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Friday, 20 April 2012

Which ePortfolio tool for staff and students?

I recently picked up on a post, typical of many, that suggested a list of requirements of an ePortfolio.  In response to the author I wrote the following but have added a few more points here:

Although I think that in principle your response is logical, it is also both introspective and contradictory. For instance, you list Lifelong Access (or rather ownership?) as being a requirement and yet you apparently require an institutional repository. Will the Nursery or Primary school maintain the lifelong support?  Or multiple repositories as one moves through life? You require integration with Moodle - but what about the other 50+ VLEs?

And what of the learner?  Every person is different and has different skills and ways of representing themselves.  I fear that an institutionally based assessment tool will not allow the individual freedoms of self-representation that I support with eFolio.

You do not clarify if your hypothetical ePortfolio system is for institutional use with all the facilities required for rubrics, submission dates, overdue flagging, assessments and sign-offs etc and therefore institutionally owned or is it for ownership, collaboration and self representation etc?

You suggest that it should be free and at the same time lifelong. I am amused as to what support a 5-year old or ancient granny will get from a system that is free. Are you assuming that there is no on-line staffing to support maintenance, monitoring, upgrading and technical help. These are all significant costs that have to be paid for by someone, somewhere.

Wikipedia unfortunately gives a really out-dated and rigid definition of three distinct types of ePortfolio. We are now in the age of the cloud and should see our ePortfolio tools in this light.

Another requirement of the personally owned ePortfolio is that of the ability to present different 'views' or personas to different audiences. This is essential when presenting one's ePortfolio to different clients or potential employers whereby the learner is able to represent (or re-present) themselves as having different characteristics according to the job-specification etc.

I recently attended a conference which was purported to address the cost benefits of ePortfolios. It was an excellent conference but focussed specifically on a range of institutionally owned and operated assessment tools. These related to specific courses of study for a particular type of student and possibly where assessments may support a learner taking a number of qualifications by different examination boards.

Until such time as we are able to contain all the aspects of assessment within the VLE we will continue to have this confusion as to what an ePortfolio really is. For me I would argue that the ePortfolio is NOT an institutional tool, although it may be encouraged by the institution. Just think, do we only advise one form of mobile device? Do we only demand one form of note-taking? Or research method?... etc etc.

The ePortfolio, I suggest, is a tool that can provide and support evidences of rich-media artefacts, dialogues, evidences of collaboration and blogs etc which the student uses to supplement the in-house assessment system. This way the conundrum of ownership is resolved.


Scot said...

Hi Ray,

We are trying to come to grips with this issue at our university.
It seems to me that an ePortfolio is personal and is never going to mesh with an assessment regime at university.
At this stage I think that students should be encouraged to develop ePortfolios on platforms they can control and have universities develop their own assessment strategies and technologies.

I'm keen to hear your thoughts.


Scot Aldred
Lecturer (Academic Professional Development)
Learning and Teaching Services
CQUniversity Australia
Rockhampton Campus
Ph. 61 7 49309594

Scot’s technology rule: "the technology should make my life easier and improve student learning."

Ray Tolley said...

Hi, Scot,
Yes, as you may have gathered, I have been fighting this issue for many years. I do not think that any institution has the right to hi-jack a person's ePortfolio and use it for the institution's purposes. Neither do I think that a true ePortfolio is the best tool for an institution.

What I had devised several years ago was an ePortfolio which was independent of any institution and thus had true portability. Here in the UK I had intended to establish a system external to any institution but unfortunately most of the main suppliers of VLEs here in the UK had conned their customers into believing that each and every school could provide its own ePortfolio system.

As time went by other communication systems such as Facebook etc have allowed for much exchange of information and chatter - which was all part of my vision for an ePortfolio.

I am still under the conviction that unless an ePortfolio is truly portable (ie can be used to represent the person in any institution(s) ) and is owned by the individual to represent what the owner chooses to say about themselves, it cannot be genuinely called an ePortfolio.

Let the institutions have their assessment tools but do not allow the institutions to call call them 'ePortfolios'.

As you may gather from my website I have rehearsed many of these concerns over and over again.

I would be interested to hear of your progress.

Best Wishes,

Ray T.