‘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.

  • “Quite what the difference is, for the student’s final portfolio, between the blog and portfolio edition is still not clear yet”

    For me a blog is a raw, day-by-day reflection on what I am learning and the assessment would have to recognise that. I would rather use a personalised wiki for a portfolio so I can revise and refine my ideas over a period of time. A particular advantage of this is that I can then explore links between the different pages of my portfolio. (In a blog I can only link to past entries.)

    • Anonymous

      Hi Dave.

      For some the purpose of a portfolio is to show a journey, in which case the blog (like mine here) is a good showcase for the changing attitude, perspective, experiences, etc is a good medium to use? I like the wiki- and ePortfolio-based approach but, when you read it, you don’t always know where the journey, experience, or learning came from or happened?

      All the best, David

      • I think there is potential to use a variety of tools to create a useful ‘development’ portfolio and then to take the information to a place you would wish to showcase to prospective employers. A private blog as a reflective place is invaluable and something to consider to record thoughts to look back on. Often we don’t appreciate the progress we have made and forget the steps that took us to these new places.    

        • Anonymous

          Hi Sue.

          Ideally it would be good if the material is available in one place to avoid possible incompatibility between systems, but this is just not possible (outside of the Institutional VLE?) in most cases so we have to make do with what we can.

          Blogging as a reflective activity is, for me, more important than the act of collecting evidence and reflecting on it later, often months after the event(s) – the ePortfolio could be seen as a sanitised edition of a bPortfolio?

          All the best, David

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  • John Burrell

     A part from anything else I like the name bPortfolio is sounds more legit than blog. In the same way I try not to use the phrase ‘social-media’ when talking about a learning platform, I call just call them something like ‘learning-media’. What’s in a name, a lot I think, particularly when first impressions are important when working with parents. 

    • Anonymous

      Hi John.

      The name surely should not matter, rather the use or implication/application of the system used and how it is introduced to the stuidents, and the expectations placed on them? I agree that ‘bPortfolio’ does sound better (and more professional) than a ‘blog’ but it’s the same thing behind the fancy title.

      All the best, David

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  • Kirstyes

    As you may know David we’ve just got the go ahead to use a Mahara based e-portfolio system. The good thing about this is that students can pull in an rss feed from a blog and have both aspects.
    I think it should perhaps be an individual choice but with the use of the e-portfolio for pulling together an assessment page.

    • Anonymous

      Hi Kirsty.

      I am aware of Mahara within BU, but I am only able to access it as part of the ‘BU Coaching’ project, and only with a pre-defined group/cohort of students. I am liking it but am only able to access a very small part of the system as I am not on the ‘BU Coaching’ project team.

      We ought to meet up soon, chat through things like this.

      All the best, David

  • I have been using my blog for some years as my reflective journal/portfolio. But I do find I need to collate it into a more cohesive structure for presentation, so I use a wiki for that: http://sarahstewart-eportfolio.wikispaces.com

    I would like to get my midwifery students using this approach but we have to deal with issues of patient confidentiality first – the blogs would probably have to be closed, which reduces the advantage of open networking that is incorporated into blogging. Any suggestions, anyone?

    • R Heaney

      Hi Sarah granularity of access and internal blogging feature or RSS feed from external mean tools like Mahara might work in this context. Sorry for brevity – on phone with erratic signal. Rose
      PS lots of Mahara ‘nouse’ in NZ

  • Hello David
    Eportfolios never took off in our neck of the woods in Mexico.

    I have been using b-portfolios in EFL, writing and teacher-training situations with great success. Most of my public university students have never had a blog before taking my class and the learning curve is steep at the beginning of every semester.

    Ellen in Mexico

    • Anonymous

      Thanks Ellen. Can you elaborate a little on what it was about the ePortfolio that didn’t work – was it the system, the students, the faculty, etc?


