ePortfolios: continuing my thought process

ePortfolioI last wrote about ePortfolios back at the beginning of the year. At that point I started looking into the ePortfolio system that is installed in Bournemouth University’s VLE, Blackboard 8.

I am really struggling to put all my thoughts down into this post, so here’s some short points that will hopefully get the message across:

  • Students don’t know what an ePortfolio is. They only think in terms of paper-based CV.
  • Same goes for (some) academic staff. This means we are not thinking for the emerging Web 2.0 and Web 3.0 world the students will soon be looking for work in.
  • Academic staff are so busy they can only think of their own Units and work load. it will take a coherent and collaborative approach to get ePortfolios integrated into each Unit with someone overseeing the whole project (from their first to last day, and beyond into employment).
  • If used internally in the VLE, the ePortfolio becomes obsolete once the student leaves. While it can be downloaded, the student has to arrange to host it somewhere themselves, and it is no longer an on-going project, it is now history.
  • To make the ePortfolio truly unique is to get it started early in secondary or even primary school. This will then enable the students to really show how they have progressed. Whether it is really relevant¬†from an early age is really for each student to determine.
  • Is it worth it? Unless both staff and students can be shown a tangible benefit, from the start, to them they wont agree to it and will not keep it up to date. If each Unit at each Stage of study has something that needs to be entered to the ePortfolio (eg. reflective writing exercise)it will soon have big gaps and be worthless.

I think this is what I’m trying to say … Nick Rate has put it into his presentation here;

Nick Rate – ePortfolios: The story so far

Nick puts it very succinctly, and extremely well on slide 31;

  • Collect
  • Select
  • Reflect
  • Project

The new word associated with ePortfolio is ‘portability’; the ability for the student to take their ePortfolio with them through the (various stages of the) education system and into employment.

Here lies the problem with asking students to use the pre-installed Blackboard ePortfolio system; while we can set this up from day one, for it to run until they complete their student after 3 or 4 years, and they can export and take it with them when they’ve finished … it is no longer editable or ‘working’. It is now just a group of static pages and links and documents outlining whatever it was they did.

Does this mean we should be recommending the students start something outside of the VLE? What would all the (Institution) policy makers think of that? We have a VLE and are ‘asked’ to use it for everything (even though we can link to YouTube, Internet links, PDfs, etc; but all learning materials should be loaded and accessible through the VLE).

The ePortfolio should be an ongoing enterprise. This blog is an ongoing process for me, and will no doubt form an integral part of whatever CV or job application I make in the future (if I stay in eLearning and HE), and therefore is my ePortfolio.

Where’s yours?

  • Sam

    Is your Pebblepad LEAP2A compliant? There are many free opensource hosting sites out there that can ‘house’ the e-portfolio. Then when the student starts another HE course, he/she can then export it and import it into the new uni’s eportfolio system. I’ve only been playing with this in Mahara and I thought that the LEAP2A standard was supposed to help combat the ‘wot do i do with it now I have finished uni’. Worth a play eh?

    Not sure how much space the free sites offer before you have to pay for ‘extra room’ though,

    Sam :-)

  • Sam

    Thanks for this, very useful. I’ll certainly give the Mahara (http://mahara.org/) system a look over.

    It is certainly a question that needs to be addressed for any Institution implementing an ePortfolio system; internal or externally hosted. If you retain the system on internal systems, can the ‘work’ be exported in such a way that it is available after studies have finished, and can that also be imported into another (same or similar) system for updates?

    Regards, David.

  • Sam

    We (at Solent) looked at the different systems and finally chose Mahara as it sits nicely with our Moodle platform. Mahara made it very clear that they wanted to make it as portable as possible (which the 1.2 now is).


    We are currently in the first semester of our pilot and are hosting it internally. The plan is to allow the students up to 2 years access to it once they have graduated (fingers crossed). Once it’s been exported as a LEAP2A zip file it cannot be edited until plugged into another system. It cannot be edited (as yet) in its HTML exported format either. Perhaps the key is to have an ‘alumni server’ where the students pay a small subscription to keep their e-Portfolio open?

    Sam (Moss)

    • Sam

      Thanks for the further clarification.

      Regards, David