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The Definition of an ePortfolio Project

Posted By Trent Batson Ph. D., AAEEBL, Thursday, April 2, 2015

 "What is an ePortfolio” 2015 Monthly Webinar Series
Co-Sponsored in part by EPAC


Collecting Perspectives for The “Definition of an ePortfolio Project”

 A Year-Long Conversation Toward Consensus
[register for first webinar] 

How do you define something that is both a technology and a range of how humans use the technology?  “ePortfolio” has come to mean both the technology and the range of uses and is also a signifier for the times we live in as well as a “GPS” for humans to find their way in these times.  The eportfolio global community, because of the diverse range of perceptions of what “eportfolio” is, needs to find consensus on a description that encompasses the whole eportfolio landscape but still is easily comprehensible to those unfamiliar with “eportfolio.” 

The Wisdom Collection Part of the Project:  Webinar Series

AAEEBL begins this long-term Project to define “eportfolio” with a webinar to be broadcast on April 8, in just a few days.  You can join in the conversation by registering for this webinar.  It is free, but registration is required.  We will follow the April 8 webinar with another on April 15 and other webinars will be announced in the days to come.  Through these recorded webinars and accompanying blog posts, and through written contributions from members of the community, we will collect knowledge that is shared within the Community working toward concluding statements in early 2015. 

A technical description of an academic eportfolio has been developed by PESC.  This description and many other sources are the foundation on which this project launches. 

The Goal of the ePortfolio Definition Project

We start this Project with trepidation but also eagerness.  The definition cannot be prescribed but must be discovered.  AAEEBL intends to facilitate the conversation to discover the definition over the next 9 months and to participate in analysis of whatever consensus is arising and then, we hope, be able collaboratively to provide a report to be reviewed by eportfolio practitioners, researchers, and corporate partners worldwide during 2015. 

The First Webinar in the ePortfolio Definition Project.

The first webinar in the AAEEBL 2015 series on “What is an ePortfolio?” – the essential question for the ePortfolio Definition Project – will be an interview that I will lead with Steve Handy, leader of Bluehost Education.  This interview will be held on April 8, 2015, at 1:00 pm US EDT and will continue for an hour.  The interview will be recorded and can be viewed after the webinar.  Register for this free webinar that launches the ePortfolio Definition Project. 

Screen Side Chats

This series is called “Screen Side Chats” to best describe the interview form we will follow and to set the tone for these interviews.  This series will not consist of talks driven by slides, but instead will consist of conversations around essential questions related to the goal of better defining what an eportfolio is.  Some Screen Side Chats (SSCs) in this AAEEBL Webinar Series will be with academics and some with AAEEBL corporate partners.  The underlying question of “What is an ePortfolio?” will be at the center of each interview. 

Why This Project?

In 1999, at Seton Hall University in New Jersey, I taught a first-year composition course using a portfolio framework.  My technology at that time was paper but the management of the paper was aided by using digital printers to make multiple copies of one assigned paper (one for the student and one for me) and was also aided by email and the ability to send attachments. 

Now, just 16 years later, we – the AAEEBL community and, by extension, the eportfolio community and research field -- open an investigative series to determine a reference definition, description or proto-taxonomy of what an eportfolio is.  In those 16 years, because of the global move to the Internet and particularly the Web, the concept of “portfolio” has experienced shredding and forking and remixing to the point where only the most minimal definition – a repository on the web with certain technical capabilities designed with an intention in mind – can be generally agreed upon. 

This minimal “definition” sells the movement short.  It may reinforce an impression that the eportfolio movement is a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing.  Yet, nothing could be further from the truth.  A database on the web containing data about learning is like the famous “field of infinite possibilities.” (Chopra)  And therein lies the problem – the reality is far from “minimal” – it is seemingly, in fact, infinite in the varieties of eportfolio uses and designs and meanings that people have developed in a very short time. 

Bluehost as an ePortfolio Provider

The April 8 Screen Side Chat with Steve Handy of Bluehost:  “How do you Create an ePortfolio that is REALLY Your Own”? begins the 9-month conversation. 

We wonder, within academia, and perhaps within the industry itself, what kind of “eportfolio” a web hosting company can offer.  The first reaction I hear from other academics is “a website is not an eportfolio.”  And this reaction provides the challenge for Steve during the interview.

I have given a lot of thought to the question of what Bluehost offers for learners.  I should first clarify that Bluehost has created an interface for WordPress and is therefore offering a suite of technology functionality, including WordPress, that is more than “just a website.”  Bluehost is one of the largest hosting services in the world and WordPress supports a reported 20% of all websites in the world.  Students learning to use WordPress hosted by Bluehost, then, are starting with a technology set that is used widely and will serve them not only during college but for life.  Other portfolio providers do the same but there is a certain value in starting out using what a large part of the world already uses. 

(AAEEBL is platform neutral.  Its goal is to advance good uses of eportfolios educationally and not to champion any one particular platform.  At the same time, the more educators and learners know about the technology offerings, the wiser their choices can be about technology decisions and uses.  And, the more robust the eportfolio industry is, the better the technology we will have available to support our work). 

Bluehost also offers a student or a learner a domain that can be the actual name of the student or learner, and offers also the entire range of functionality that goes with owning a domain.  Bluehost can then claim, with reason, that a student in college, starting out with Bluehost and WordPress, is launching their lifetime digital identity.  This technology option can be used for the learning purposes we identify as eportfolio practices but this option can also allow students/learners to become ambitious in their use of their own domain for purposes in addition to strictly academic uses.  The sense of ownership is reinforced by the learner’s eportfolio being ensconced in a platform not defined by an institution. 

The interview will explore to what extent these claims are true, and will be open to audience questions for half of the time of the webinar.  This series and this project, the ePortfolio Definition Project, ventures into contested territory.  This territory is where the industry and the eportfolio community meet.  Industry is competitive and profit-driven; academia is collaborative and truth-driven.  Industry must maintain non-disclosure while academia is open inquiry.  But, at the same time, both the eportfolio industry and the eportfolio academic community have the same goal:  increase good use of eportfolios for better learning, assessment and career success.

The Screen Side Chats over the next 9 months will be nothing if not interesting.



Tags:  ePortfolio AAEEBL 

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