H808: Recommendations for use of eportfolio systems

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This post is a response to activity 3.2 which is to ‘Recommend an Eportfolio system for use in a particular context

The purpose for the use of an Eportfolio is to enable students to capture their learning artifacts, reflect on them, and present them either for assessment or for career advancement. In the context of H808, a postgraduate level distance learning course, I will review the available options for the implementation of an eportfolio system. Students on H808 are adult professional learners from a range of professions including teaching, educational management, educational technology, publishing and ICT. They have varying levels of technology competancies ranging from very advanced to developing.

There are many tools that might be used as eportfolios ranging of specific eportfolio software such as Mahara and a cloud-based hosted manifestation of it such as Folio4 Me. Another option is to use Google Apps which can be customised into an online portfolio through the integration of the various apps. So Google docs can be used as the repository, Blogger (or another blog tool) as the reflective tool while Google sites can be used as the publication and presentation platform. Assessment can be carried out by giving access to whoever will be doing the assessing. A web 2.0 blogging platform like WordPress can also be used as an eportfolio as it can be customised to have many of the features especially of presentation and reflection, although it may not work so well as a respository.

My recommendation for a postgraduate cohort is not to require use of an institutional eportfolio system as it is likely to be too regimented, have limited customisation features and take time and effort to manage and maintain, and require effort required to port into a work or lifelong learning context (even if interoperability is managed technically). There are many different purposes of an eportfolio: respository, storage, reflection, presentatation and there is no valid argument for why all these features should be managed in one tool. Adults studying H808 might already be using a tool for one or more of these purposes and could adapt what they already use and know to H808 needs.

If students need recommendations for tool selection, I would encourage either Google Apps for a cohort that needs repository facilities built in, or a customisable blogging platform such as WordPress. Both of these options can have templates built for them so that maximum freedom is provided to users to either use them, customise them or ignore them. Motivation is key for postgraduate students as well as ownership and control, so using a tool that is likely to be of use in other contexts is likely to be more popular than a ‘one-trick pony’ like a specific eportfolio software. On balance I would recommend WordPress which has blogging at its core as the act of blogging might be one particular professional development tool that can carry over from study to work and throughout a career fostering the important skills of reflection. Reflection should not be shackled to an eportfolio tool – it’s a learning and thinking activity and can be used in many contexts or for its own sake. Better still, it’s best to enable students on a course such as H808 to be asked to deliver outcomes and be supported with tool choice, but for them to make their own decisions regarding tools and features if they see value in it for their own context.

Perhaps the guidelines should be that students should be encouraged to take part in eportfolio-like activities without naming it as such, as the thought of having to create, maintain and manage an eportfolio is likely to result in resistance from a significant number of students for whom developing an eportfolio is too much like hard work or time consuming unless there is a clear gain such as a grade or assessment (Acker, 2005). Using Web 2.0 and social networking tools for an eportfolio may encourage higher use, as social media takeup is increasing. Many social media or web 2.0 applications can be accessed from mobile applications and microblogging and blogging are increasingly popular so that artifacts are being created anyway. Incorporating eportfolios into this workflow and making them integral to the social media experience may encourage desirable learning and reflection, as there is a blurring of boundaries between social media and eportfolios (Barrett, 2011). If we view eportfolios as part of a technology ecosystem we need to align their use with what else it out there in technology usage: mobile applications especially tablet use, cloud computing, social media, personal learning environments, microblogging so that eportfolios easily sit within this ecosystem of student use. It’s why blogs are probably a gateway to the practice of ‘eportfolio-ing’.

References

Acker, S. (2005) ‘Overcoming obstacles to authentic e-portfolio assessment’ (online), Campus Technology. Available from (last accessed 8 June 2011).

Barrett, H. (2011) Balancing the Two Faces of E-Portfolios   British Columbia Ministry of Education, Innovations in Education, 2nd Edition.

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3 thoughts on “H808: Recommendations for use of eportfolio systems

  1. Hi Sukaina – Very interesting points around social media and blogging and your point around encouraging "eportfolio-like activities without naming it as such" to avoid resistance and assumptions about the effort needed to create/maintain/manage a system. Seems like a good suggestion. Allison

  2. Hi Sukaina,Just dropping by to visit your H808 related blog posts. Enjoyed reading your recommendation for postgraduate learners’ eportfolio and your comment on "using a tool that is likely to be of use in other contexts is likely to be more popular".I enjoy blogging and my frustration has been not finding an eportfolio that enables an external blogging software to be integrated, at least not yet . . . so I think keeping it separate is going to suit me.Mel

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