Following is feedback I provided to the developer of Maricopa’s ePortfolio system. I spent about eight hours yesterday constructing a new e-portfolio for myself, using this tool. Here are the thoughts I had about the system, after “sleeping on it” (rather briefly, if you follow the time stamps!).
First of all, I want to tell you how easy and flexible I found the tool. I really liked the variety of pages, the fact that I could have more than one type of collection for different purposes. I really don’t think you should make the text box at the top of each collection page “optional” because the reader should know why these specific items were selected. This space encourages meta-reflection on this group of artifacts.
At first, I thought the pull-down menu to access pages was awkward, But I got used to it very quickly. It keeps the page less cluttered, although I have used other systems that give you a navigation bar along the left side (like my Blogger template or Manilla) or along the right side (like my WordPress blog).
If you wanted to add features to the portfolio, let me make some suggestions after my first impression of 8 hours working with it:
My name only appears on the pages where I place it. I think it should go into the Header, right around the Maricopa ePortfolio link. Or put it on the bar where you have Contact, SiteMap and Subscribe links.
As I was putting together my portfolio last night, I needed an advanced organizer. That is why I created the Excel matrix. I wasn’t sure how I wanted to categorize my artifacts, nor did I have any idea how many total that I wanted to use. The second stage of developing an e-portfolio, after determining your purpose and audience, is creating a digital archive of your work (the collection process).
I decided to only use those items that I knew were already on my website so that I just had to identify the URLs, something that is probably not appropriate for the average portfolio developer. So my Excel spreadsheet became the tool where I made a list of my artifacts, wrote the captions as comments (the context for the artifact), and eventually decided which category it fit. For many students, they are uploading the files as they develop them in class, so that step is not an issue for them. But for faculty who might want to create a portfolio for any purpose, who already have a collection of Word documents and PPT presentations, this might be useful. I often have participants in a workshop create a simple Excel spreadsheet and hyperlink to files that they have brought with them or that I provide as example artifacts. Then we have those files all categorized for our reflective portfolio development activity,
What was missing for me in this tool was an inventory of my artifacts that my matrix represented, Here is what I wanted to do in the tool: Create an archive of all my artifacts. Perhaps it is a form that I complete that lets me fill in a title, a caption, the location URL (or upload a document), much like you have in the collections page now, and a set of categories that I can fill in for each item. Then, when I get ready to put together the Collections page, the system will generate a list of items for each category. I can select which ones I want to appear, and the system will automatically generate the page, using the captions that I entered when I uploaded the file. It would be really nice if the system generated a matrix, as well, as a “Portfolio at a Glance". I know that is part of the purpose of the site map, which I like, but it only shows the pages, not the individual artifacts that I am using. I call that my digital archive, and I would like to have an inventory of the artifacts that I have uploaded, and some way to categorize them.
Another way to get at this is adding attachments to a blog entry. I envision that as I am reflecting on my learning in my blog (my “learning” portfolio), I might want to upload a specific piece of my work. Some artifacts might be a URL, but for most learners, it would be a document (word, ppt, excel, etc.). I want to link to that document in my blog, but I also want a cross-reference list of all attachments in my blog, so that I can find them later. I guess I want an underlying content management system to organize and categorize my artifacts, so that I can re-use them at some future time in my presentation portfolio. I know when I am doing a lot of cutting and pasting, or re-entering data, that the computer can handle that task a lot more efficiently than I can.
Your portfolio is obviously developed as a learner-centered portfolio, not an institution-centered assessment management system. However, some institutions would want to be able to add comments to the artifacts as well as the blog entries. I have designed a system that balances the needs of the institution with the needs of the individual learner (http://electronicportfolios.org/systems/paradigms.html ). If an institution sets up a database to hold the performance tasks with faculty evaluation, all the learner needs to do is enter the URL of their artifact entry, with their reflection. Building that capacity into the system means that you can eventually draw on the work in individual portfolios for individual, institutional or program accountability, without interfering with individual creativity in the learners’ own portfolios. We standardize the storage of items into a digital archive for easy retrieval, but we never standardize the look and feel of the portfolio itself.
Sorry for going on so long, but I know good software development is based on “use cases” so you have mine.
This system has a lot of potential. I want to play with it more, perhaps get a copy of the software on my own server space.
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