Thursday, 30 April 2009

e-portfolios, LMS platforms and social networking

Some time ago I voiced my concerns about LMS solution that imposed social networking without consent.

If that's true of LMS's its doubly true of e-portfolios which basically function as your profile page. The student, and to a lesser extent the institution, needs to maintain control of content and who you wish to see what material, purely because it is evidence of what you can do, in much the way that home web pages once were - you're advertising space on the web with resume versions, copies of presentations etc etc.

And of course the world is changing - more and more its digital artefacts that are important. I've seen examples of Professors of AngloSaxon putting videos of students doing presentations on Beowulf on YouTube, more generally students uploading Honours thesis powerpoints on the web, complete with video and digital images, as well as pdf's of the thesis itself.

All good. Of course there is the risk that the well made site will win over the poorly made sites, and let's face it, some things will be less sexy than others. After all you can tell a story from an analysis of land tenure charters, even if the transcription and analysis was deadly boring, if you find something it's not quite so easy where all they reveal is a lack of pattern.

The other risk is that when material is put up as part of the tutorial exercise it will take on a life of its own. And we've all stuffed presentations, interviews and the like. It happens. My university transcript doesn't show that I flunked the final first year applied maths exam despite high scores before, because I came back and redid it. It was a blip.

My point is that in traditional transcripts occasional understandable stuff ups can be glossed. If you're out there on YouTube making an arse of yourself it's not. And as universities are about learning, not just abstruse topics, but useful skills as to how to do a presentation, write a discussion paper, design an experiment, run a project etc. After all you may not be interested in the material in a presentation, but you might want to see an example to know I can structure a presentation.

And of course blogs have a role as research diaries, including jointly authored blogs for group projects.

And the thing which is nice about e-protfolios is that it presents the material in a standard format, meaning that everything is handled equally, so the induvidual who's good a layout doesn't win out over someone else who's as good if not better, but doesn't just get the presentation thing.

But of course there might be material that one wishes to restrict access. I myself have such material dating from the time when I was a research student thirty years ago (Psychophysiology if you want to know). More than happy to share with some people, less than happy to share with others because of the sensitivity of the material.

And this goes back to consent and allowing people control over their own intellectual property. And it's nice to see that at least one e-portfolio solution addresses this problem by allowing user consent and control. And given the evidence that facbook users tend to manage privacy naturally, this is something that will just happen ...

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