Friday, February 20, 2004

Online Portfolios -- Informal Research

Some gross generalizations from my last couple of days of research into online student portfolios:
  • There seem be very few students who are willing to go above and beyond the minimum requirements of the portfolio assignments. This leads to very little variation between the portfolios -- the same categories and types of information tend to be very similar.
  • Within one class or school, everyone seems to use the same tool to build their pages. All of the portfolios at this school in Alaska have the same three-frame format and reliance on cheesy gifs and background graphics, which gives them a very 1996 feel. Not that students should all have to be graphic designers, but it looks like they spent more time creating rotating banner graphics than working on the content. It made me realize that the format of blogs tends to enforce a focus on content, because the tool mostly takes care of the rest.
  • Girls seem to put more effort into sharing their work online. This is no research project or anything, but I looked at sample portfolios from several schools all over the continent and the trend seemed to emerge. At one school in the maritimes, I skimmed through the student portfolios looking for the ones with more than five entries -- and the majority are from girls. I don't know if there's much to infer from this, but it raises interesting questions about student motivation (both sexes).
  • Updates are infrequent, if ever. Most of these portfolios seem to be one-shot projects that are abandoned once marks have been assigned. In thinking about this, I realized that even if students did want to maintain their pages after the end of a course, they'd probably have to get server access from past teachers to add, edit and upload text or images. There's no real evidence of continuity in anything I looked at -- lots of empty or missing pages.
  • Most schools offer a template of some sort that gets used by almost everyone, along with some design guidelines that are apparently ignored by most. Again, any kind of blog would be a better structure than what I've been seeing. I suppose they're also trying to give kids some learning and practice in creating pages, but I don't know if it's worth it.
  • Some kids love to write, and others couldn't be bothered. Obvious statement, perhaps, but it really becomes clear that portfolios are going to really appeal to a small percentage of students, and only some of those are going to bother to put in the effort to engage in the process.

No comments: