Saturday, June 10, 2006

Engagement with Electronic Portfolios

I've had Engagement with Electronic Portfolios: Challenges from the Student Perspective saved for a while. The main strength of the paper is that the researchers focused on how students were receiving e-portfolio implementations in their programs, rather than looking at the usual institutional impact. A quote:
"Therefore, it is important that the e-portfolio is not viewed like other forms of assessment or assignments which students are required to undertake but may feel little sense of ownership in. The e-portfolio is (or should be) part of a student-owned, student-centred approach to learning which makes it possible for students to actively engage in their learning rather than just be the recipients of information."
I agree with these goals, but I'm still having a hard time seeing this happening in the context of our existing education system. There is so little in formal education (characterized by courses, scheduling, curriculum, and traditional instruction) that gives any real power to learners that I think our expectation for their ability or desire to embrace e-portfolios (as currently conceived) in the context of courses and programs is unrealistic.

That said, I also think that the philosophy underpinning good e-portfolios could be a driver for change in that same system. It's not difficult to envision a university degree that was really personal -- letting learners choose topics from any discipline and any school, helping them work in self-assembled networks, directing them to people and resources that will interest them most, letting them work at their own pace, valuing (and offering credit for) experience and learning outside of the institution (PLA), etc, etc... Once you go down that road, the e-portfolio (or personal learning environment, or whatever you call it) becomes essential for the people managing all aspects (topics, applications, networks, projects, timing) of their own learning experiences.

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