  • Hi David. ‘bportfolio’ is undoubtedly a vast improvement in image from ‘I’ve got a blog’ but I’m not sure it does the same as an eportfolio.  eportfolios allow the writers to pick and choose who sees what and when depending on purpose.  Blogs are great but if there’s even a hint of ‘this is the final version’, many will refuse to blog.  Think of it in a professional context on a fast-moving project: Week1 you are the hero for having a set of ideas, Week2 everyone does the research, Week3 the bully of the tribe says ‘Naah: you suggested (youroption6)…’.  Week 3.5 – no job.

    • Anonymous

      Hi Gillian.

      Thanks for the comment. Whether a dedicated ePortfolio tool is used, or a blog, or a wiki, or something else ultimately doesn’t matter. What matters is that the expectations are addressed and introduced to the students.

      However, the tool or tools will obviously have a huge implication on the portfolio if the purpose is to generate a portfolio that is to be used as part of education AND professional qualifications?


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  • I’d love to collect some good examples of wordpress e-portfolios. If anyone has any maybe they could post the link here or contact me on twitter (@lee74)
    I’ve set up a few on wordpress – one has no blogging element built in but instead has RSS feeds from elsewhere. The pages are static, more like a traditional e-portfolio solution. http://leeballantyne.wordpress.com

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  • Vickel

    In my experience with working on multiple projects with staff involving well over 300 students in the last 3 years, I have found that there is a degree of misconception of what an ePortfolio is. For most staff, it was Mahara or some other eportfolio system. I have been using Blogger and WordPress for the last 3 years with students and staff and for me there has never been an issue or any difference between eportfolio or bportfolio. For me, an eportfolio is a concept, the tools we use are ‘enablers’. 

    An electronic portfolio, also known as an e-portfolio or digital portfolio, is a collection of electronic evidence assembled and managed by a user, usually on the Web. (Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electronic_portfolio)

    Here in NZ, Mahara is genrally thought of an eportfolio – this is misleading. It is just one of many tools that can be used as a platform for hosting a portfolio.

    My reason for using blogs as an eportfolio is simply ‘Ownership’. Student ownership of what they create and what they share. Ownership of their own learning and an investment into their future. Ownership as in engagement in the process. Ownership as in ownership of the virtual space – a sense of belonging. Institutional solutions to eportfolio platforms is perhaps not a very good example of Ownership. If I had to compare it to something, I would say:

    The difference is driving a company car and driving a car that you own. Perhaps the main difference here is the ‘degree of care’ you’ll have for your own car, it would be far greater than that shown for a company car.

    • Anonymous

      Many thanks Vickel, a great comment on the fact that it is not the name we should be concerned about, rather the tool (or ‘enabler’ as you call it) and how we use/introduce it.

      Very good, thanks.

      All the best, David.

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  • I’m a little astonished to read about “bportfolios” in a blog post from 2011. Using weblogs as the basis of reflective practice is something that Dave Tosh and I wrote about back in 2003, and was the basis for Elgg, which was introduced the next year and is still widely used in education.

    • hopkinsdavid

      Hi Ben. Thanks for this.

      I am not familair with the work from 2003, can you let me have a link please and I’ll happily display/link it here?

      All the best, David

      • Hi David,

        This wasn’t be a dig, although reading back it sounds like one! I apologize. It’s just interesting that ideas like this circle round, and perhaps suggests that it still hasn’t been satisfactorily done.

        Here’s a white paper from early 2004: http://www.morrisville.org/classrooms_curriculum/hive_portal/documents/ePortfolio_Weblog.pdf

        A Guardian article from 2006: http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2006/mar/07/elearning.technology13

        And here’s what the project became (neither Dave nor myself is involved, but it’s definitely still up and running): http://elgg.org/

        • hopkinsdavid

          Hi Ben

          Dont’ worry, I know what you meant :)

          Thanks for the links, extremely useful!

          All the best, David

  • Malcolm Murray

    Interesting discussion David.
    Has anyone looked at the use of “pages” within a blog to provide some of the crafted prose available in a wiki?  Also the question of capture (freezing) for formal assessment?


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