I was at the ePortfolio Australia conference last week and chatting to people who are thinking about implementing ePortfolio for student nurses and midwives. Since then I have been reflecting on the pros and cons and have come up with some questions to consider before launching into implementing an ePortfolio system.
1. What are you wanting to achieve?
Does ePortfolio allow you to achieve that aim or would something else be more appropriate? For example, you would like to use an ePortfolio to allow a seamless submission of assignments by students...do you need an ePortfolio to do this, or can you achieve that function via your current learning/student management system?
2. Is what you are wanting to achieve pedagogically sound?
In other words, do you have a sound educational reason for implementing ePortfolio or are you attracted by the technology with all the latest bells and whistles?
3. What is the evidence about ePortfolio in your context?
Is there solid evidence that ePortfolio makes a difference to students' learning or is ePortfolio another fad you are following for the sake of it?
4. What ePortfolio tools best suit your students' needs?
Before you sign off on an expensive propitiatory ePortfolio platform, is there an online tool already available that will better suit your students' needs? For instance, if you want your business students to be prepared to find a job, would they be better off developing a LinkedIn account? Would your carpentry students be better off uploading photos of their work to Flickr? Would a blog suit students' needs for a reflective ePortfolio?
5. Who is in control of the ePortfolio?
If you dictate the ePortfolio to the students they are far less likely to engage with it than if they have total control over it. The ePortfolio must belong totally to the students so it can be developed to meet their needs, as opposed to your needs as lecturer and that of the institution.
6. Will the ePortfolio be integrated into the curriculum?
If the ePortfolio is an extra add-on to the students' work, they are unlikely to engage with it. Thus, you need to consider how you will integrate it into the curriculum and assessment. This may require a lot of work for faculty staff, so you have to decide if this effort is "worth it".
7. How portable will the ePortfolio be?
What will happen to the ePortfolio when the students leave the institution? Portability is one argument for using the cloud such as Google Apps, as opposed to a platform that is restricted to student use only.
8. Can the ePortfolio be integrated into the students' life as a professional once they have left university/college?
This is an especially important question for nurses and midwives who are required to have an ePortfolio as part of their statuary requirements for practice. There's little point in developing an ePortfolio platform that is different from one they will use once they are qualified. On the other hand, is this an opportunity to collaborate with hospitals and professional bodies to ensure there is a seamless integration of ePortfolio from life as a student into professional practice?
9. How will you evaluate the ePortfolio?
You must have a process for measuring the impact of the ePortfolio as opposed to implementing it without further follow up.
10. Do you walk the talk?
Do you have an ePortfolio that models the process to both colleagues and students? How can you know the value of a pedagogical process if you do not engage with it yourself?
Do you have any thoughts or questions you would pass onto people thinking about implementing ePortfolio into the education institution?
Here is a great article by Graham Attwell who articulates much better than me what some issues of ePortfolio are: Re-thinking e-Portfolios
The ePortfolio community of practice can be joined here - for further information, please contact Carole Maculloch.
Elluminate recordings of the key note presentations given at the ePortfolio Australia conference can be found here in a few days.
Image: 'Another view: office on 10th'