‘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.