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Monday, 21 September 2009

What IS an e-Portfolio ?

People are continually asking this question and using generally outdated text to thus argue for outmoded Teaching & Learning styles. A recent post on this issue caught my eye, primarily from the succinct cartoon as above. The student wrote:

"I am currently researching eportfolios as part of the #H808. In my professional life as an elearning advisor I have vowed never to use the word eportfolio on its own. This is because the same word is used for very different types of system. Instead I use the following terms which I hope we will get to acknowledge and understand more as the course progresses. "

The complete post can be seen here.
My response was inevitable:
I love the e-Portfolio cartoon - it really expresses the dilemma. And this is the point: too many people have avoided the issue, like you, by disaggregating what in essence is ONE tool which can be used in a wide variety of purposes and functionalities and by a very wide range of users.

Writing with a mixed academic perspective, I was once asked who were the potential users of an e-Portfolio. At that time I listed off some 18 different users, see:

Quite simply, my plea to you is that you do not go down the route of different e-Portfolios for different purposes. Each learner has a multitude of different needs - and the e-Portfolio can meet many of these various needs through differing functionalities.

Certainly, one of the best features of an e-Portfolio is the ability to store a variety of artefacts such that they can be reused for different purposes and persona.


kevhickeyuk said...


Thanks for your comments, i'm glad you found the cartoon useful. I have responded at my blog explaining my argument against your plea. In Further Education at least, which is my area of expertise, a one size fits all approach doesn't work.


Ray Tolley said...

Hi, Kev,

Thanks for your kind response. However, I am arguing for a 'Lifetime tool' owned by the learner. I think that what you are arguing for is a 'course assessment tool' which can comfortably sit within your VLE.

I am proposing a different culture to the conventional institutional approach. If you look at Dr Helen Barrett's collection of metaphors they are all about the learner and not about course delivery.

Yes, the e-Portfolio CAN be used for course assessments, grades etc but the ownership is specifically that of the learner, however many different courses he/she may be studying, both in college and also externally. The aggregation of both formal studies, informal courses and a whole range of experiences and prior learning can all be recorded in the one place and used for various audiences.

kevhickeyuk said...

Hi Ray, You say that you are arguing for a lifetime tool rather than a course assessment tool. This is the point of the cartoon. The word eportfolio can mean different things to different people.
In theory, maybe these tools should be part of a vle, and there are tools such as mahara which can do this to an extent, however they require alot of work to make them suitable for specific courses and are not as good as seperate systems.
I agree that a single system would enhance student ownership but in many cases this is not a the best way of doing things becase they are actually different tools with different purposes but all called eportfolio