The good and the bad of ePortfolio experimentation

May 20, 2008

Blackboard is driving me nuts at the moment. It doesn’t seem able to do any of the things I would like it to do. It offers portfolio functionality but it is hardly what you might call seamless. It’s like a bag owned by a student that only the student ever puts things in. Sure, the student can let other people peep into the bag, and might even let people take things out of the bag… but those other people can’t then put the object back in the bag, the student has to do it. *sigh* So, you can share but you can’t co-create. You can comment but you can’t dictate where those comments go. You can give feedback but you’ll pretty much have to do that orally, if at all.

Then again, maybe it’s just me and I’m not really there yet. Perhaps Bb can do all the things I and others would like it to do… like offer a shared collaborative workspace between tutor and student that is private, accessible, flexible, able to accommodate commentary and tracking and so on.

On the other hand, I found this interesting clip about Mahara today…

I do like many of the aspects of Mahara, although I’m not entirely convinced by the widgets – they’re great and easy to use if you have little technical knowledge but you can’t then code your page layout too flexibly if you want to. On the other hand it does have some useful sharing features and it’s certainly a lot easier to discover functionalities with this than it is to do so within Bb, at least at present.

Not to worry. I will keep on plugging away. Seeing what works, what doesn’t, what’s good, what’s bad and whether, in the endgame it’s worth the effort.


What does portfolio actually mean?

May 6, 2008

Lucinda left me a helpful comment on the first post to this blog – and raised a really interesting question. I’m beginning to feel like ‘portfolio’ is one of those words like ‘culture’ – it means so many things to so many different people, across so many different contexts. I had a vague element of recall that suggested it was derived from the convergence of two Latin words meaning ‘to carry’ and ‘leaves’ (as in paper)… then I found a page on the web that suggested the word comes from the Italian word ‘portfiglio’ – I tested it out in Google using the helpful search facility – define: portfolio. It’s an interesting one… at it’s most basic, it’s a collection… of things… could be objects, could be skills, responsibilities, etc. I was reading something the other day that suggested that people who maintained online social networking tools and, in particular, the sharing of digital artefacts, were in fact activating some sort of digital curatorship… over images, narratives, moments in time… that’s also something interesting to think on in terms of the ePortfolio and notions of ownership, accountability, accessibility, audience and purpose.

YouTube Gone

May 3, 2008

Interesting, given my earlier comments about shared external hosting and the need for reliability when storing artefacts in your ePortfolio across a number of disparate systems. You expect small servers to experience the occasional outage but you don’t (really) expect that of established hosting services the size of YouTube! Imagine my surprise, then, to find the fun video from my last posting suddenly invisible today.

Invisible YouTube

And no joy on a direct search either.

YouTube Outage May 2008


ePortfolio and community

May 1, 2008

Thinking some more about the user experience with ePortfolios. I’m not particularly bothered about sharing personal information or keeping detailed CVs, although I wouldn’t mind tracking my PD in an ePortfolio. I’m much more interested in being able to manage my data, information and deadlines effectively.

That said, I was experimenting with the Bb Expo portfolios yesterday and I must admit I did like the ‘link to friend’ element – in the organisational sense more so than ‘collecting friends’ sense… in that I see that as functioning a bit like a Blogroll so that you can link to interest groups and course groups and such like. I guess, in that, I can begin to see the attraction of Web 2.0 sites like Facebook.

I howled with laughter at this… says a lot for a desirable difference to be made between ePortfolios for education and social networking a la Facebook!

Therein lies another interesting aspect for me – in the sense that for a community to work, it needs to be small enough and particular enough for me to want to take an interest in it. In this sense, the idea of a closed ePortfolio, linked to the Institution is a good one. However, at the same time, I would need the freedom and reassurance that I can easily take my ePortfolio with me when I no longer belong to that community or, really, at any point in time… so that export facility is really important. And, thinking about that video clip, there’s a lot to be said for ‘sense and sensibility’ in ePortfolio toolkit construction and the ultimate user experience!

ePortfolios and the user experience

May 1, 2008

I was thinking the other day about the kinds of things, as a research student within a large institution, I might want from an ePortfolio and these are some of the things I came up with:


  • Blog tool: for reflective writing
  • Calendar: to track deadlines
  • Planner: to make ‘to do’ lists
  • Sticky Notes tool: for one-off notes
  • Cites Manager: to track bibliographic references
  • Folder tool: to store/organise/share docs
  • Wiki tool: for collaboration
  • Forum tool: for discussion
  • Media tool: to store/share/display visual media
  • Podcast tools: to store/share/play audio media
  • I would want something that works a bit like a real-world portfolio but with a little more flexibility… taking the benefits of the digital… enabling sharing and use of artefacts that, for whatever reason, just don’t fit into a ‘physical’ file structure. I’m also thinking that I’d like the software tool to be readable on a portable device like an iPod Touch.

    Interestingly, many of the tools I want already exist in a Web 2.0 world and it would be feasible for me to cobble together an ePortfolio of all these things using existing free or open source software but that’s not an ideal solution… and that made me think of some other things around the user experience.

    Tool features

    As well as having the tools, you need to have the ability to save, store, backup, transfer and export your data, so there needs to be some way to collate all the data that is visible in your ePortfolio and compress it into a standalone file on a regular basis.  And then there are the other issues:

    Issues around usability

    The toolkit needs to be:

  • easy to use
  • well supported
  • portable
  • accessible
  • reliable
  • functional
  • integrated
  • networked
  • flexible
  • Then there are issues around the kinds of interaction that might be expected to go on with and through the ePortfolio:


  • open/closed
  • specific/general
  • personal/social
  • formal/informal
  • audience/purpose
  • aims/objectives
  • ownership

  • ePortfolio using

    April 28, 2008

    Well, that’s really interesting, still browsing away, I found this interesting attempt at creating an ePortfolio system based on tagging (as opposed to folders) using the web 2.0 tool Another element of the find that particularly interested me, actually, was the realisation that you can create sub-directories in your account.

    [5 minutes later…]

    Using tagging as an ePortfolio system

    Now laughing merrily at my naivety as I realise that, in fact, it wasn’t a sub-directory as such, but a tag… which just goes to prove that tags, in effect, work like sub-directories, just as Dr Barrett surmised. Hmm. Interesting.

    Whose stuff?

    April 28, 2008

    I found some interesting information today online about an eportfolio plugin for Moodle which is being developed by the OU called MyStuff. It sounds really interesting…

    MyStuff - OU ePortfolio plugin for Moodle

    I was hoping to see the actual ePortfolio. It is, apparently, OpenSource, but whenever I try to go to the OU site for the application, I keep being asked to login, so not quite sure what’s going on there. I like Guy’s early iterations/brainstorms of ePortfolio design… they’re good visualisations to get you thinking. I also like his commentary on the use of Web 2.0 apps to enhance the ePortfolio experience… it’s good to see that I’m not the only one thinking along these lines.

    Ah, finally, I found the design and development website for the tool (even if I still can’t get access to the tool itself … grrr).