Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Pathbrite ePortfolio Tool

As part of my preparation for the keynote address that I am providing to faculty at Fresno State University, I created the 42nd version of my online portfolio using Pathbrite.

Here are my impressions of this free tool (for students), which has been adopted by Fresno State. I understand that there is a fee for institutions to gain access to all of the integration and assessment tools.
  • Free accounts with 2 GB storage limit, and links to most types of uploadable files as well as online sources - Examples of file types: Image, Text, Video, Documents, Web Link; Import Files from external services: YouTube Videos, Vimeo Videos, Google Drive Files, Facebook Photos, LinkedIn Recommendation, Khan Academy Badges, Parchment Transcripts, Credly Badges.
  • Multiple showcase portfolios can be created using uploaded content.
  • Relatively easy to use - there is an intuitive interface for both editing Style & Settings, and Adding Work.
  • Publishing online - the system creates a URL for each showcase portfolio, although it does not appear that the user has any control over how each view is named (the "YouTube/GoogleDocs" model of assigning file names)
  • Single screen view - there is only one web page for each portfolio, although Categories of entries can be used to create sub-views of content
  • Each artifact has a title and "Story behind this Work" which can be used to provide a description/brief reflection.
  • Student and Faculty access Pathbrite from inside their Blackboard accounts, and faculty can set up course portfolios that provide templates for students
  • The system has an assessment system where faculty can see which students have completed specific item in the assigned portfolios, and assign points. Reports can be generated, but I did not see this feature (no access to their Blackboard)
  • The system is designed to work with tablet browsers (although I set up my portfolio using my MacBook laptop).
My overall impression: I can see some of the advantages, and if I were a faculty member, I would appreciate the back end (assigned course portfolios, assessment system for collecting and aggregating data). I understand that this system would be available to students after they graduate, and students can create any number of showcase portfolios for a variety of audiences, including potential employers. The system has only been available for the last two years, and has an impressive number of institutions and users who have independently set up accounts. I am also impressed with the integration of a variety on online sources for adding existing content. The ability to work with mobile browsers (but no specific app) makes it more compatible with the growing use of mobile devices in K-12 and Higher Education.

Some of the disadvantages I saw from my brief experience with the Portfolio tool: I only tried the 2-across Grid Layout, not having time to figure out how to use the other layouts provided (Patchwork, Bricks, Pyramid), so it was a pretty boring layout visually. The single page approach makes it easy to navigate, but very limiting in terms of creativity. I did find the Categories helped in creating partial views of the content, and a single artifact can be easily assigned to multiple Categories. To add reflection to the portfolio required either creating a separate text box, using the limited caption, or linking to a blog, as I did to this blog.

I was asked which of the 42 tools I liked the best. For myself, I still like my updated Google Sites portfolio, although I have seen great things done with WordPress and its K-12 versions (EduBlogs, Kidblog). I can see some advantages of Pathbrite in the institutional environment. I just wish it had more flexibility in presentation.

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