Implementation of a digital learning platform for assessments in a paper-based landscape

Case Studies | Disciplines


University of South Australia


Implementation of a digital learning platform for assessments in a paper-based landscape

How a digital learning platform can improve the quality of clinical assessment in nursing and midwifery. 

Angela Brown

Angela Brown

University of South Australia

Naomi Rooney

Naomi Rooney

University of South Australia



Model/s of WIL activity

Industry/community based placement, Case studies, Simulations, Role plays, Site visits, Technology

Description of WIL activity

The transition to a digital teaching and learning platform in the Bachelor of Nursing and Bachelor of Midwifery programs has led to quality improvements in clinical placement assessments. The use of the platform PebblePad© has enabled us to track student progress in real time, provide timely feedback, and deliver content in an innovated and contemporary way. PebblePad© has allowed the academic unit to look at quality improvements in assessment. The changes have led to more meaningful and positive experiences for students on placement by decreasing the potential for task focused approaches to care provision and encouraging reflective practice.

How long has it been operating?

18 months

How does the WIL activity demonstrate good practice and/or innovation?

The implementation of a digital learning platform in Nursing and Midwifery is the first of its kind in South Australia. The platform is accessible to all stakeholders and encourages reflective and collaborative practice. Students receive feedback in real-time and are afforded an opportunity to build a professional portfolio of work that encourages them to adopt positive professional development behaviours and assist with preparing them to meet industry expectations when they enter the workforce.

The use of PebblePad© is innovative in the way it can be tailored to incorporate the needs of our industry partners. We have reduced the administrative burden of facilitating clinical placement activities for students by physically reducing the volume of assessments, offering a platform for open and transparent feedback and communication. The platform facilitates real-time support from academic staff who are able to monitor the assessment documents whilst they are being completed versus the past practice of academic staff only being able to review documentation at the cessation of placement activities.

We have provided students with online work spaces that encourage reflection with each assessment component. Collectively, students are encouraged to be less assessment task focused to instead focus on the use of clinical rationale and decision making when working through assessment requirements. Students are further encouraged to engage in reflective practice in alignment with practice standards and industry expectation.

Who benefits from the WIL activity and how?

The use of PebblePad© in our Nursing and Midwifery programs benefits all end users. Students have a real time record of their practice with the provision of timely feedback and opportunity to create a professional portfolio that they can use to demonstrate their work readiness. The assessor (either University employee or nominated venue staff) benefits from being able to access the assessment tool at all times, receive real time feedback and support from the University and not be burdened with a large volume of paper documentation. The assessments are simplified and streamlined to focus on key areas and encourage reflection.

How does the activity embed successful evaluation processes?

The ability to monitor student progress from a distance and provide real time feedback and evaluation of experiences is a learner focused process. Clear milestones are created whereby the student is expected to provide authentic assessment evidence which is matched to the learning outcomes and assessment criteria for each course. Evaluation is continuous and academic staff have the ability to intervene at each milestone and identify students at risk of not meeting the learning outcomes. The process supports students’ transition to professional roles with a focus on life-long learning. Students and staff have provided favourable feedback and improvement suggestions.

What are the broader/longer term impacts for stakeholders?

Students and staff have reported improved time management particularly in relation to working through large volumes of repetitive, paper-based assessments. Clinicians and students are provided with additional support from academic staff in monitoring student progress and providing feedback and up to date and timely record keeping. Student expectations and experience can be managed better, through a structured consistent approach to assessment requirements. Our rural and remote industry partners benefit from the same access to support and feedback as their metropolitan counterparts.

How is the WIL activity integrated into curricula?

The use of PebblePad© begins prior to placement with students directed to engage with self-directed activities such as identifying learning objectives and contextual based activity that will be drawn upon for their pre-placement practical assessments. Students use the same platform for their practical assessment pre-placement, continue to placement and complete learning tools and standard assessments and engage in reflection activity throughout. At the conclusion of placement students are encouraged to use the platform to build a portfolio of work, highlighting their achievements and collating information that is reflective of contemporary professional development activities.

How is it informed by relevant theoretical or empirical literature, research and/or scholarship?

Using PebblePad© for clinical assessments has provided a system wide approach to enhance student engagement and improve achievement of the course learning outcomes. Electronic portfolios facilitate the processing of information in different ways (Birks et al. 2016). Students are able to utilise the systems approach to transition through the learning process. Further to this, learning is scaffolded in a systematic and coherent manner whereby students provide evidence of meeting the learning outcomes (Salmon 2013). Students follow a learning pathway where they transition through stages of learning, development and levels of interactivity with the platform (Salmon 2013). The project has been presented extensively at SA Health sites, university presentations, international webinars and published (Brown & Rooney 2020).

What are the plans for the WIL activity in the future?

We are planning for full integration of PebblePad© into clinical and theory-based activities throughout all programs. We plan to increase our capacity for ‘track and trigger’ responses through the addition of placement hours and sick leave monitoring as well as monitoring of staff interaction and facilitation. A focus for us is to also improve access to and support for regional and rural placement sites, creating networks and placement capacity. We have the potential to improve placement monitoring activities regardless of location and facilitate the linking of students together to enhance collaborative practices.


Birks, M., Hartin, P., Woods, C., Emmanuel, E. and Hitchins, M., 2016. Students’ perceptions of the use of eportfolios in nursing and midwifery education. Nurse education in practice, 18, pp.46-51.

Brown, A.E. & Rooney, N., 2020. ‘Uphill implementation: Changing the face of undergraduate nurse and midwifery assessment in South Australia’, Charting new courses in teaching and learning, Pebble Learning Ltd, UK Chapter 2

Salmon, Gilly. 2013 E-Tivities : The Key to Active Online Learning, Taylor & Francis Group, 2013. ProQuest Ebook Central, 

Paper student

PebblePad Mobile

Explore our Resources

2022 Conference Proceedings

Conference Proceedings

Town Camp Architecture Studio

Case Studies