Wednesday, 18 July 2012

E-Portfolios: an e-piphany

Amy Mangrich explaining the narrative arc of her students' reflections

I am really interested in using e-portfolios with students - for reflection, for employability, for collaboration, on line formative assessment - a whole host of stuff that could be really useful, fun and creative. Unfortunately the eportfolio that comes with our VLE is almost universally loathed for its clunky functionality and lack of intuitive interface.

There are about to be changes to the whole system - eportfolios included - which we are being promised will smooth out the wrinkles and make them both more engaging and more portable. I really hope so because I was part of some sessions today which really made a convincing case for wider use of this tool.

Amy Mangrich from University of Wisconsin Milwaukee showcased a module which had been completely restructured to integrate reflective activities which led the student through the development of the "story" of their own intellectual development. This they then translated into a series of found or created images and finally dropped the collection into Voicethread to narrate an audio commentary.

Amy's belief that the multi media immersion was both emotionally and intellectually engaging (as well as developing media skills) was very convincing and inspiring. My own personal action points are to think about the seamless alignment of module structure, formative tasks and summative assessment on the one hand, and greater creativity and courage in the use of the eportfolio as a platform.

Amy and the instructors in the next session on eportfolios (yes there was a theme to my day) stressed over and over the need for a) templates created for the students to follow b) examples for them to look at and c) training in the technicalities of eportfolio assemblage.

By scaffolding the tasks the students gain confidence and by limiting their choice of presentation platforms, it levels the playing field to some extent. My own preferred policy of giving students some freedom of choice can result in some of them spending too long agonising over the "right" tool.

Some students I suspect would find the eportfolio tool in the VLE a bit limiting but the fact that it is institutionally supported, requires the same log in as the VLE, and generally does not terrify students in quite the same way that the weird and wonderful world of wikis and facebook can do, means that is potentially easier to access.

In the second session I had a further epiphany about the value of the eportfolio for assessment - tutors can access students work at various stages of development to give feedback - and why not summative? This could mean feedback/comments and even grades given "live" in the work without the download/upload faffing about experienced when marking assignments via normal dropbox submission.

The Virtual School of Georgia presentation focussed on the use of eportfolios for staff development - and that's crucial too: you really can't insist on student using this tool until you feel confident to do so yourself. More food for thought...........

In a brief lunchtime conversation with an instructional designer from Nashville Tennessee, I heard again a message which many presenters echo: there needs to be more than just a minimum requirement for VLE learning rooms. Courses need to be designed around the VLE and modules within them need to follow consistent patterns - the naming of "units", the sequencing of tasks, the alignment of learning outcomes - these all need to be far more prescribed, monitored and enforced if the VLE is going to engage students. The current policy of "let a thousand flowers bloom" is great in terms of academic and professional freedom for STAFF, but disorientating, and a bit shabby in terms of the student experience.

Now, whether you really want or need such a tightly controlled learning environment is another question, but if you ARE going to have an institutional VLE, it really ought to give the same high quality experience no matter what module is being studied.

No comments:

Post a comment