05 November, 2008

e-Portfolios: Practical and StrategicThinking

I've been attending the JISC Innovating e-Learning online conference this week, and found the discussions around ePortfolios useful.

The idea that we can split the uses of what are being called e-portfolios into 4 areas is popular. This is covered in the AlphaPlus document about existing e-Portfolio use, and gives a framework when thinking about what the purpose of their use. The 4 areas in this document are:

-Portfolio of work that demonstrates learning - The learner can put anything in here that demonstrates learning. If they make it available more publically it can be used for formative assessment by peers and teaching staff.
-Portfolio for summative assessment of learning on a course - This is marked against criteria.
-Portfolio to transfer learner information between institutions - The learner has little control over this.
-Portfolio to present your work, perhaps to a potential employer - This contains specially selected work for a particular audience.

Whatever you want to achieve by asking or encouraging your students to create an e-portfolio, you need to be able to communicate this to the students. Even if the advice is vague, and full freedom is given to the student, they need some idea of what is achievable and why they will benefit. The learner could see what could be done by seeing exisiting portfolios, like this gallery at Penn State University, and the 'e-Portfolios: Why Create an e-Portfolio' video on the e-Portfolios at Penn State podcast might help answer the 'Why?' question.

This is all at a practical level, but there is also a lot to think about around institutional strategies.

Thanet College seem to have done a lot of work in this area, and the document 'Thanet College: Personalised learning spaces - the next challenge for ILT', is worth a read if you are interested in the strategy side of things.

The ideas that stand out to me from Thanet are firstly, providing all tutors with PebblePad (an e-Portfolio system) accounts. If the staff think about their own e-Portfolio and use the system then they are better prepared to lead the students in their use.

Secondly, the idea of the Institution 'owning' the VLE and the learner 'owning' the e-Portfolio is useful, as it helps us think about and communicate to the students what we can expect from the different software tools we use.

Finally they saw a challenge in deciding where the college stood on transferability of the portfolios, which perhaps fits in with ideas around lifelong learning.

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