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Tuesday, 22 February 2011

The USP of an ePortfolio

Picture:  Chessmen on a board, but one standing out as distinctiveI was recently asked what I found, within my experience, to be the USP (unique selling point) of an ePortfolio. The next day I was asked if I could crystalise my paper on 'Attraction and Retention' (see previous post) into some 6 bullet points. Well, below I attempt to do just that. The above illustration clarifies my message: there are many players in the field, most, in my mind are relatively boring and unattractive. To me, only one stands out as being unique. But perhaps you would be kind enough to comment on my selection of 'six of the best' criteria:

  1. The learner should be able to make their ePortfolio stand out as different, a 'must read'.

  2. The ePortfolio must be learner-owned and therefore laid-out as the learner chooses.

  3. It must be completely and repeatedly portable from one institution to another.

  4. It cannot be laden with inbuilt assessment tools if it is to be accessed by mobile devices.

  5. It is not static - but must be capable of continuous upgrade as the learner matures.

  6. It should be capable of displaying multiple concurrent 'personas' to different audiences.

My original list of 'Ten Prime Directives' can be seen here.

Comments, please?

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Attraction and Retention

Image from Dreamstime: A group of teenagers around a laptopI recently came across the following question:

"How can digital technologies help my institution recruit a wider mix of students?"

A challenging question to which I wanted to pour out my heart. Not so much for the obvious references to publicity and the support that can be provided by alumni. Not so much setting up a new culture of collaborative learning and 'dialogics' but rather, more specifically, how the ePortfolio can enhance both the attraction of learners from a wider field and secondly, how to retain their loyalty through to graduation. At a time when governments are tightening the purse-strings and yet demanding an increase of entrants this is particularly relevant.

Once I had started on my response I soon realised that there were so many influences, even within the narrow realm of the ePortfolio, that impinged on both the attraction of a wider and more diverse academic community and also the ability to retain our 'customers'.

For those who want to read on, the 3-page document is here.

Each of the points listed needs some thinking through as to whether they apply to your particular institution.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

The Evolution of the VLE

Collage of some 40 logos of vendorsI was recently asked if I had written anything on the history of the VLE (aka MLE) in UK schools. As it happened, I had a half-completed paper, based on a presentation that I made last year. Although I did not (purposely) mention ePortfolios within the VLE document, I thought that some readers might be entertained by my personal account of the evolution, or even revolution, that the introduction of the VLE has gone through over the last 30 years.

The .pdf document at 4Mb can be accessed here.

My paper does not pretend to be an accurate history of VLEs for the simple reason that the activities mentioned inevitably were performed in different institutions at different times. And again, it only refers to the work within mainly Secondary education and does not refer to the immense amount of work done by universities around the world as a precursor to the work in schools. (See Wikipedia) I can only go by my own experiences and the results of my research for my Bill Tagg paper of 2007.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Learning Analytics

Front Cover of 'Horizon Report 2011The latest Horizon Report 2011 makes interesting reading. In some 33 pages the document attempts to predict techno-logicial outcomes within the next year, and in 1-2 or 3-4 years time. However, what caught my eye was the very last chapter on Learning Analytics (LA). For those not familiar with LA, Wikipedia defines it thus:

Learning analytics is the use of intelligent data, learner-produced data, and analysis models to discover information and social connections for predicting and advising people's learning.

Good as the article is, there are far too many questions which remain unanswered:

In schools we have a far wider range of problems concerning interoperability. Until all data can be made interoperable LA will not happen.

Secondly, there is little or no imagination as to how LA will really contribute to Teaching & Learning. As I am presently writing on this subject I suggest that we should be looking at ‘Third Generation Assessment and Feedback’ or what I expect will be ‘Semantic Assessment’.

Thirdly, the document does not appear to recognise the vast number of leading organisations around the world (something like 500) who are currently using LA in their day-to-day staff training programmes. - It is time education got its head out of the sand and looked at what the big wide world *IS* doing.

So my question here is what do you think of the concept of Learning Analytics? What would you like to see intelligent data doing for your learners? How might ePortfolios benefit from LA?

Monday, 7 February 2011

Product Structure

I have just been following an Elluminate webinar from The ePortfolio California Community. Jennifer Lau, of Marymount College, presents her findings of a significant pilot with a clarity and openness not always found in such presentations. One of the most significant issues that she identified is encapsulated in her slide (#23) as above.

