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Monday, 23 November 2009

Graphic: The JISC logo.Two new documents have been published by JISC and prepared by an illustrious team headed up by Janet Strivens of the Centre for Recording Achievement, dated August 2009.

The first, entitled, 'The role of e-portfolios in formative and summative assessment practices', at 66 pages is both a helpful and informative document, despite it being published in Word format. The second, entitled, 'The Role of e-Portfolios in Formative and Summative Assessment: Case Studies of Practice' at a staggering 175 pages takes a bit of time to digest!

The two documents together make a good presentation of the state of e-Portfolios in the UK within the HE sector. The combined wisdom of the team presents a picture that cannot be ignored.

However, there are still too many anomalies and areas which need to be addressed, such as the time needed to train staff and enable them to be comfortable with this medium that might be quite different to anything that they have experienced before.

My main frustration is that over the last few years little has changed in as much as some so-called e-Portfolios still appear to be little more than a substitutionary VLE, delivering both content and in some cases assessment tools built into the e-Portfolio. Again, some institutions' criteria for assessment are more concerned with the skills required for the construction of the e-Portfolio rather than assessing the content and processes demonstrated and the attitude of the student. Questions relating to the use of Macromedia or any web-tool service, for instance, should be irrelevant to the purpose of assessment for which the tool is to be used.

The fact that most of the e-Portfolio systems are still an embedded part of the institutions' delivery is a serious cause for concern and fundamental to issues of portability and student 'ownership'. One emergent problem is that of security, whereby assessors could remotely gain access to parts of the VLE which was not necessarily part of a student's e-Portfolio. Similarly, (an old 'hobby-horse' of mine) there is some discussion about using different e-Portfolios for different purposes, whereas I would suggest that a good e-Portfolio system such as eFolio can deliver different 'views' to different audiences, concurrently, using much of the same content for different purposes.

Perhaps the key-word relating to the functionality of any e-Portfolio is 'interoperability' - and yet the topic does not appear to be mentioned anywhere in the report. Again, the report and case-studies reflect, in my opinion, a significant lack of acceptance of 'transition' and lifelong, lifewide learning as being an important part of the e-Portfolio concept.

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