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"What is an ePortfolio?" is the Wrong Question

Posted By Trent Batson Ph. D., AAEEBL, Monday, May 4, 2015

“What is an ePortfolio?” is the Wrong Question.

In the AAEEBL/EPAC webinar series that began last month (and continues on Wednesday May 6 at 1 pm US EDT with Shane Sutherland of PebblePad -- register), we have been asking “what is an eportfolio?” because this is often the question we hear and because the field does not have a “reference” definition (the agreed upon standard definition) of “eportfolio.”  However, as many have mentioned as we attempt to settle on a definition, if we don’t frame what we are doing within a broad enough concept space, we face the danger of settling on a definition that misses the point, or that diminishes the importance of the eportfolio.

A Better Question?

A better question to avoid that danger may be “what is the eportfolio idea?”  It is the eportfolio idea that has created a global community, formed associations such as The International Coalition of ePortfolio Research, the Making Connections Center at LaGuardia Community College, AAEEBL, The Centre for Recording Achievement (UK), ePIC, EPAC, ePortfolios Australia and so on.  It is not so much what the eportfolio is but what it enables the world to do and what it signifies. 

AAEEBL Annual Conference

The AAEEBL Annual Conference this year (July 27-30 – register) features the phrase “Beyond One Size Fits All,” referring to the move away from assembly line curriculum to variable learning experiences – high impact educational practices (HIPs), field work, service learning, semester abroad, competency-based education, self-paced learning, and the whole range of more active learning experiences open to undergraduate students today.  Mobile learning (i.e., “out of the classroom”) is hard to assess or evaluate using the same assessment methods appropriate to the assembly line curriculum, however, and even harder to assess or evaluate is students following different learning paths toward the same learning outcomes. 

Why the ePortfolio Idea is Important At This Time

ePortfolios directly address this problem because eportfolios are attached to the learner and not to the instructor.  The eportfolio serves as the eyes of the instructor to see, after the fact, the learning that occurred out of the instructor’s vision.

This is what we mean by “making learning visible.”  This is the eportfolio idea – instrumenting the millennial move from teaching to learning.  ePortfolios are important because of the central role they can play in whole-campus transformation toward variable, active learning.  Defining an eportfolio only as a technology misses the significance of the eportfolio idea. 

In the next phase of the AAEEBL/EPAC webinar series on “What is an ePortfolio,” we will be featuring notable eportfolio leaders who will develop aspects of “the eportfolio idea.”  This week, Shane Sutherland, CEO of PebblePad, will address the question, “What is an ePorfolio?” by offering “some reflections, some suggestions, some questions…”  The webinar is free but you must register.  As you register, you will see a screen confirming your registration that includes the URL for the webinar on May 6 at 1 pm US EDT.  Please make a note of the URL. 






Tags:  AAEEBL  defined  eportfolio 

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Stephen Parsons says...
Posted Monday, May 4, 2015
I'm glad to see the shift from a single meaning to a concept map; from minimalist epistomology to a framework. Social constructivism holds that meaning and truth are constructed by social processes, is historically and culturally specific, and that it is in part shaped through the power struggles within a community. The question needs to be in many cases about what "value" ePortfolio might have for its various stakeholders. For those who need to define a mission around pedagogy for teaching/ learning and the advancement to careers, versus those who need to leverage authentic educational assessment versus those who have to consider institutional strategy and KPIs, the value is there, but the implementation and tools may be different. Mapping the field is a much more useful way to provide robust knowledge, while a basic meaning - e.g. a digital collection of evidence of learning - can remain relatively simple. This is a great series, pulling the community together around important notions.
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