Thursday, November 11, 2004

Summary of Online Tools Study

(Posted to the E-PAC and YahooGroups listservs)
This is a good opportunity for me to share with the E-PAC my "Online Portfolio Adventure" that I conducted this fall, prior to my trip to the EuroPortfolio Conference in France several weeks ago. When I showed some examples of my experiments, Barbara Cambridge recommended that I share my experience with the E-PAC. If you have followed my blog, this will be old news.

Since early September, I have been reconstructing a new version of my electronic portfolio using, to date, 17 different software, services or online portfolio publishing strategies. I started out be constructing an Excel spreadsheet with my favorite artifacts (all weblinks to documents already online), classified those artifacts into categories of competency, which was a constructivist approach to building my portfolio. Then I proceeded to construct my portfolio based on those classifications. You will find a running record of my experiments online at: http://electronicportfolios.org/myportfolio/versions.html

I tried Open Source software, commercial software (including Blackboard's Content System), free website builders, blog software, content management systems and some home-grown tools. I haven't finished exploring all that I want to look at, but you can read my reflections of the process (links to my blog) along with seeing the results using each of the systems (where the account is still active). I also downloaded each version where that option was available, and also stored the downloaded version on my website.

I have not yet drawn any conclusion from this exercise, other than to say that there are definite trade-offs between "ease-of-use" of the commercial data-base driven systems, and the creativity of the other tools that allow the portfolio developer more control over the "look and feel" of their pages. As an experienced computer user and web page developer, I was frustrated with the rigidity and "forms" or "template" approach of the commercial systems as well as the current version of the OSPI. I recognize that this will be important for novice computer users and students who need that type of scaffolding. However, I was looking for the capability of creating alternative pages of my own design in many of these systems, which did not exist. I also wanted to be able to see all of the artifacts that I had uploaded (my digital archive) and was surprised that at least one of the commercial systems did not let me see an inventory/list of my uploaded documents.

I also tried to provide a first look at various characteristics of these systems, including:
- Type of software
- Cost - and How much storage space is provided for the cost
- Who the license agreement is with: the individual who owns the portfolio, or the institution that has adopted/developed the software/service/strategy
- How the portfolios are hosted: centralized server or an institution's or individual's own server space

After going through this exercise (and I am still not done), I have made new friends (and probably made more than a few people mad), but I have learned a lot about what is available in the commercial and open source space. I have also discovered how very different the tools are, and how much the tools impacted the process as well as the final product/outcome. Activity Theory works!

My next task is to look at ePortfolio software built specifically for K-12 students (a much shorter list!). But that will be after I return from the Australia ePortfolio conference in December.

1 comment:

Rob LaBanca said...

Wow, What a great resource. I plan I downloading a few of the PDF's soon. Thanks