Jennifer illustrates the three main groups of users or 'constituencies' within an institution and argues for the possibility of combining all three groups into one tool. However, this is a time of a potential explosion in ePortfolio usage, when not only will much larger numbers of students be using ePortfolios, but also, that they will be using them in conjunction with a large number of subjects (typically up to 15 in a normal Secondary school). If that were not enough there is also the expectancy of a massive increase in 'Learning Analytics', based on the institution's MIS. Regular readers of this blog may recall one of my mantras:

"Let the VLE do what it best does and
leave the ePortfolio for what it can best do."

For several years now, I have been repeatedly suggesting that the ePortfolio is not the solution to the network manager's prayer whereby learners' user-areas are no longer part of the LMS of VLE. (See my paper, 'Who is hijacking my ePortfolio?' best read in full-screen mode) Far from it, my suggestion is that the VLE must work much harder at providing information to both learners and faculty, JIT and also of a much more refined quality. The MIS, through the VLE should be capable of providing much more formative information, on demand, and in 'real time'.

I therefore see the ePortfolio as a conduit between on the one hand both faculty and students, and on the other hand, the VLE as the repository of all formal work and data for which the institution has responsibility.

Another whole area that Jennifer Lau does not address is that of portability. If the learner's ePortfolio is so closely bound to the institution, as Jennifer suggests, how will the ePortfolio untangle itself when the student moves to another institution? Interoperability is not mentioned and neither is IP. Concerning IP, it is much better that any files that 'belong' to the institution are securely housed in the VLE rather than included within the 'private' catacombs of the ePortfolio.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Tool Thinking?

Picture: Three rusty toolsI have just been invited to learn about a 'new' ePortfolio product with the title, 'Gather and present multiple content types — even multimedia — in one polished PDF file' !!! What a disappointment! The developers must have spent tens of thousands of pounds developing a non-starter.

Quite simply, products such as this cannot possibly deliver 90% of the functionality of what a true ePortfolio should be capable of doing. The developers, I would suggest, have been beguiled into what I call 'Tool Thinking'. By this I mean that it would appear that the developers have said to themselves, "Here we have a tool. - What can we do with it?" Rather than asking, "What educational processes need to be served?"

I cannot possibly think what use a single polished .pdf file can be in terms of Lifelong Learning, or Collaborative Learning, or peer review, or mentoring, or formative feedback. What of on-line Assessments? Where are the feedback tools such as comments or Likart Scales? How can the one document address different audiences for different purposes and with different 'personas'? What would happen if one small spelling mistake or grammatical error was spotted when about to present the ePortfolio? Would it be capable of quick and simple editing?

The ePortfolio must be a 'living, breathing and growing' collection of artefacts, capable of addition or removal and viewed by differing audiences who may have different permissions. It should be a dynamic and easily editable collation of all aspects of the learner's life. It should be capable of evolving, chameleon-like, according to the developing self-image of the owner.

Friday, 4 February 2011

Parents - One Step Ahead?

Picture: Front cover of eBook - 'One Step Ahead'Although this blog is primarily concerned with promoting a clearer understanding of ePortfolios and in particular how eFolio meets all of my criteria, the issue of eSafety should never be forgotten.

I first came across the New Zealand version of this eBook and soon realised that this was exactly what is needed for parents both in the UK and Europe. Following some intense discussions and repeated 'top-ups' to the original, I believe that I have created a valuable resource for UK parents.

Within the 85 pages are ten chapters of useful tips, software links and some good sound practical advice by one who has 'been there' for the last thirty-odd years.

Click here for more information, and the opportunity to buy.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Susie's Journey Revisited

Graphic:  The 'roadmap' of Susie's Lifelong Learning journeyIt is now some years ago (circa 2006) that I first saw the above graphic by JISC (and was recently reminded of it by 'Coach Carol'). BTW - better to load the original which has some useful links. At the time it first looked exciting, but on closer examination it painted the scenario of Susie having to change her ePortfolio as she moved from one institution to another.

This impractical solution was not in line with my thinking, whereby the learner would have to rebuild their ePortfolio upon each transition. See second paragraph of my article Interoperability and Leap2A. Even at that time (some 6 years ago!) I was convinced that the only realistic solution for any user would have to be that of owning the one ePortfolio for life, and that it would therefore have to be externally hosted as is eFolio.

Unfortunately some six years later litttle progress has been made. Most ePortfolio systems are still very much institutionalised or designed for one sort of assessment and some still insist on performing as a content delivery system owned by the institution. As long as institutions continue to misappropriate the ePortfolio concept it is no wonder that learners are resorting to blogs and collaborative tools such as Facebook or Bebo.

Readers of this blog would do well to contact me in order to understand more of the advantages of eFolio