Discussion and articles specifically about NHS ePortfolio
Following feedback from our users and customer leads we are updating the appearance of the NHS ePortfolios.
We have been working on a new interface and:
- It will lead to a more user-friendly ePortfolio experience.
- The user interface will have a more modern/intuitive look and feel.
- The site will work better on touch screen devices such as phones, phablets and tablets.
- It is mainly a cosmetic change: the underlying system is unaffected
- No data will be lost as a result of this.
The release date for the switch to the new appearance is Saturday the 31st of January 2015.
On this date the main website at https://www.nhseportfolios.org will switch to the new appearance by default for all users.
If you encounter any technical issues following the switch to the new appearance, this should be reported using the support form within the help menu or by email to email@example.com. When reporting issues, PLEASE clearly state that the issue you are reporting is about the new appearance and, as normal, please provide us as much information as possible to help reproduce the issue – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hcr2fh2rabs.
Feedback on the functions and content of the ePortfolio should still be channelled through your usual project leads. We hope you like the new appearance as much as we do!
The NHS ePortfolios team
Sometimes users of the NHS ePortfolios website have ideas about how the system can be improved or amended. However the NHS ePortfolios Technical Team has very limited remit to make direct change. Instead most change requests have to come from the “commissioning bodies” that define what content should be in an ePortfolio and how it should function.
For details of what content is and isn’t controlled by the NHS ePortfolios team please see “Who makes decisions about ePortfolio?“.
Change requests by Site:
For the Foundation ePortfolio there are two main bodies that can request change requests:
1) The first of these is the UKFPO Curriculum Delivery Group. This group has the authority to make change requests pertaining to “Core Content” for the Foundation ePortfolio.
For Terms of Reference for this group see the following document:
2) The second Group is the NHS ePortfolios Foundation Team Advisory Group (TAG). This group meets twice a year and should include representation from every UK Foundation School.
This group has the remit to make change requests that are not relevant to national core content and/or functionality. Each Foundation School/Deanery/LETB has one contact as follows:
Foundation School ePortfolio contacts:
|East Midlands||-details currently not supplied-|
|East of England||-details currently not supplied-|
|North West Thamesfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|North Central Thamesemail@example.com|
|North East Thamesfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Northern Ireland||-details currently not supplied-|
|Wales||-details currently not supplied-|
|Yorkshire and Humberemail@example.com|
Where the contact is noted as “details currently not supplied” this means that the NHS ePortfolios team has not been supplied the details of the nominated contact for change requests for that area. We suggest you contact the organisation directly.
Any suggestions that you have for changes to the content or functionality should be directed to these two bodies. As the Foundation schools feed into both these bodies, contacting them is generally the best place to start.
We’d like to make you aware of a change to the Summary Report which is in plan for the next few weeks.
|In a nutshell: You will now get a choice of which Form Group(s) you want to report totals for, rather than reporting against fixed pre-determined Form Categories as at present, improving the detail and flexibility of the report.
Other than this, please note that the report will retain the same functionality and you will still be able to achieve the same results as you currently do with the report.
Please find below a background document to this change:
If you have any questions about this change please do not hesitate to get in contact with us. Below is a recording of a webinar from 17th September giving some background information on this change (10 minutes) – we also plan to make a shorter video on how to use the new style report when it goes live, which is scheduled for a few weeks’ time.
We are pleased to announce that there is now an alternative means of getting help on the ePortfolio in the form of a searchable support area, the NHS ePortfolio Help Centre.
This is located at http://nhseportfolios.zendesk.com
During June 2014 the FAQ within the ePortfolio is to be removed and users encouraged to use the Help Centre to find answers to common questions. Over time we will continue to add articles, particularly based on common questions that are being received by the Technical Support team and by ePortfolio site leads (such as Foundation schools and the colleges).
In addition to being able to search on keywords you can also browse categories based on ePortfolio roles and sites.
We will also posting guidance videos on to our YouTube channel at http://youtube.com/nhsep where we will be adding short video guides that are often embedded into Help Centre articles.
June 18th 2014, 7 – 8pm (BST) #nhsep
The Storify of this Chat:
The third NHS ePortfolio Tweet Chat event looking to get some user feedback on what is missing, and what could be improved (or removed).
Your chance to get those ideas off your chest. What is it that could be improved about the way the NHS ePortfolio works and how you’d like it to work?
What we would really like to hear about are things that you find confusing or counter intuitive, slow you down, or just annoy you.
We’d also like to hear about what you think is missing from the ePortfolio, features that would help you on a day-to-day basis and as part of your training. If you are a supervisor or trainer are there areas that could improve you ability to interact with and supervise your trainees?
If you have performed external assessments for ePortfolio trainees are there any features of this process that could be improved?
Some things to bear in mind:
* We don’t have any say of the design of forms, curricula, or the structure of training programmes. These are determined by numerous bodies and passed to us as requirements. Who makes decisions about ePortfolio?
