Category Archives: ePortfolio

‘ePortfolios’ are out, ‘bPortfolios’ are in (apparently)

Whilst waiting for my iOS5 update to proceed I did quite a bit of reading, and one item that caught my eye was this post called “At Last – Recognition for Blog-based Portfolios” by Jim Shimabukuru, which reported on an academic paper written by a group of 6 US professors – “bPortfolios: Blogging for Reflective Practice“.

The abstract for the academic paper is:

“Web 2.0 technology, such as blogging, allows for locally developed, cost effective, and holistic alternative portfolio assessment systems. By enhancing critical reflection and fostering social interaction, blogging portfolios are seen as an integral learning tool for all students enrolled in a university program.”

Quite what the difference is, for the student’s final portfolio, between the blog and portfolio edition is still not clear yet, but it is obviously an alternative solution, and one that ought to be considered.

Many will know that I’ve long been a champion of electronic-based portfolio systems, and have tested and used a few of them (PebblePad, Mahara, etc). While the process of getting them used more widely than as part of a reflective writing element in a single Unit/Course is still on-going, I am now thinking that we have the basis here, with blog-based portfolios,

The highlights of using a blogging system (like WordPress) as the portfolio system are:

  • WordPress.com hosted blogs are free.
  • Students can use the portfolios across their entire study for numerous on-campus and online courses experiences.
  • The portfolios promote and support ‘social interaction’, (i.e., ‘Students share their learning reflections in an open format’).
  • Students can ‘continue to maintain their site upon completion of the program as their individual accounts are not registered on a university server’.
  • The portfolio is ‘stored’ in the cloud (e.g. WordPress.com) if an Institutional system is not implemented.
  • The portfolios are ‘highly cost effective’ and sustainable: “The university can focus its time and efforts on improving instruction and student support for the bPortfolio rather than allocate funds and personnel to web-hosting, software upgrades, and software support, etc. in the bPortfolio project”.

Jim closes his piece by saying that the use …

“… of WordPress and Blogger for teacher and student publications and portfolios is a highly sustainable, cost-effective, and educative practice. It expands the students’ e-learning environment beyond the walls of the college to include the worldwide web. Sloan-C, and especially SPU, are to be congratulated for taking this bold step toward re-empowering teachers for the 21st century classroom.”

While his use of a blogging system was not sanctioned or supported officially (something he is glad of, in fear of opposition to his implementation) he recognises that there are implications regarding student support, both pedagogically and from the technical viewpoint. Both Blogger and WordPress have extensive resources online for just about every eventuality, this is not always the ‘cleanest’ method of support.

So, the big question … are ePortfolios on their way out before they’ve really gained traction, or is the subect of bPortfolios just going to dilute the discussion about the engagement of students, faculty, and employers? I welcome your comments.

ePortfolios: Back on the agenda again

This article from Campus Technology made me revisit some of my old posts on portfolio’s (see ‘related links’ below) and that, in the right hands and syllabus structure, “seem to improve student engagement and learning”.

Apparently;

“ePortfolio systems and associated portfolio practices finally are on track to become the centerpiece of educational transformation they always seemed destined to be.”

Does that mean we’ve finally worked out the best way to use them, or does it mean the developers and providers have worked out what it is we need, not what they want to give us?

“Many signs now point to a sudden explosion of electronic portfolio planning, adoption, and rapid market expansion [and] behind this market upswing is the return of academia to the learning values of portfolios based on a recognition that portfolio theory is a good guide for transformation of the academic side of the institution in this time.”

What tools are out there at the moment that are getting the coverage in articles like this:

  • Mahara: “Mahara is an open source e-portfolio system with a flexible display framework.”
  • ePortfolios.org: “ePortfolio.org is a student-centered platform.”
  • FolioSpaces: “… provides you with the tools to set up a personal learning and development environment.”
  • PebblePad: “… is a Personal Learning System being used in learning contexts as diverse as schools, colleges, universities and professional bodies.”

ePortfolio practice is:

“… as an educational process, rewarding and engaging and fits the times; student owned, stays with student over time, produces additional metrics by which to assess and evaluate students, supports high-impact learning experiences outside of the classroom, helps create a strong resume, develops reflective and integrative thinking, supports life-long learning, and so on.”

The article continues by saying traditional VLE-type environments like BlackBoard, Moodle, etc, are at the end of their ‘decade’ and that “electronic portfolio systems are more and more the new center of campus strategic thinking about learning and technology.”

