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Wednesday, 11 August 2010

ePortfolios in the U.S.: Slowly Catching on

Dreamstime Image: Girl thinking at laptopFor an independent view of the ePortfolio scene I have asked Kate Cunningham (see below) to present her views of ePortfolio progress in the US. This is a frank summation, uncluttered by the wishful thinking of ePortfolio evangelists or student enthusiasts. Read on!

While ePortfolios have gained popularity throughout the globe as the future of learning and presentation, their institutional implementation across the American school system is sadly lacking. In fact, ePortfolios do not have broad base use in higher education, although about 100 institutions represented themselves at a recent global technology conference to talk about ePortfolios.

There are, of course, Virtual Learning Environments in different American Universities. I only recently graduated from an American institution of higher learning, and it was here that the school's specific VLE, powered by the Sakai Project, was used. While the tools provided through this specific VLE were functional enough, I was taken aback by how little it was used.

When I asked friends attending different universities, the extent to which they used a VLE was just as minimal. Of course, the VLE was certainly popularly employed for the dissemination of grades, the uploading of assignments, and the downloading of various course texts. However, for the sake of preserving student work, creating multi-format presentations, or accomplishing anything that would be of a lasting nature, university IT tools were short of the mark.

Wikis are more commonly used within the university structure, although, again they are not implemented on a basis that crosses through courses. In my experience, certain professors asked their students to use Wikis, but most didn't. In one specific course that stands out in my mind, we used a Wiki not just as a place to post assignments but also as a presentational platform to show our work to everyone in the class, as well as to work together on group projects by editing pages together.

While the ePortfolio idea has not yet taken off in the United States, Campus Technology, an American monthly dedicated solely to the use of technology in institutions of higher education, reported in July on the AAEEBL's first world conference set in Boston. The AAEEBL, which stands for The Association for Authentic, Experiential, and Evidence-Based Learning, convened to discuss the nature of "a profoundly disruptive technology"--ePortfolios.

The article noted:

“With the advent of AAEEBL, a global collaborative, the portfolio conversation has quickened, deepened, and broadened. Now, well past the trough of disappointment portfolio has a global association affiliated with all existing portfolio initiatives and organizations. The work is just beginning.”

Indeed, the work is just beginning, but now that more and more are talking about ePortfolios and their powerful learning tools, comprehensive implementation will be the next step. It will certainly take some time.

This guest post is contributed by Kate Cunningham, who writes on the topics of online university rankings. She welcomes your questions and comments at her email Id: .

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