* We know that there are on going issues of performance due to very heavy site usage (NHS ePortfolio Speed)
We will be holding a tweet chat on June 18th at 7pm using #nhsep hash tag.
Some useful links:
The Tweet chat host @nhsep: twitter.com/nhsep
How to be involved in a Twitter chat? A nice description here: twubs.com/twitter-chats/about
Some useful sites to help you follow and get involved in a Twitter Chat:
- http://twubs.com/nhsep (specific for #nhsep, automatically adds hashtag for you)
- http://tweetchat.com (automatically adds hashtag for you)
A set of change requests to ePortfolio ARCP processes were requested by the FP Curriculum Delivery Group in December 2013 and then specified early in 2014.
These changes have been developed by the NES ePortfolio team and have been approved for release by the UKFPO. This document sets out the details of those changes for our users.
The change requests were built on requests made by the Foundation School Director’s Committee (19th September 2013) and the Foundation School Manager’s Forum (25th September 2013).
On the 26th of April 2014 the following features were released:
- New ARCP outcome Forms (F1 and F2).
- Two new “Supporting evidence” forms (F1 and F2).
- Updates to the “Review of evidence” summary page (F1 and F2).
- New “A1FC” certificate form.
- New “FACD” certificate form.
- New Roles – FSM, ARCP Chair.
- Amendments to the Form count report for ARCP reporting
On the 3rd of May the following features were released:
- New Form Rs.
There are some further ARCP changes yet to be released. These will be detailed in further communications once the release dates are agreed in conjunction with the UKFPO, but include the following items:
- Certificate management and release Admin pages.
- Link between summary of evidence page and attention items.
In July 2012 an online survey was conducted of all Foundation ePortfolio users at the request of the UKFPO. The survey ran for three weeks and generated 2,425 responses. Although the results were available immediately, the survey coincided with ePortfolio Review and as the information was commercially sensitive the results are only being made widely available now. This paper summarises the most common comments of respondents, but is not a systematic evaluation of the data.
Down the ePortfolio Survey Summary (PDF format)
It has come to our attention that a number of users, instead of clicking a bookmark to the site or typing https://www.nhseportfolios.org into the address bar of their browser, access our site by searching for terms such as “NHS ePortfolio” in search engines such as Google or Bing, and then clicking links in the search results page these sites choose to provide. When navigating to the site in this way, the results page provided by these third party sites can often include links to alternate instances of our main site in which users login credentials do not work, but which look very similar to our main site, causing confusion/frustration to users. We use these sties for supporting the ePortfolio, they are used for training, pre-release testing and many other import processes. (Please note, the search results vary on a per user basis and are not consistent in their content).
This situation arose previously, in May/June 2013, when Google substantially changed the algorithm used to prioritise search results. These alternate sites can be easily identified as they have different addresses (e.g. http://qa.nhseportfolios.org) which will appear in the address bar of the browser when accessing the site and because all but one of the alternate sites now contain the following information message on the homepage: This is not the main NHS ePortfolio site – you may have reached this site by mistake. You are viewing xxx.nhseportfolios.org, were you looking for www.nhseportfolios.org? Whilst the contents of the results pages in the search engines are not controlled by NES, we have contacted the two major global search engines – Google and Bing – to remove links to alternate instances of our site to reduce this possible source of confusion.
We are currently investigating the options available to us to ensure that the non-inclusion of alternative sites is made permanent. In the interim, please ensure that you and your trainees are visiting the main site at the following address: https://www.nhseportfolios.org If you continue to experience login issues, please first confirm that you are visiting https://www.nhseportfolios.org and, if problems persist, please provide a full-screen screen grab where possible to assign with identifying the issue.
As you may have heard, on Monday of this week a member of Google’s security team and a software security firm called Codenomicon discovered and publicly disclosed a vulnerability in a software package that is widely used to secure online communications called OpenSSL. The official reference number for the bug is CVE-2014-0160, although it is more widely known by the name “Heartbleed”.
NHS ePortfolio does not use, and has not used, OpenSSL, so we were not affected by the “Heartbleed” vulnerability.
The third party service we use for our support ticketing system does use OpenSSL. This service has subsequently fixed the bug with their system and the provider does not believe that any sensitive data was accessed. We are actively monitoring the situation and will notify you if we discover anything.
As an NHS ePortfolio user you don’t need to take any action. However because of the number of sites and services that are affected, if you use the same password on more than one website, we would recommend that you change your passwords to something new. By changing your NHS ePortfolio password you will ensure that your NHS ePortfolio account remains secure, even if your previously used password(s) are released into the public domain as a result of a compromised 3rd party site.
You can change your NHS ePortfolio password via the Personal Details page, once logged in. If you currently login via a Single Sign On provider (e.g. RCPI / RCPI PCS users), then your NHS ePortfolio password is not generally used and does not need updating.
