Sunday, February 28, 2010

5.3.3: ePortfolios outside the wire

Article: Wang, S. (2009). E-portfolios for integrated reflection [Full text PDF]. Issues in Informaing Science and Information Technology (6), 449-460.

Wang (2009, p.449) starts by saying that "Currently, e-portfolios are viewed mostly as a tool of assessment and showcase, but less as a tool of active learning"; this is not the New Zealand experience as far as I am aware. Anyway, Wang proposes an ontological reflection model for ePortfolio use.

While it is disappointing to not see reference to the considerable work being done in the UK (and no reference to open source tools beyond, err, 'OSP'), Wang does make the connection between artefacts and learning objects and suggests a model linking course objectives to rubrics, rubrics to assessments... and, ultimately, student work to assessment outcomes. So far, so good - but next Wang describes an ePortfolio tool designed to facilitate the process of the model.

I have noticed this sort of thing before (see earlier comments on Swan): the development of a model followed by a highly structured application/solution that enables that model to be followed. This seems to be a US approach, as no UK or Australiasian literature I have seen (in published form - I have seen some review articles) attempts this. In the UK and Australasian contexts the trend seems to be toward tools that are much more open-ended and flexible.

The fatal flaw in Wang's work is really this phrase on p.457: "This paper recognizes a lack of applications of e-portfolios for integrated reflection beyond course-based teaching and assessment...". It is a pity that Wang did not read further afield, nor consider how reflection might be structured outside of the ePortfolio application itself. Structuring reflective activity using offline guides and questions can enhance the application of reflection within the ePortoflio environment; the two do not need to be integrated into the ePortfolio tool itself. Indeed, separating the brief from the tool enables the tool to be far more flexible than the case presented by Wang.

Hmmm... perhaps the fact that the study was "supported by" Chalk & Wire Learning Assessment Inc., who (perhaps coincidentally?) market the ePortfolio system Wang recommends, has something to do with the thrust of the paper...? What came first, the system or the model? At least with open source and flexible solutions such as Mahara, you need not constrain your use of an ePortfolio into a conceptual model that may actually be limited in scope.

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