire)

Please share examples of the successful use of your application to help students achieve their goals undefined admission to graduate school, career placement and advancement, etc.

The case studies available on this page point to a wide variety of successful uses. In particular the student perspectives esp. that of Sandra Stewart -

What key changes or features do you plan to introduce in the near future?

The new version of PebblePad introduced in 2012 has introduced a whole range of new features and functionality including a user customizable interface will be totally customizable; access to the template builder for all users; features such as drag and drop, predictive text, and powerful tagging.

The PebblePad roadmap includes features such as template and design sharing through the worldwide resource library and the capacity to connect with PebblePad users around the world.

Technical Specifications

System Requirements End User:Any major browser will allow PebblePad to be used.

System Requirements Server:PebblePad is now mainly provided as a hosted service though can be self-hosted by negotiation.

Hosted service?Pebble Learning offers a hosted service to all customers.

Storage Capacity (per account):250Mb minimum provision. Supports remote storage options for tools like GoogleDrive and MS Skydrive

Privacy policy relative to student accounts and underage users:

All assets generated in PebblePad carry a link to a default code of conduct which itself carries a link to the sponsoring institution’s own acceptable use policy.

Standards compliance:

  • Leap2A, IMSeP, RSS, ATOM, OAuth, IMS LTI
  • Section 508 compliance:
  • Because PebblePad uses a primary Flash interface extant web standards do not exist to claim compliance against. Never-the-less, PebblePad has been proved to be accessible by the 120+ institutions already using the system.
  • PebblePad also has an accessible HTML version selectable by users as well as a mobile version.

Published API:A single API allowing learning artifacts to be saved to PebblePad using the Leap2A standard.


All PebblePad assets can be exported by users as HTML, Leap2A or IMS eportfolio 1.0.These assets can then be imported into other Leap2A or IMS eportfolio 1.0 compliant systems.Assets can be moved by users from one PebblePad account to another.

Systems Integration (list known):See information above.

Accepted artifacts/media (pictures, video, audio, text, html, documents, etc.):

Any digital files can be uploaded into PebblePad.

Company Profile

Pebble Learning is based in the UK and comprises two UK Directors, three full-time consultants, and a team of 20 developers and customer support staff.The Australasian business is managed by a local Director/consultant.

Pebble Learning concentrates fully on the development of PebblePad:We are personal learning and eportfolio specialists.

Customer base/size:

Operational installations of PebblePad = 100+ across the UK and Australasia equating to approximately 0.5 million users.

Student license pricing model:

Any individual user can purchase a PebblePad account directly from Pebble Learning.The majority of users are part of an institution/organization that has purchased PebblePad for its student/members and therefore the institutional pricing model applies.

Institutional pricing model:

Institutions purchase PebblePad on a per user basis.As user numbers increase the per user price decreases.Minimum per user costs are available to institutions that take out an enterprise licence.

Upon leaving an institution that uses PebblePad a student is eligible for a free one year personal licence.At the end of this year the student can choose to continue to purchase a personal licence or export their content.

Postgraduate/transfer student license model:

Postgraduate/transfer students come under the institution model as described above.

Institution service agreement model:

From the initial reporting of an issue we will investigate and respond within 24 hours.Our initial response will include an estimated timescale for a resolution.

For all major issues we will endeavor to resolve the issue within 48 hours with a patch being made available after appropriate testing.

For minor issues we will endeavor to resolve the issue within 7 working days and make any fixes available in the next appropriate patch.Minor issues will not normally warrant the release of a patch unless a significant number of issues are cumulatively causing a more serious issue.

Two incremental and documented updates are published per year – in January and July. Two mid-release maintenance patches are released April and October.

Online support information:

PebblePad comes with extensive inbuilt help resources.These can be accessed from anywhere in the system are context sensitive.In addition comprehensive tipsheets aimed at supporting the faculty can be accessed from within the various institution tools within PebblePad.The PebblePad website also contains support information, FAQs, help movies, and user tipsheets.

Institutional support services (Free):

Pebble Learning is committed to offering the highest possible level of customer support and service. All our license fees include full support and maintenance.

The following areas are all part of our inclusive support offering:

  • Fault diagnosis and resolution
  • Periodic upgrades to the system
  • Assistance in system use.
  • Support is provided via access to our customer support website, email support and telephone support.

Institutional support services (Fee-based):

Available fee-based support includes onsite consultancy, training, and system customization and development.Our aim is to support successful implementation, and we will work closely with customers to achieve this.

IT staffing requirements:

As PebblePad is primarily hosted and easily integrated to other institutional systems, IT staffing needs are exceptionally low.

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