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Let's Make Peace!: Eportfolios for Learning vs Eportfolios for Assessment

Posted By Administration, Saturday, December 10, 2011
Updated: Thursday, October 17, 2013

December 10th, 2011

[NOTE: I will, in the near future, stop sending emails about new Batson Blog entry notifications to you. If you wish to continue seeing these blogs, click on "RSS" at the Batson Blog page, and choose the option for how you want to receive the blog posts -- I chose "email."]

Many in the eportfolio community have lamented, justifiably, the strong emphasis in the market toward providing assessment management systems to institutions and calling them "eportfolios." For a time, these systems were built out far more for the institution than for the faculty and students. I and others have expressed our opinion that these two systems, the assessment management system and the learning portfolio for faculty and students, should be separate applications.

We objected to turning faculty and students into, essentially, data-entry staff for the purpose of institutional reporting. We felt that using the term "eportfolio" to describe an institutional management system was misleading.

This argument about what Helen Barrett calls "the two faces of eportfolios" has continued for over 5 years. However, in the meantime, eportfolios have evolved, their learning functionalities have improved, and the management part of the platforms have ceased to dominate the architecture of eportfolios. Web 2.0 architectures and social learning capabilities have emerged in some of the platforms. Therefore, part of the issue has been addressed.

The other part, about the assessment management system portion of the eportfolio platform, if perceived in a particular way, may have an unrealized potential for transformation of the basic business structure of education. Used within the current business model of higher education, they may have only limited value for improving learning. But, in a very different business model, they could help improve learning immeasurably.

David Shupe has spoken a number of times about his own vision of institutional transformation and will be speaking again at the Eportfolio Forum during the AAC&U conference in Washington, DC January 25-28.

Shupe develops his argument extensively, but an underlying vision seems to be that eportfolios can and should support an alternative system to the current system of credits and seat time. This way, faculty could move away from our current system: evaluating student work based on the sketchy presumption that, if students are exposed to information for a set period of time and pass a number of short-term memory tests, they will have become "learned." And they could instead evaluate student achievement based on actual eportfolio evidence.

Therefore, we might now re-consider our prevalent view that assessment management systems are necessary annoyances, and see them instead as the support system for deep transformation of the very core of higher education (they could serve equally at other levels of education, of course).

It's time to "make peace" with the management part of eportfolios and investigate the promising potential of these systems.

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