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Does an ePortfolio have to be Based in an "ePortfolio" Platform?

Posted By Trent Batson Ph. D., AAEEBL, Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Does an ePortfolio have to be Based in an “ePortfolio” Platform?

Webinar with Shane Sutherland of PebblePad, May 6, 1-2 pm US EDT.  Register under the calendar list at  You must register to attend. 

This question comes up time and again.  It is an interesting epistemological question but it is also a touchy issue – after all, the eportfolio business sector depends on institutions and individuals using eportfolio technology. 

In practice, the concept of “eportfolio” is new to a lot of academics, and those academics who are choosing a technology to carry out eportfolio initiatives have so little experience choosing an enterprise application (a technology application potentially used by the whole campus), that they have little choice but to adopt an eportfolio technology that will show them, over time, how an eportfolio works. 

We are in that awkward stage, technologically, where demand for eportfolio learning and assessment continues to grow but where the users – students and faculty – are, in many cases, unfamiliar with how to use an eportfolio or what to expect of the technology.  Some institutions have gone through two or three iterations of eportfolio platforms as they try to find the best one for their uses.  Other institutions find themselves with multiple eportfolio platforms on their campuses.  I also hear stories of eportfolio vendors receiving a list of requirements from an institution that is overwhelming and nearly impossible to reply to as part of an RFP process. 

In practice, therefore, the majority of eportfolio initiatives will probably continue to be tied to an eportfolio system named as such.  The broader question for the field is “do we define ‘eportfolio’ by the technology or by the use?”  Defining by the technology allows a precise definition – a core set of functionalities – but is “precise” the same as “useful”?  Wouldn’t a technology-based definition become quickly obsolescent?  Wouldn’t it limit our imaginations regarding the eportfolio idea? 

The persisting vision of “eportfolio” is immune to obsolescence:  “a personal learning space that is owned by the individual who can set permissions, and with an archive of evidence of life experiences in multi-modal formats, that persists over time and can publish showcases to the web.” Or something like that. 

We have a dilemma:  if we opt for a precise technology function definition, we get precise but maybe not useful; if we opt for a more relativistic purpose definition, we get useful but not precise. 


Here is Shane Sutherland’s position that he will present on May 6 at 1 pm US EDT in the AAEEBL/EPAC webinar series on “What is an ePortfolio?”


Putting purpose at the heart of our portfolio definitions


In this screenside chat Shane Sutherland will argue that our failure to distinguish between the portfolio system and its outputs is at the heart of much conversational confusion about eportfolios. How often do we hear learners exhorted to “log into the eportfolio and create an eportfolio” ?

The world is increasingly full of tools purporting to be portfolio systems but what differentiates a good portfolio system from a less good one?  Shane thinks the question is moot. You actually have to start with a clear understanding of what you hope to achieve and you can only do that by understanding the kind of outputs, or portfolios, you require – which in turn is determined by purpose.

In this conversation Shane we will make the case for portfolios to be considered simply as presentational outputs, independent of the tools used to create them. He will suggest two framing characteristics -- format and utility -- along with a series of defining questions related to each and together leading to a tentative taxonomy.

Shane argues that, armed with a clear sense of the kinds of portfolios you want to create, individuals and institutions are much better placed to define the system they need – whether or not that system is labeled as a ‘portfolio system’.



Tags:  ePortfolio AAEEBL 

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