Objectives: These were to measure the uptake and use of an electronic learning portfolio to support reflective continuing professional development, and to characterize attitudes towards its use and obstacles to its adoption.
Design: Uncontrolled, longitudinal intervention study with quantitative and qualitative evaluation.
Participants: Physicians with a specialty interest in endocrinology and diabetes mellitus, registered for continuing professional development with the Royal College of Physicians, London.
Intervention: All registered consultants were offered a 1-year free trial of PC Diary. Those who accepted were offered a training workshop.
Main outcome measures: Quantitative and qualitative responses to a simple questionnaire. Two researchers independently used a template approach to analyse free-text responses and jointly agreed a final system of coding.
Results: 22% of registered consultants applied to participate; 14% attended training workshops. Of registered participants, 94% returned the questionnaire. PC Diary was used by 34%, but only 10% used it regularly. Among the registrants, 54% asked to continue their subscription for a second year, and 40% asked for further training. There were emotive expressions of both like and dislike, often coupled with statements about the individual's learning style. Time pressures and lack of computer access, literacy and support were dominant obstacles to adoption.
Conclusions: There was considerable support for reflective learning using an electronic portfolio. Acceptability and use were influenced by individual learning style, resources, training and technical support, and these were often inadequate. The balance for consultants between workload demands and support provided did not favour a reflective type of learning.