June 01, 2005

How interoperable ePortfolios can solve your strategic issues, save money, and make you rich (not)

Follow-up to Political motivations behind the interoperable ePortfolio from Transversality - Robert O'Toole

Proving my point that the interoperable ePortfolios craze is not being driven by demand from students, today I recieved an invitation to a workshop covering these (and no other) points:

  • How are ePortfolios used to solve strategic issues?
  • What are best practice findings from early adopters?
  • Developing reference models for ePortfolio services.
  • What is the status and forecast for ePortfolio interoperability?
  • Procurement advice.
  • Operational issues.
  • Opportunities for collaboration.
  • The ePortfolio intersection between the Human Resource industry and education.
  • Early experiences implementing ePortfolio standards and specifications.

More unwanted strategem-obsessive-bussiness-guru-babble.

- 6 comments by 2 or more people Not publicly viewable

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  1. Surely students just want an easy way to have a professional window on the world. A CV holder and a feed of intelligent and impressive blog entries.

    Actually I can see a use for staff all having an official professional homepage under their department page with job details, contact details, blog feed if available, photo etc.

    Especially as staff based in academic departments find the amount of turnover in the 'central administration' very confusing.

    It's silly that people often resort to an often out of date paper phone book to check who people are and what their role is…

    01 Jun 2005, 09:31

  2. Robert O'Toole

    There really is a need for that kind of ePortfolio, but not for the super-integrated, all encompassing, "interoperable" (ie exchangeable with any other institution) ePortfolio, the development of which is having tonnes of cash poured in.

    01 Jun 2005, 13:17

  3. Scott Wilson

    That kind of portfolio benefits some interoperability, too – or are RSS feeds and FOAF now part of Big Brothers Insane Plan :-)

    I think there is also a strong distinction emerging in this area between interoperability of artifacts (entries, files, bookmarks, contact/personal info), and integration of cross-organisational processes.

    This is where I disagree with George Siemens' model of standards; implentation of Atom/RSS and FOAF in this context are of direct benefit to users (students and staff), but may not provide "health and sustainability to the industry" which would seem to be angling for something more heavyweight, and driven by organisational objectives.

    In other words, there is interoperability A (HTML, Atom etc), and there's interoperability B (EDI, HR-XML etc). Take your pick ;-)

    You could consider the EP discourse as being a direct result of the challenges to the assumptions of the educational system brought about by technological change. How do institutions adjust to the Internet age, other than embracing Illich and abolishing themselves?

    02 Jun 2005, 03:36

  4. Robert O'Toole

    And yet I think that in some ways our users (students, academics) are actually becoming more conservative in reaction to the deterritorializing forces of internet technology.

    Our PDP work has sought to shift the focus of student activity onto processes and 'reflection' on processes. The process is where all of the work gets done. It includes experiments, conjectures, mistakes, incremental improvements, identities in formation, and un-predictable personal/academic networking. We want students to get good at process, and more importantly, to get good at process improvement.Technologies that capture and emphasise the ongoing and extensible process are important to this. Blogs and interoperable ePortfolios are such technologies. They provide a contnuity in the representation of the process, extending it temporally. FOAF and RSS extend it spatially, making the formation of new connections and networks possible. This is all good.

    However, I think that we are finding that, in the face of these advancements and possibly as a result of them, our users are actually craving finality, focus and control. They are increasingly concerned with end products and not with process. Our blogs system is a good example. Students are quite happy to take risks and experiment within it, so long as it doesn't impinge on their cherished end products. They are not prepared to represent their developmental processes on the web, even though they can control access to their blog entries. In fact it seems that the majority do not ever want to represent their developmental processes in any way, even verbally. That stuff is secret and for many a source of embarassment. So the development of all this new technology, without the support of the end users (and I mean students not administrators), could be pointless.

    I'll explore what this means shortly, along with an attempt to resolve the conflict between what we think is good for students and what they actually want.

    02 Jun 2005, 09:55

  5. Robert O'Toole

    They are also very aware of the issue of 'lock in' with regards to services that support on-going processes. Every time I present Warwick Blogs to them the first question is "what happens after we graduate?" We've answered that by adding an export facility, but also by allowing them, through the graduate association, to pay a small annual fee to keep their blogs going.

    02 Jun 2005, 10:08

  6. Scott Wilson

    At the risk of being flip, all I ever wanted from my university was to get my degree award, with as little fuss in the meantime to interfere with my social life :-)

    I have to admit when I've been in lecturer mode, the focus was on assessments, and all the reflection and communication typically aimed towards a very specific fixed goal. Efforts by colleagues to make the process itself part of the assessment were largely pretty ineffectual, and actively resisted by students as being extra work for little extra credit.

    Making partially formed opinions and works available is definitely a cultural challenge; it is embarassing for many people to show a work in progress of any kind – though exposing your opinions and reacting to challeges and critiques is all part of the academic process, so not exposing your work until its "finished" isn't necessarily a good strategy to adopt in the long term.

    That said, in general I think students are taking to blogging and self-expression, just not necessarily in their academic life.

    The point about lock-in has two aspects – one relates to the perception of institutional systems as being disconnected from, and incompatible with, the broader range of open systems in general use, the other to a perceived lack of authenticity that exists about anything used in education. This is compounded when the use of systems is incorporated into assessment, as this adds extrinsic motivation for the use of the technology, which can completely negate any desire to use the tool due to its intrinsic utility.

    Its a bit of a quandary. Thankfully, I mostly just do standards!

    03 Jun 2005, 04:57

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