Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Questions to ask if you're thinking about integrating ePortfolio into your teaching

I have been talking to teachers in higher education for some time about ePortfolio and it's clear (and this is not meant as a criticism) that many do not think beyond the technology. But there's much more to think about, not least the pedagogy behind your use of ePortfolio.

I have blogged about this issue before. In this post 'A few questions before you launch into implementing ePortfolio at your education institution' I have articulated a few questions to ask if you're thinking of implementing ePortfolio on an institutional level. Here are six more questions to consider if you're thinking of implementing ePortfolio at course level.

1. How do you want to use ePortfolio?
Is the ePortfolio going to be purely a repository for students to store their work so you can easily access it? If that is the case, you want somewhere cheap and cheerful....your LMS may well suffice.

However, if you want it to be a place for students to be able to display their work and present evidence of their learning, you'll need to use something that students can make their own, and can easily handle the upload of documents and multi-media.

You also need to think about how students can present their work to others, especially people outside the institution such as future employers, and consider if there are privacy issues and how you will manage them.

Finally, if the ePortfolio is one that students are developing to support their search for employment when they leave your institution, you need to think how they'll be able to access their ePortfolio once they are no longer a student. You can use institutional ePortfolio platforms such as Pebble Pad or Mahara, but is your institution willing to give students access once they leave the institution? If not, you might be better off considering 'cloud' tools such as Google Sites that students have ongoing access to.

2. How will you embed ePortfolio into your course curriculum? 
I have heard some teachers talk about ePortfolio as if it were an optional extra. But to my mind it has to be carefully thought about and planned, and integrated into a course. It may even need to be integrated into a whole educational program so there is consistency, and a story that develops about the student's learning from start to finish. This means you have to go back to your curriculum and may need to make changes at that level. So working with ePortfolio is not something you wake up and do that day...once you start thinking about ePortfolio, you need to make sure your learning outcomes, assessment, aims and objectives are all in line.

3. Is ePortfolio relevant to students?
By this, I the ePortfolio something the students see a relevant need for, or is it just another task that you have set them. I have heard of educational organisations that have set up ePortfolios for thousands of students and many of them are un-used because students haven't engaged with them.

4. If you are using ePortfolio for assessment, have you thought about how you will mark it?
I have learned by painful experience that you have to have a clear criteria of what you expect from students' ePortfolio so they know what is expected of them, and you know how you'll mark it. Will you be purely marking content or will you also be looking at appearance and functionality? If you are marking the reflective elements of ePortfolio, how will you grade levels of reflection...what is meaningful reflection that has led to deep learning and what is purely description of an event or activity. Here is a link to some ePortfolio marking rubrics: ttp://

5. Do you want the ePortfolio to contribute to a community of learners, or will it be purely a private and personal process?
If the answer is that you'd like your students to collaborate, support each other and contribute to each other's ePortfolios, then you need to think about how you'll facilitate that. Are they students that will do this as a formative activity or will they need to be "motivated" by summative assessment? Have you thought about the issues of privacy and how you'll educate the students about treating each other's work with respect and trust? What technology best lends itself to sharing and communication? How will you (or will you) moderate what's going on?

6. How will you ensure that students have the appropriate digital literacy skills to manage their ePortfolio?
It is vital that you support students to develop the skills to manage their ePortfolio, both in terms of using the technology but also with the processes that ePortfolio demands, such as reflection. You'll need to think about how to manage audio and video files and copyright issues. You must check that students access to appropriate computers and internet access.

I am always interested to hear how teachers have incorporated ePortfolio into their courses, so please drop by and let me know what you're up to. I'd also love to hear any tips about using ePortfolio that you'd like to pass on to teachers about using ePortfolio. Finally, I haven't used any references per se, but if you're interested in learning more about ePortfolio, you cannot do any better than start with the work of Helen Barrett:

Image: 'Autumn leaves at the top of the weir'

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