I think they’re pretty brill, and here’s why…
The shared office I have just left is packed to the rafters with ex-learners’ bulging, paper-based portfolios (some up to five years old). They take up so much space there is barely room for anyone to work in there. Were there to be a landslide of ring binders, people may get injured. Paper cuts would be the least of their worries though – a heavy lever arch file with sharp corners falling from a high shelf can cause rather a lot of damage to one’s ears. I know this to be true. The obvious solution then would be to pack them up and stash them in the college‘s archives (all attempts to contact the portfolios’ owners having come to nothing). Thing is, the college now has to charge for archive space, so this isn’t a viable option either. Which is the first reason I like ePortfolios. Here are a few more:
1. They save space (yep, already mentioned that, but I’m neurotic and the list has to be complete)
2. They save on travel time, and therefore petrol. No more having to lug your portfolio on a 76 mile round trip that costs a fortune in fuel and takes a chunk out of your day. And I just read that back as ‘They save on time travel’, which would be a ridiculous notion. I mean, why would you want to curtail regular visits into the future / past?
3. They save costs – and by that, I mean the cost of paper, ink and the electricity needed to power a printer. And have you SEEN the cost of ring binders nowadays? Tsk.
4. External moderators can access learners’ work remotely, so have no need to travel from Invercargill to Cornwall to moderate one cohort’s work. This, again, saves time, money and petrol.
I’ve been using ePortfolios for several years now and they haven’t cost me a penny! (I’m assuming that ePortfolios from other companies can cost quite a lot of money). Using Moodle, I’ve found that there’s a workaround. That’s a lie. I was told by someone who had discovered this for themselves, so it isn’t my invention. Anyway, I now set up groups named after each learner, and then enrol that learner into their named group. I then give each group its own forum. Moodle forums are very easy to use and learners can either type their work directly into them as a ‘forum post’ or can upload their work as an attachment to a forum post. The beauty of the group system is that learners can see their own portfolio/forum mashup thingy, but nobody else’s. However, as course teacher, I can access each portfolio – as can anyone else (such as a co-teacher or external moderator) as long as they have access as a teacher to the course.
My aforementioned frustration stems from the fact that both practitioners and learners alike seem to be very wary of ePortfolios. Not sure if ‘wary’ is the right word actually. Apathetic? Confused? They think that it’s going to be a really complicated and time consuming thing to implement and use? Maybe that someone will pull the plug on the ePortfolio provider and all their work will be lost? Maybe it’s that feeling of having something tangible at the end of a course – a piece of work that can be held and seen and even smelled…and has physical substance? But if that’s the case, then why are so many portfolios uncollected and mouldering in my old office?