I am reviewing eportfolio systems and processes for faculty at Humboldt State University, and I am concerned with how little has changed in this field over the last ten years. There are some good ideas out there around assessment and reflective practice, but the technology seems to waver between program management tools that are completely user-hostile to website building tools that wind up being little more than a silo or repository. The worst ones are the ones that are included with an LMS that seem to disappear after the student leaves school. And yet, so much is happening in technology and education that should be shaping this method of assessment and the tools around it. For instance, Connectivism, the basic learning theory of networked knowledge, web 2.0 (as old as that is), and social media seem to be largely absent from learning design and assessment in the eportfolio world. There are some nods to it in some packages, like a few that let student import a Twitter feed. But social media is being treated like just another artifact or piece of content. Social media applied to the assessment of eportfolios can measure student engagement. Student engagement, which has been shown to be the key factor in student success in online courses, is not assessed or evaluated in current eportfolio systems.
I have been interested in eportfolios since the mid-90s when I became interested in online teaching and learning. ePortfolios solve a lot of problems: authentic assessment, for instance. Courses are plagued with rote memorization, multiple choice tests, canned essay assignments with no connection to previous learning – assessments that actually undermine learning. The faculty who rely the most on high-stakes testing are, for very good reasons, the ones most concerned with student cheating. ePortfolios do away with these issues because the student is part of the decision making process as to what is assessed and how. When eportfolio assessment is done right, the student is also negotiating with the instructor how the portfolio should be evaluated.
One of the benefits of an eportfolio is that it can be a tool for professional development and life-long learning. Faculty will often speak of portfolios as static objects that contain artifacts of learning. I think that a Connectivist portfolio is one that is created in such a way that it becomes obvious to an evaluator how the student created knowledge in the networks in which the eportfolio is not just a static silo but a dynamic node. The kinds of questions we can ask of a connectivist portfolio are:
- Does the student network with the other students?
- Is there any evidence of peer engagement?
- Is there any evidence of engagement with subject matter experts?
- Does the portfolio link to other networks?
- Does the student seek feedback from others?
- Is there evidence of peer evaluation?
Each one of these questions can be unpacked differently according to the tools used, the subjects that are being learned or taught. Reflective practice and writing learning reflections are important pieces of a portfolio – that is a connection with the self in learning – but the portfolio can also reflect the wider network where learning takes place.
What kind of rubric would be use to evaluate a Connectivist portfolio?
I am interested in what you think would be good questions to ask for assessing a Connectivist portfolio. Comment below or find me on Twitter “@geoffcain”
- FW: Student Engagement: From Research to Practice – One Day Conference 9th September 2015 (academic-practice.blogspot.com)
- What Is Being Learned From MOOCs? New Report Takes Stock (cacm.acm.org)
- Reality bites: Connectivism (ashleytan.wordpress.com)