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EDUCAUSE ECAR Annual Survey of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, 2014: Troubling Findings for ePortfolio Field

Posted By Trent Batson Ph. D., AAEEBL, Monday, February 9, 2015

EDUCAUSE ECAR Annual Survey of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, 2014:  Troubling Findings for ePortfolio Field

A previous Blog provided information from the 2013 ECAR Survey; this one is about the 2014 Survey.

ePortfolios Continue Their Robust Growth in Use in Higher Education

From 2010 to 2014, the ECAR Annual Survey of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology showed impressive, almost breath-taking growth in use of eportfolios on US campuses and others around the world:  around a 500% growth in use from 2010 to 2013 and a doubling of use in two or more courses from 2012 to 2013.  One of AAEEBL’s Annual Conferences called this growth curve “ePortfolio Coming of Age.”

Gratifying, But Wait a Minute

For those of us who have worked with, advocated for, and used eportfolios, the news may seem gratifying:  it suggests that academia is beginning to see the value in eportfolios.

However, in the 2014 survey, when the questions in the survey included more perspectives beyond simple numbers of users, we find disturbing data: 

  • Though the number of students using eportfolios in “most or all courses” hovered around 10% -- continuing the trend of “scaling up” in eportfolio use – 30% of students who used eportfolios “strongly agree they could be more effective if they [students] were better at using them.” 

  • About 30 percent of respondents to another question wish “their instructors would use [eportfolios] more,” but about 40% wish they would use then less.

These two sets of data suggest the growth in the use of eportfolios is coming at a price:  students are puzzled over how to use them and many of them wish they’d use them less. 

LMS findings in the 2014 Survey Report

Even though 99% of institutions have an LMS, the survey indicated that 29% of students use the LMS in only one course or none (17% use the LMS in no courses). 

Students showed they were very interested in adding personalized features to the LMS, particularly to aid them in seeing and understanding their progress toward the degree. 

Comments

The 2014 Survey shows much more about student wishes, preferences, and inclinations that add flesh to the raw numbers of this survey and previous ones.  For us in the eportfolio field, we can celebrate that around 10% of respondents said they used eportfolios in most or all their courses – the most startling number we’ve seen about eportfolio use yet -- but we also need to address the resultant confusion and push back indicated in the Survey. [Note that the survey also had responses from 55 countries outside the U. S.]

LMS’s are trending toward becoming a personalized learning analytics system for students within the traditional learning ecology of mostly “one-size fits all” curriculum.  Within that ecology, the LMS is very valuable as a practical tool and, conceivably, as a prompt to reflect on one’s own experience in college.

But to the extent that LMS’s trend toward a tracking utility and toward serving the practical, as opposed to the learning, needs of students, the “learning” part of the LMS name shrinks in importance and the “management system” part grows. 

ePortfolios continue to grow in use at a startling rate considering they are being adopted within, mostly, a learning ecology that is not hospitable to the best use of eportfolios. 

Tags:  ECAR Survey;ePortfolio 

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