21 April 2009

To direct or not direct the required ePortfolio

This tale of two ePortfolio plans is based on real-life.

Two academic programs require students to create a portfolio of course works prior to graduation. Both programs utilize the portfolios in their own "IE plans," meaning their annual outcomes assessments that inform institutional effectiveness. That's where the similarity ends.

Program A gives its students complete freedom in selection of works as well as selection of medium. Briefly, the list of common media includes PDF files burned to CD/DVD, web sites posted on the Internet, web sites burned to CD/DVD, web pages created in free ePortfolio platforms, sets of materials residing in joint access web sites such as Google Docs, and ePortfolios created in commercial ePortfolio platforms.

Program B directs its students to assemble an ePortfolio with specified course products in a pre-defined structure, uploading files to a pre-selected ePortfolio platform.

As different as these approaches are, both have the potential for supporting students in achieving student learning outcomes. And both have the potential for meaningful assessment.

An argument might be made that Program A appears to encourage creativity while Program B appears to encourage conformity. That argument drops by the wayside when the most creative of Program B students utilize the pre-selected platform as merely the entry point for the ePortfolio, which proceeds with multimedia files and innovative use of technology.

The next argument might be that Program A challenges students to master new technology and Program B does little more than assign the next PowerPoint software. What may not be immediately obvious is the tremendous support a pre-selected ePortfolio platform has to offer, especially to the student who is inexperienced in handling electronic files let alone assembling a body of work for public display.

Rather than assume that one approach is superior to the other, an academic program is wise to take inventory of its own resources and its students' technical proficiency to predict which approach will fit the local environment.

Tomorrow: What that inventory might look like.

© 2009 Mary Bold, PhD, CFLE. Email contact: bold[AT]marybold.com. The content of this blog or related web sites created by Mary Bold (www.marybold.com, www.boldproductions.com, College Intern Blog) is not under any circumstances to be regarded as legal or professional advice. Bold is the co-author of Reflections: Preparing for your Practicum or Internship, geared to college interns in the child, education, and family fields. She is a consultant and speaker on assessment, distance learning, and technology.

1 comment:

Ray Tolley said...


You pose two extremes which make for a good starting point, and your Inventory clarifies to some extent. But firstly I would argue with you that the direct-not-direct argument ignores the possibility of several graduations between ie providing advice or guidance with varying degrees of expectation.

Secondly, is the very big area relating to the use of the institution's VLE for assessment. There are good assessment tools available that work within the VLE - this would not be possible if students were encouraged to create their own e-Portfolios which were not 'hard-wired' to the VLE.

However, it appears that you ignore one principle which to me is essential. 'Should the e-Portfolio contain all of a student's coursework or only selected samples?' For me, the e-Portfolio is owned by the student and presents to the identified audience only those artefacts which are relevant.

This does raise another important issue, that of multiple concurrent audiences. An e-Portfolio is used for many purposes, not just capstone assessments. The e-Portfolio must therefore be capable of several different 'views', according to audience.

My conclusion, therefore, is that the e-Portfolio tool must be a commercial product if it is to provide all the functionality expected of it and yet simple enough to use by even the least ICT literate.