Editor’s Note: The University of Minnesota is implementing ePortfolio in a major way. Other colleges and universities are in various stages, some starting with pilot projects. How will this new tool fit into the lives of students and faculty. — Stephen Acker
One definition of ePortfolio is a “digital representation of self on characteristics of interest to a community.”
The community context can be represented as a template into which the portfolio creator places text, audio, and video files (digital artifacts) and is encouraged to include a description, rationale, and discussion around each entry in the template. Taken together, this software feature-set makes ePortfolio a powerful tool for the new 3Rs, representation, reflection, and revision.
This same “feature-set” presents a high-level view of the process that institutions and individual faculty often subscribe to as a method for helping students learn and demonstrate that learning has occurred.
The process mirrors constructivist faculty tenets of identifying the many different starting points at which students begin their learning path, creating a tension through critique that challenges the student’s original insights, and then presenting the revised assignment or paper as a “final” outcome.
In turn, individual faculty can create a teaching ePortfolio to demonstrate how they help students learn and revise their pedagogy based on the same representation, reflection, and revision cycle. At the institutional level, ePortfolio offers an ideal tool for providing evidence of improved student learning, which is meaningful to accreditation agencies and funding sources.
Even though ePortfolio fits comfortably into the implicit model of education for many faculty and institutions, by making the representation and reflection phases of the “3Rs” both public and explicit, the wide-scale adoption of ePortfolio becomes more challenging.
Three obstacles to institutional uptake of ePortfolio are:
- lack of easy ways to protect the intellectual property rights of students;
- concerns about increased workload for faculty
- the “inverted value” of ePortfolio to students.
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