We are constantly working to make sure the ePortfolio is accessible and usable in the wide range of environments in which it is used. We have received feedback on the speed of some pages in the application from a small percentage of users and we are keen to address this. We hope the information below is helpful but please get in touch if you have further feedback.
The NHS ePortfolio is a complex web site that delivers information (content) to a wide range of roles within multiple ePortfolio versions. The content is derived from data accessed from an ever-growing database. Page load times can depend on the complexity of the task that page must perform and on the source, quantity and complexity of the data needed to fulfil that task. Load times can also be affected by overall site activity, be it numbers of concurrent users or by the commonly requested tasks in operation at that time. Lastly, national and local network speeds can limit pages loads as can the age, type and specification of the computer being used to display the web page.
The aim of this short article is to discuss NHS ePortfolio site performance and why, though the majority of pages load quickly, some pages can take rather longer to load.
What happens when you access NHS ePortfolio?
When you log into your ePortfolio account, your web browser requests access to the ePortfolio software that is installed in web servers that return the appropriate content. The software consists of code that determines what should be sent back and what it should look like (i.e. how it renders in a web page in your browser). Behind the code on the server is a database that stores all the information about who you are, what access rights you have, which are your forms and curricula, posts, training programmes, supervisors, and how these items are inter-related. So, for any web page to be delivered to your browser the software must process a series of database “queries” in order to construct the page that is returned to you.
Some pages are more complex to display, such as a Summary Overview, Curriculum or Review of Evidence page. This is because database queries that are performed when requesting these pages search very large data sets. A significant part of the ePortfolio involves accessing web pages that must deliver data derived from several complicated data requests, all of which will take time to process on the server.
Patterns of activity
There are periods of time throughout the year when activity increases and so pressure on the web server increases too. Activity that makes the web server work harder isn’t necessarily due to increased numbers of visitors or by increased numbers of page views (i.e. the number of pages being processed and delivered to the user’s browser). Some pages such as the Form Summary Overview or Curriculum Overview will require higher levels of processing than a ticket request page. So, if you have several hundred trainees checking their Form Summary page (e.g. as they prepare for ARCP) the servers are all working harder to search and display the data.
The graph in the figure below shows how site usage (as page views) increases in the run up to post rotation changeover as trainees rush to complete assessments & other forms before moving on. A particularly busy period is seen during May and June whilst ARCPs are in progress. While the number of people during this time starts to decline the load on the server remains high as ARCP Reviewers access particularly complex, data heavy pages.
What affects how long it takes for a page to appear?
The time it takes for a page to appear fully loaded on your web browser after you have clicked a link or menu button can be influenced by a number of factors:
- How much work the server has to do to generate the page (by the software and the database) before sending it back
- How big (in terms of kilobytes) is the page being returned to you
- How fast is the network connection between the client and server, and how much competition for resources (known as contention) is encountered by users of that connection.
- How quickly can the browser on the client computer process the HTML and scripts locally to fully render the page
Is ePortfolio slow?
It is difficult, if not impossible, to obtain bench mark values with which to compare ePortfolio performance against. Which pages do you compare? Which sites might you compare performance with?
An indication of global page load times by country, industry “vertical” and other interesting web statistics can be found at http://brandongaille.com/acceptable-web-page-load-times-by-country-and-industry/ or view the info-graphic from this site by clicking this thumbnail (opens in a new window):
What we are able to see from analytics data is that while 17% of pages take less than 1 second to load, 36% of ePortfolio pages take between 1 and 2 seconds and a quarter of page loads take longer than 7 seconds (see the graph below).
The slower page load times will be a result of specific pages that are more difficult to generate and serve rather than just pages simply running slowly.
Known complex pages include (in no specific order):
- Trainee home page
- Supervisor’s selected trainee home page
- Foundation TAB summary page
- Trainee assessments page
- Trainee curriculum page
In each case these are pages that require a significant amount of data access and processing before being delivered to your browser.
What are we doing to improve performance?
The work to improve site performance is a constant and ongoing process. An obvious source of potential improvement can be found by upgrading the server hardware, i.e. multiple load-balanced servers in a virtual machine environment. In autumn 2012 we migrated to a virtual private cloud environment with exactly this setup, and as a result saw significant improvements in performance. However, this alone will not necessarily solve all speed issues and there are cost limitations of further increasing server power.
Much of the work in improving site speed involves looking at the software and database. Work is currently focussing on analysis of the software to find more efficient ways of achieving the same output, removing redundant or extraneous functionality, identifying and eliminating database bottlenecks. More effective and efficient database architecture and design can also lead to better data access rates by the software. Already we have seen improved service during periods of peak activity during ARCP in May and June 2013 as compared to the same period in 2012.
We have made good progress over the previous 2 years to provide an increasingly stable and speedy web application. We still have work to do to make the NHS ePortfolio more responsive and deliver content more efficiently. While this process of improvement is an ongoing task we have to accept there are limitations in resources in terms of hardware and in terms of technical staff needed to find, develop and implement changes.