The piece finishes by saying that “electronic portfolios, after seemingly running into a dead end a few years ago, are again a robust growth sector and a path to educational transformation. It’s about time.”

So, what system are you using or do you plan to use in the next few months or years, and how do you intend to implement it; fully hosted or hosted for you, integrated into your VLE / LMS or stand-alone? Please share by commenting below.

ePortfolios – Do Employers Care? (Pt.1)

‘ePrtfolios’, when used correctly, can demonstrate the student’s learning and competency level. However, it is a fair assumption that many higher education establishments have not been using them, and therefore employers are not looking for them.

Chris Ward and Chris Moser write, on the Internet Blog ‘Educause Quarterly‘, that “Universities clearly have an opportunity to migrate to a web-based e-portfolio system and to educate employers on the value of e-portfolios”. I couldn’t agree more. There is, as is always the case, more to it than this.

With modern VLE’s it is true to say that the technology exists in most higher education establishments to allow students to create an ePortfolio as they continue through their studies. However, has anyone given them any guidance on;

  1. what they should be writing,
  2. why they should be writing it, and
  3. how an employer will look at it, and for what reason.

Well? Who should drive this forward; student, establishment, or employer?

As is most often the case, the students don’t think about the what they’ll do after graduation until they’ve finished their last assignment and sat their last exam. Then the panic sets in and they think “wot next?” There is a certain responsibility on quality employers to ask for, or expect a certain quality of graduate to apply for their jobs, and therefore can easily become known as the employer that looks for, and expects, modern portfolio and interview techniques. According to ‘Educause Quarterly‘, 75% of major employers do not know what an ePortfolio is, with a further 14% thinking they are not valuable. Is this just that they haven’t seen a good example of an ePortfolio?

A search of Google can bring up an expanse of examples of Universities ‘recommending’ certain aspects that students should include in their ePortfolio … but very few examples of an employer and what they look for.

My task is simple … find out what the employer wants.

Back soon.

ePortfolios: How?

Producing the ePortfolio is an exercise in stucturing and ordering your thoughts. You need a start page, whether it’s a page that’s part of the general content of the portfolio or it’s a special one you’ve written as an introduction to you, the author, is entirely up to you. Then always comes the question “do I number the pages?”.

Why not, it’s your portfolio, it’s your work, so it’s your choice. Personally it makes it easier to see where I’ve been and where I’m going if I’ve numbered my way around my files and folders, but this doesn’t always work.

This now comes to the real reason I’ve become interested in ePortfolios. I understand the techniques for creating and managing the system, the pages, and the content … but what to put in it? Starting with a simple ‘background page’ as the opener is always a good point, but then I get stuck for what comes next. Since my learners are just finishing their first Unit, it makes sense for them to do some reflective writing on the last 6 weeks.

They split into groups and have generated a wiki each (each group) based on a set of instructions and a real-world business environment. Now they’ve been marked and feedback given I want them to take this information and reflect on the whole process. So, the next page I would expect to see in their ePortfolio is their interpretation of the work they submitted, their thoughts on the comments they received, and what they would do with this information now if they were able to improve (or just alter) their work.

Does this clasify as worthy of an ePortfolio? Yes, as this is something they can take back to their emplyer / sponsor as an indication of the work they are doing, as well as downloading this and the rest of the ePortfolio for future use, and possibly a future employer as proof of their studies.

Reading
http://pace.wlv.ac.uk/viewasset.aspx?oid=292117&type=webfolio

ePortfolios: Why?

So, what’s all the fuss about ePortfolios then?

Firstly, is it e-Portfolio, or ePortfolio, or is it E-portfolio? Personally I don’t care just so long as the right information is given and the help is there to correctly signpost the learner to the right way of using the tool. By the way, I’m going to use ePortfolio.

For some the act of creating and managing their portfolio is going to be tough, but these people will often have the same technical issues whether it’s email, browsing or posting to a discussion. We, as eLearning ‘leaders’ should be doing what we can to include these people as much as possible. So, whatever tool we use, we must make sure that it is as simple as we can make it.

This brings us to the ‘why’ behind the ePortfolio. I always make sure I think like the online learners I support, basing my decisions and information on the lowest-common denominator … if they can understand my instructions then so should everyone. ePortfolios can be used extremely successfully, and as my ‘lot’ are mature students studying online Business subjects, they are the perfect people to trial this on.