In 2012 the Centre for Educational Technology (CET) will be assisting in a pilot project of eportfolio use in the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment at the University of Cape Town (UCT). The portfolios are to be used in the Department of Architecture, Construction Economics and Civil Engineering. I will be using this blog to share our research, progress and experiences.
So what is an eportfolio?
An academic eportfolio is a student curated collection of digital artefacts demonstrating their experience and work conducted at university. The eportfolio provides a space for a student to reflect on their achievements and demonstrate evidence of what they have learnt and what they can do. It is a showcase of their work and project outputs, but should also include a reflection on the process in which the student engaged with the work. Eportfolios should evolve over time and allow the student to develop their work as they see fit.
While an eportfolio should be quite personal and allow creative freedom and flexibility, it may also need to adhere to some standard if being formally evaluated. Unlike an academic paper e-portfolios are not rigidly arranged which may be a challenge for both educators and students. As the application of eportfolios in higher education is still quite a new occurrence, we are investigating and exploring best practices at other institutions.
What are eportfolios technically?
The concept of a portfolio is not new at all; artisans and professionals have used traditional portfolios as evidence of their competencies for years now. The addition of the E to the portfolio is what is quite new, as well as the formal introduction of eportfolios as an assessment tool in higher education. An eportfolio is a digital representation of a students’ work available via the web. It may be presented within a web page, on a blog and/or wiki or designed within a learning management system.
Eportfolios may be secured for access only by the student and instructor, secured for access only within a group of students, or made public on the internet. The decisions around who may be able to access the eportfolio should probably be negotiated between the students and instructor. The technical feasibility of controlling access really depends on what eportfolio tool is used.
As yet, there is really no ‘one’ eportfolio solution we have identified. There are a number of options available for implementing eportfolios on institutional and cloud based systems including: eportfolio tools built within the learning management system; eportfolio specific software such as Mahara or Pebblepad; blogs and Google Sites to host eportfolios; and the use of Wikispaces as a eportfolio tool.
There are a number of implications around using institutional versus cloud based systems, such as access, data ownership, portability, permanence and security. We will be exploring these issues in more depth during the UCT eportfolio pilot.
Why eportfolios matter?
We have discussed a few of the main reasons for exploring eportfolios in the Faculty of Engineering and the Build Environment. I shall introduce a few of them here now, and will explore these in more detail in the future.
- One of the main objectives of piloting eportfolios at UCT is to increase the employability or “graduateness” of UCT students in their final years of study
- We also aim to use eportfolios to raise the students’ “self-awareness” and confidence in their capabilities and skills acquired at university
- The eportfolio should also assist in the students’ journey towards understanding their fit in society and professional life
Watch this space for more reflections on implementing eportfolios.