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Saturday, 29 January 2011

Graham Attwell on ePortfolios

Graham Attwell makes a masterful presentation (25 mins) describing the whole ePortfolio panorama. He starts by stating the classic opinion that there are just four different types of ePortfolio. However, he does not appear to come to the same conclusion as myself, that all these types, and more, can all be contained within the one system. Later on he does argue that there are many different uses of an ePortfolio which tend to contradict his arguments for four separate systems.

As regular readers of this blog will know, I argue for a single system with all artefacts uploaded once only but that they can then be re-purposed for several different and concurrent audiences. He raises the important question of ownership as an unresolvable conundrum: should the institution, the Local Authority or even Government own and supply the ePortfolio? Or should employers be required to provide the ePortfolio? And, as I have raised before, what happens when a learner is attending two or three concurrent institutions or is working for more than one employer? Graham continues to ask more challenging questions but without presenting the listener with constructive solutions.

My arguments for eFolio are quite simple. The ePortfolio should be learner owned and not embedded within a single institution. By being externally hosted it is freely portable - wherever the learner may go, and whatever various works they are doing. He hints at the possiblity of cloud-based systems but does not give any solution as to where the non-techie can get support. In contrast, eFolio has both excellent context-sensitive help designed for the young or inexperienced learner and also professional help-desk services - and all at extremely low cost.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

How Effective are Online Assessment Systems?

Image - Computer mouse linked to 'HELP' This guest post is contributed by April Davis. She raises several important issues but her description of the existing scenario raises questions for me about whether we should be expecting more from 'assessment'. Should assessment be only summative, or if formative, when? - and by whom? Does assessment really help the learner? April writes:

"There are many ways for students to assess their capabilities, and online assessment systems are just one of these. They’re being increasingly used today, not just by organizations and educational institutions to gauge if students and employees will be a right fit for the job or the degree, but also by those who want to assess themselves and see how good their chances are of getting into a course or gaining employment in the organization of their choice. Most online assessment exams test attitude and personality (or psychometric capabilities), and pre-employment skills. The efficacy of these assessment systems depends on a number of factors:
  • The standardization of the tests – an online assessment system comprises a question bank and a question engine. The question bank must hold standardized question definitions in organized categories and contexts and the question engine must be able to pull these definitions based on user interaction. Also, the organization using the test must be sure that the assessment and analysis returned by the system are in conjunction with their values, beliefs and needs.

  • The robustness of the system – since the tests are held online, the system has to make allowances for unexpected occurrences like lost connections, users pressing back and forward buttons indiscriminately or closing browser windows by mistake, server crashes, broken connections to the database and loss of data that has already been filled, and so on. Where these tests are timed the above problems could influence the accuracy of the results.

"For organizations that use these assessment systems, the relative success or failure of these tests can be gauged only in hindsight – the performance and attitude of the employees that the test recommends, when assessed over a period of time, helps companies decide if online assessment systems are effective in their hiring policies.

"However, it should also be noted that these tests are not a perfect science and that every employee changes in their attitude and personality based on the nature of the job and the environment in which they work. So while the test may throw up a few suitable candidates, it’s unrealistic to hope that they’re all going to be a good fit. The key to assessing the efficacy of these tests with some degree of accuracy is to give them some time, use a large number of employees as a test pool, and allow a few variances in your interpretation of the results."

This guest post is contributed by April Davis, she writes on the topic of Accredited Degree Online . She welcomes your questions and comments at her email id: april.davis83(@)gmail(.)com.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Accelerating Learning

Photograph of Nick HeapI have recently come across a challenging post by Nick Heap on Accelerating Learning. Although his original document is now a few years old it is still a most challenging work which should make us all think about how learning can best be encouraged.

However, before turning to his article, I would ask you to think about what makes a good learning environment - even jot down half-a-dozen bullet points. Then go to Nick's article and read through the two pages...

Having understood his message, I wonder what you would do to change teaching and learning in your situation? Comments back would be appreciated!

Monday, 10 January 2011

January 10, 2011 ePortfolio Interoperatbility using the Leap2A standard

Image credit: 'Travelling suitcase on the station' by nojich on Flickr - By-NC-ND I have a very high respect for the work of JISC and the CETIS group in particular. Their recent posting is well worth studying, particularly for those who have not looked at the advantages and disadvantages of interoperability before.

