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Yearly Archives: 2009

Preparing Online Courses for the Swine Flu

The listservs are buzzing with the topic of Swine Flu and colleges are preparing to put whole semesters online in case of an epidemic.  Those colleges with the structures in place to do so, can easily do this, but there are a number of institutions that will not be prepared, have not invested in online learning and training of their faculty to teach in an online environment.  There are a large number of faculty members at many institutions who will not go anywhere near the Learning Management System.  Could the perceived enemy of education (on the part of some faculty) actually save the day?  And if so, will it change the attitudes of many about DL?  We’ll see…  we’ll see…

A bit about Mahara

Mahara is an Open Source e-portfolio system.  Mahara provides each member with their own portfolio, where they can build a resume, upload and store and artifacts as well as an unlimited number of blogs for reflection on artifacts.  Additionally, Mahara allows students to create various “views” of their portfolios–providing access to individuals, groups, friends, or even the general public.  Views have various formatting options, which still allow for branding.  Mahara also has internal social networking.  Students and instructors can create groups, and “friend” other individuals within Mahara (not unlike facebook or myspace)

Key Elements to Consider for E-Portfolios

For most instructors and institutions considering adopting an e-portfolio system, the focus is on assessment and accreditation.  Institutions need to be able to show “growth” over time, to demonstrate learning.  It is this need, generally for accreditation purposes, that has driven the interest in e-portfolios.

That, however, is not the primary concern or interest of the students who will own the e-portfolios.  In order to have true student buy-in an e-portfolio system needs to meet these needs of students:

1. A single place where they can store all their work and retreive it at will, so they don’t have to have their work in several places.

2. The ability to have presentation portfolios and to determine who has and doesn’t have access…sharing, networking…

3. The ability to keep the portfolio forever, if they’d like

4. Ease of use

Point number three should really be a tipping point when selecting a system, and when determining hosting solutions, because most systems offer at least points 1 and 2.  Point number three is of concern, because having to remove all their work when they leave the school can be a difficult task.  Many e-portfolios do not export easily.

Choosing an e-portfolio system is much like a marriage:  once you’ve committed yourself, it can be extremely difficult to switch to a different partner (often not worth the aggravation).  You also are at the mercy of the company in regards to cost, viability, and changes in the system.

There are a few good open source e-portfolio systems out there–and they lack nothing when compared with those that are not open source.  Next post I’ll review one of them: Mahara

A case for e-portfolios

It might seem strange that I would begin this blog with an entry on e-portfolios, but a blog is a reflection on an artifact whether it be knowledge, or a thought, or an image.  E-portfolios are one of the best tools for giving students a place to collect, and reflect, on their work.  Even the task of choosing which pieces will be part of the viewed portfolio, is an act of reflection–a thoughtful process.  And, e-portfolios can be one of the best tools for authentic assessment.  Educationally, there are many sound reasons for e-portfolios.

But what about from a business, or grad school perspective.  Do they really look at e-portfolios?  Do they really care?  Some recent articles have said no, but I know differently from experience.  Whenever I submit a resume, I include the link to my personal web site: visibledreams. and I can tell when an perspective employer has finally received it, because my web stats show that someone from the institution looked at my web site.

The portfolio view can be a one page document, with audio links, and embedded video, images, and textual information that can be easily scanned.  Employers are likely click on a web site; they are probably not likely to pop in a CD of students work.

So, are e-portfolios a investment?  Should we be encouraging our students to build them?  Yes.

My recommendation for an eportfolio system, and why I chose that one, will by my next post.