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Friday, 8 January 2010

ePortfolio Commons

Graphic:  logo of 'ePortfolio Commons'I hesitate to appear critical of an institution or individuals that are making an attempt to promote e-Portfolios. I hope that the authors of 'ePortfolio Commons' will read this post in the constructive manner intended. What first caught my eye was the challenging statement:

"Are you ready for your final semester in the college? Have you started preparation and application for a job and/or further study? How can you enhance your chance of success? Register and join our ePortfolio hands-on workshop to start creating your own ePortfolio to strategically showcase your capabilities and achievements! "

As much as I applaud the efforts of any to get students to realise the value of an e-Portfolio, I feel that the above is a very narrow and 'last century' view of the function or purpose of an e-Portfolio, possibly coloured by the references used. So, perhaps I may be allowed to say "Great! BUT!"

  1. The e-Portfolio should not be seen as a last minute 'rush job' but as something built up over many years, certainly starting at the begining of the college course if not before.
  2. Job-hunting is possibly one of the least effective purposes for using an e-Portfolio, unless potential employers are really ICT savvy and are willing to look at and know how to navigate an e-Portfolio.
  3. One of the greatest functions of an e-Portfolio is as a secure and private space for formative feedback from peers and mentors.
  4. Yet another valuable function of the e-Portfolio is that of planning and drafting ideas which can be worked upon collaboratively.
  5. Above all, students should be made well aware of the image that they are communicating to others and that the patois of the younger generation or a careless selection of photographs might not be received well by potential employers or university professors.
  6. Care should be given to thinking out where the e-Portfolio is to be hosted, by an academic institution or 'in the Cloud'. Both solutions have their problems - which is why I have developed eFolio for UK and European students.

So yes, my feeling is 'get on with constructing your e-Portfolio as a matter of urgency'. But don't think that it is just a tool for showcasing or PDP.

Perhaps I should add that the list of categories by nations is very simple. It might have been that in the UK 10 years ago HE was using e-Portfolios mainly for showcasing and PDP but that is no longer the case. Secondly, e-Portfolios are becoming more popular in mainstream education, even in primary schools. I can give you several examples of different approaches to using eFolio.


gabber said...

fair critique Ray, but as you know eportfolios cover a spectrum of uses. And some of those uses do encompass "just" presentation of achievements, so I guess that is what this author is conveying. Misguided as it may be - as you point out.

But... what about work based eportfolios, those are primarily dedicated to making the assessors life easier & a not much more than a competency list??

It's all in the semantics - tho' we continue to persevere

Ray Tolley said...

Hi, Gabber,
Thanks for your response, it's encouraging to know that there is someone 'out there'!

Ah, I wish there was another term such as WB-Portfolio. I'm primarily looking at the UK situation where every learner in mainstream education has access to a VLE which is able to deliver all the criteria, competency lists and scaffolding for sumative assessments. In the same way I feel that any employing organisation should provide if not a VLE then at least an on-line study system whereby the WB-portfolio is specifically related to that course of study (ie acting like a VLE). The NCSL course portfolio is a good example.

In both situations (mainstream or employment) an assessment portfolio is not really learner-owned - it is a tool used by the institution.

Perhaps even the word 'semantic' is a semantically loaded term? I argued with colleagues at Becta that we should have determined clearer definitions of 'VLE', 'CMS', 'Learning Platform' etc so that we all knew what each other was talking about - but they said at the time that different vendors and software writers had adopted their own meanings to a whole variety of terms without any mututal agreement!