However, I find a certain poignancy in the picture that they use to focus our attention - that of a lone travelling suitcase. I find it somewhat incongruent that upon arriving at my planned destination, my personal effects carefully packed within the suitcase should be tipped out in a heap - to be reorganised according to another institution's instructions. What I pack in my own suitcase should be mine to organise, display or not display as I choose. And what, having arrived at my new destination, can I do with the contents of my suitcase if the new institution or workplace does not have an ePortfolio system? Or what if I am 'between jobs' and want to get to work on re-designing my ePortfolio?

I am well aware that for intelligent and computer literate adults moving from one institution that has an ePortfolio system to another institution with similar facilities the prospect of interoperability might be acceptable, despite possibly having to rebuild their ePortfolio from the debris of a previous system.

With thousands of schools in the UK alone who do not visualise the importance of Leap2A, I can only ask, 'Do you really believe in Lifelong and Lifewide Learning?' and if so, what are you doing about it. For me, there are only two options, either every institution in the UK adopts the Leap2A standard or that learners are provided with an externally hosted system that can facilitate true portability.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Bridging Assessment with Enfranchisement

Graphic: Processes in ePortfolio activityI find it refreshing to discover a teacher that thinks the same way as I do about ePortfolios. Certainly the brief statements in the blog of Tamara Malloff ring true with my own feelings.

However, I must also focus on an extract from one of her previous posts which looks towards the future:
  • Portfolio or Project-based learning. While some courses will undergo initial disaggregation, the essential trend in education is toward a holistic, self-directed experience.

  • Eportfolios will become the basis for learning design from a younger age, with a teacher-mentor and/or community mentor acting as guides and co-facilitators. Parents will be involved in the educational design of their children in a more authentic way, as they also have access to their child’s learning portfolio online. There will be less emphasis on grades, and more of an emphasis on holistic learning outcomes that students have to meet in terms of evidence and artefacts.

  • Movement toward project-based learning in brick and mortar schools. Educators will work together to synthesis learning outcomes to plan a holistic, problem or project-based learning experience based on learner interests. The project would be co-designed with the learners, but with educators guiding the process. There will be community access and involvement, making the learning experience authentic.

  • IDS (Independent Directed Studies) becoming more predominant initially as learners look to designing their own learning experience and schools look to credit their learning experience. However, IDS may potentialy fall off as an option, making way for holistic portfolio learning experiences based on learning outcomes, not course credits. This may include BAA (localy developed) courses as well. This will require the education system to rethink assessment, grading, and reporting.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

ePortfolios and Market Traction

I recently came across this interesting blog - well, interesting in that the author appears to have opinions on so many different subjects.

However, he (she?) does raise some interesting points concerning ePortfolios that I felt I should respond to:

You say, “how many of the players of traditional portfolios were wondering why e-portfolios hadn’t had better market traction. I commented that it has been broadly accepted but it just isn’t called e-portfolios, it was simply people creating an online identity (not always positive unfortunately) with social media.”

Have you not in your statement summed up several of the reasons why the takeup of ePortfolios has been so slow?

Firstly “players of traditional portfolios” are certainly not the ones likely to extol the benefits of innovative digital systems. The driver for ePortfolios is certainly not traditional didactics but starts with a hunger within teachers and students alike for collaborative approaches to teaching and learning.

I fail to see that ePortfolios have been “broadly accepted”. I do agree that some institutions have established internal ‘Portfolios’ embedded within their VLE, but these hardly come under such criteria as ‘portability’, ‘ownership’, ‘Longevity’ or ‘Lifewide Learning’. Quite simply, these manifestations do not come under an enlightened view of what an ePortfolio can do. But more significantly, “most” teachers or Faculty that I speak to do not have a clue about what an ePortfolio can really do for their students or for their own delivery.

Thirdly, of course, just creating an on-line digital identity is hardly what an ePortfolio is about. As much as some social media might claim to be secure and can be presented to different audiences for different purposes, such sites lack the self-image or self-representation that a true ePortfolio can offer as part of a ‘digital identity’. And again, I cannot see solutions such as FaceBook providing the ability to ‘transmogrify’ from one persona to another in the same way as a good ePortfolio such as eFolio can offer.

I really feel that old assumptions about ePortfolios should be discarded and that we should come up with a clear set of ePortfolio definitions. Several years ago I published the following set of 10 criteria. Since then no-one has disagreed with them: (best read in FullScreen mode)