ePorfolios have been around for several years now, but it’s not safe to assume educators and students who have been asked to use them in past understand what they can do for them.

I created a video based on workshops I conducted with UniSA students and have been told by colleagues that it is useful – so I’ll share it here.  The first 02:32 of the video discusses ePortfolios in general.

Mahara – introduction and basics from EASS Media on Vimeo.

Read an interesting article on why university student experience surveys are inherently flawed. A few sentences about designing learning stood out for me as I grapple with the balance between spoon feeding students and reducing their cognitive load. The Op-Ed piece to which I refer is https://www.campusreview.com.au/2017/03/opinion-is-it-time-to-retire-student-experience-surveys-in-universities The sentences that stood out for me were “It is patently counterproductive for students to struggle with understanding the curriculum, with the requirements of learning and assessment tasks, or with the reasons why they are being asked to do what they do. These should be as straightforward as possible and made perfectly clear to students. The acquisition and updating of deeper conceptual understanding, on the other hand, does often require grappling with new ways of thinking and synthesising knowledge. This is hard cognitive work for most people.” As a learning designer, I want to create an environment where there is just enough challenge. As a learning designer for adult learning, I want to provide authentic learning experiences and challenge people to be problem solvers. Is • providing the reason why they are being asked to do an unmarked task, then • outlining a procedure and • describing the result spoon feeding when that doesn’t always happen in a workplace? Over my work life I’ve been under-managed and provided next to no brief and over-managed where the manager all but wrote things for me and translated for me in meetings (“I think what Kerry is saying is…”). Would we be better breaking down the steps into what the output will be (what), the learning outcomes (reason why) and then providing them a planning tool with some suggestions of how to accomplish the task? I must admit the last of this – unless we are talking about a highly technical task – is where I start biting my lip. How much detail do we put in here? Do we provide SOME resources or ALL the resources? I am concerned if we provide ALL the resources, we end up with students who are lacking in one of the most important aspects of information literacy – the discernment necessary to find and recognise credible sources.

Finally understand the relationship between Problem-based and Project-based learning.

Problem-based learning CAN BE a TYPE of Project- based learning.

Project-based learning can be prescriptive and low on the Bloom’s/whatever scale (as in an assignment – you will do X using Y method to achieve Z outcome).

It can be semi prescriptive (here is a prob, pick from these solutions or here is a prob – but only explore it in the context of the topic/subject we’re studying).

However, if a project is Problem-based – then all students start with is a problem to solve and they have to draw upon multiple disciplines in order to solve it. 

It is worth noting however, that if you look at the real world definitions of problems and projects, there is an argument that problem-based learning stands on its own and cannot be a subset of project-based learning. The reason being is that projects involve structured approaches to a pre-defined solution whilst problems are open-ended, messy and often require a program involving multiple projects to resolve.

Thanks to Annette Kolmos for her wonderful article in the European Journal of Engineering Education, Volume 21, 1996 – Issue 2.

Here’s a quick brain dump post on a feature of Moodle that I had overlooked.

When the Auto-link activities filter is activated, you don’t have to use absolute links in a book or page on the Moodle course to link to an activity. You just need to type in the activity name verbatim and it will create a relative link.  Beautiful for when you restore a course and don’t want to make substantial changes.
07. June 2016 · Comments Off on Here’s why I’m advocating no choice in eportfolio platforms · Categories: educationaldesign, My personal learning journey

maharaAt the university at which I work, some instructors feel it is too restrictive to insist students use the ePorfolio platform provided. Some instructors allow students to use whatever they want, others are unsure. Is it okay to allow freedom of choice in the type of ePortfolio tool students use? Hmmmm… I pondered this for a while. But when I heard that students and some instructors felt that ePorfolio assignments could and should be submitted via presentation tools and website creation platforms – I decided to come down on the side of no. My argument is below and I welcome yours in the comments section.

ePortfolios exist to provide

  • persistent, online spaces to store and curate artefacts created or saved by an individual so they can track their learning over time and access and re-use resources they create and/or have saved
  • tools with which an individual can contextualise and aggregate existing artefacts and create new content
  • ways for the artefacts to be displayed and re-displayed to multiple audiences

Mahara is the tool that the the university for which I work has chosen because it works with their online learning platform, it is secure for file storage – and it is authenticatable in terms of assessment.

This last point – being authenticatable – is vital in meeting our obligations to ensure our assessments are robust. Unlike website platforms like Weebly, WordPress and/or Google sites; only a student account can be used to access a university-linked Mahara ePortfolio. When a Mahara collection is submitted for assessment, that collection is locked for editing – whereas a link to an external product could link to a website that was empty when the link was submitted and edited after the submission date.

Using Prezi or other types of presentation software to submit an ePortfolio assignment is missing the whole point of ePortfolios in an educational context. In addition to the authentication issues mentioned previously, a presentation tool is simply a way of presenting information and it is not output alone that is behind the use of ePortfolios in education. EPortfolios provide one space for reflecting on learning, of aggregating and curating useful resources and creating new content that students can return to over time. This is a vital part of the incidental learning ePortfolios provide. A consistent “home base” in Mahara to store, aggregate and display their work doesn’t limit students’ ability to use other tools for creation.

In addition to the authentication and pedagogical reasons behind using the Mahara ePortfolio, there are practical issues. Firstly, the university IT support service supports Mahara – so support is readily available. Secondly, markers will not have to familiarise themselves with the ins and outs of multiple platforms nor have to download and install specialised plugins to view assessments. Thirdly, students who use Mahara will develop proficiency in it over time – so as their assessments scaffold up in difficulty, the difficulty of using Mahara will decrease. And finally, the consistency use of Mahara across courses means students will be storing assignments, reflections and resources from their program and be able to access them after they graduate – starting them off in their professional lives with a single content-rich pool of resources from which to draw.