An uneasy dichotomy? How are ePortfolios being used in education?

Key stages of learningImage by hazelowendmc via FlickrTrent Batson, executive director of The Association for Authentic, Experiential and Evidence-Based Learning (AAEEBL), provides an initial summary on the current status of global portfolios in his article: “Review of Portfolios in Higher Education: A Flowering of Inquiry and Inventiveness in the Trenches“. The article indicates the variety of current uses for ePortfolios, and how they are assisting learners to develop digital literacy, communication, and writing skills. Reference is also made to the formation of The Fund for the Improvement of Post Secondary Education, and how it heralds the emergence of the field of portfolio studies. The article concludes with a recognition of the up and coming technologies for ePortfolios, as well as a comparison of course management systems and portfolios:

course management systems, no matter the name, usually are defined by and focused on a course, which has a beginning and an ending. Portfolios are instead most often identified not with a specific course but with the learner over time” (Batson, 2010).

Dynamic interconnectedness: ePortfolios

These article seems to suggest that portfolios / ePortfolios are already taking on a lifelong learning purpose, with students taking them forward through their primary, secondary and tertiary education, and then out with them into the world of, for example, work. Two points spring to mind. The first is that ePortfolio use has not been around long enough in education institutions to show the level of flexibility and portability for a student to work through the school system and graduate with their own ePortfolio – owned by the student rather than the institutions where they are studying (partly because of issues with interoperability, policies, and standards, as well as concerns and tensions around using Web 2.0 ePortfolios). The second is, as far as I have witnessed to date, some ePortfolio use in education tends toward templates, and specific requirements. While it can be argued that requirements need to be made clear and students need to be scaffolded, how can this be translated to an ePortfolio that is structured in a way that is personalised, relevant to a learner’s future, and useful to, for instance, future employers?

One of the comments that follows Trent Batson’s article poses the question “Why do portfolios always seem to end with graduation?”, and goes on to suggest: “Let’s not continue to use portfolios just as a repository for student work. They can be more than that; make it an online space alive with activity, interaction, and connections” (Brian). This comment highlights the current uneasy dichotomy of assessment / lifelong learning; and assessment / creativity.

Perhaps, as the use of ePortfolios matures, then education will find a way to enable learners, while also fulfilling course requirements, and in turn encourage them to take their ePortfolio forward with them(??). But it may prove to be a long arduous road to reach this destination

About ictenhancedlearningandteaching

I am a director and consultant at Ethos Consultancy NZ ( I have a keen interest in all aspects of ICT Enhanced Learning and Teaching (ICTELT) where the focus lies on ways of scaffolding and empowering learners. In particular, I am interested in the way that creative, blended approached to Academic Professional Development can create trust, rapport and encourage reflective practice. As such, ICTELT is approached from facilitation, design, evaluation and assessment as opposed to the tools and what they can offer. I am a strong advocate of the potential of Web 2.0 to empower learners from all walks of life and cultures, especially after my experiences working for 6 years in the Middle East. In particular, I am interested how ePortfolios can be used in the VET sector (especially where Literacy and Language challenges are faced), in Recognition of Prior Learning, and in authentic, applied assessment. I have been involved with designing and developing ICTELT approaches and programmes for ten years. Following research informed approaches and design, I apply a qualitative, iterative process to evaluate the effectiveness of interventions, programmes and tools, encouraging learners' voices and input from all stakeholders.
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3 Responses to An uneasy dichotomy? How are ePortfolios being used in education?

  1. Pingback: Article of the day — 24 Posts

  2. Pingback: Conexão TE » Blog Archive » Desire2learn – soluções inovadoras de e-learning

  3. Pingback: Desire2learn – soluções inovadoras de e-learning « Enio de Aragon

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