Perhaps dead is the wrong term too – “being faced with a potential life threatening illness” is maybe a better way of putting it. Here’s why I ask this.
Twelve months ago I came to this conference and got the feeling that we were on the edge of ePortfolio use becoming much larger in the Higher Ed and VET sectors in particular. I thought to myself that next year things would look a lot different from what they did back then. From the conversations I’ve had so far, I was wrong.
I’ve had many conversations over the last year where I ask what is happening within an institution around the use of ePortfolios, and while there are pockets of enthusiasm, the uptake seems to be slowed by at least two things:
- The ePortfolio being pushed to the back of the queue behind (typically) LMS and/or LCMS implementations, particularly given that there is inevitably a requirement for integration between the tools; and
- Institutions not being able to decide what an ePortfolio is, and consequently what an ePortfolio tool is meant to do.
I had a conversation yesterday with someone from a University of along the lines of ‘we knew ePortfolios were a good idea, so we started gathering requirements, and when it became clear that nobody could agree on what an ePortfolio was then we gave up’. Sound familiar?
I think this also accounts for the high instance of pilot roll-outs of ePortfolio tools I see around the place, irrespective of the tool of choice.
One particularly interesting thing in the ePortfolio space is the diversity of tools. Now I realise the LMS is dead (which I guess makes me head zombie curator for about 99% of my working life or something), but the main players in the space are, from a ‘tick the boxes’ functionality level, very, very similar. Sure, some do some things better or differently, but the space is (for now) stable in terms of what people expect and what they can get from the big players. Contrast this with the ePortfolio space, where yesterday while I had a quick nosey around at the other tools and was struck yet again by the different perspective that each tool takes. Some are more focused on assessment, some more on evidence gathering, some more on social networking and collaboration (I’d add Mahara to this list in terms of its strengths) and probably a bunch of other focal points as well, but they are all quite different in contrast to each other. If anything, this might make the choice of an ePortfolio an easier job – assuming an institution can work out what an ePortfolio is in the first place…
I also, yet again, get the feeling that the whole ePortfolio product space is constantly at risk of imploding on itself due to the very nature of individuals wanting to keep their own stuff in a range of different tools which have no relationship to their formal institution at all. I look at my own ePortfolio – and it is stored in my blog, LinkedIn, Flickr and YouTube to name a few, and no single ePortfolio tool would make me want to change that. Once again, this comes back to what it is an institution is looking to achieve by running an ePortfolio tool as to whether students will want to use it.
So what might be the driver for the ePortfolio space to move beyond its current ‘toe in the water’ feeling in many areas I seem to see? Sadly, for me, I think it will be the legislated need for reporting driven by external factors such as TEQSA. I say ‘sadly’ because although its probably good for the ePortfolio tool vendors, I worry that the reporting-driven requirements will end up turning the ePortfolio into something more of a compliance checklist rather than a place where learners can collect, reflect and share their learning experiences in a genuinely user-centric environment.
Then again, that’s only my view on what an ePortfolio is 🙂