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Why all the buzz about e-Portfolios

Electronic Portfolios -- a complex topic! They can provide a student with the means to display evidence of skills and abilities; they can provide faculty with evidence of effectiveness and competence; they can provide a school or department with evidence geared toward accreditation. E-Portfolios are all this and more...

So what can your school really do with an e-Portfolio?

Most e-Portfolios are designed from one of two perspectives — the student perspective or the institutional perspective.

Let's explore this a bit.

If an institution is simply looking at an Electronic Portfolio for how a student may use it to present 'artifacts' in particular formats (such as a résumé), there are several commercial tools and services available for schools that charge a per-student monthly fee. These solutions look at e-portfolios from the student perspective only — which is incomplete. This puts all the control of the portfolio content and structure in the hands of the individual student, but is of limited or no value from an institutional perspective.

When an institution has more complex needs... needs that require a student to be able to demonstrate specific achievements or competencies relative to a customized set of standards (whether they be state, Federal or institutional standards), more robust capabilities are required. The academic departments need to be able to specify what those standards are and allow the individual to associate specific artifacts to specific standards set up and established by the faculty or department head.

Through a robust open source Electronic Portfolio tool like OSPortfolio (part of the Sakai Project), Serensoft will help you translate your standards into an e-Portfolio "Matrix". The goal will be to allow students in different programs or cohorts to demonstrate through artifacts, reflection, faculty and peer review the ability to demonstrate that they have met the established standards. This level of institutional control also fosters a 'cumulative learning' on the part of students — something that is much more difficult to achieve without an e-Portfolio. A single department may have many matrices customized to a specific pedagogy. OSP also allows students to offer the contents of their portfolio in different formats (or templates) to different audiences, but it links these capabilities with the institutional objectives through powerful tools of institutional value like the matrix.