D2L Regional Conference (Ontario) 2014 Recap

Thought I published this in late October, but I guess not. Whoops.

So this conference was all about ePortfolio and the Competencies tool – every presentation I went to had something to do with either of those two topics. If neither of those are interesting to you, then well this’ll be a boring recap.

I took part of a focus group around course level analytics – I don’t know if D2L got much out of our conversations, but they were good ones. I hope they heard that the analytics tools are good at what they do, but aren’t robust enough for the complexity of the task.

On to the  presentations.

Tracking Overall Expectations in Brightspace

This presentation was by the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board administrators who are using the Competencies tools to track outcomes. It’s interesting that they use the language learning goals (as a proxy for outcomes) and success criteria (as a proxy for activities). That language is much clearer for K-12 – but would probably be a bit bristly for higher education. John Baker was in the meeting and suggested that there will be a D2L tool to copy outcomes from the standards source (whether that be a District School Board, Provincial standard or other). If that comes to fruition, I could see the CEAB (Canadian Engineering Accreditation Board) lining up to get their standards in, which would be a big boom for D2L clients who have Engineering departments. They also shared their videos for how to use the Competency tool.

At lunch I was sitting with a friend and John Baker came by, and I asked him about future improvements to ePortfolio – as we’ve been struggling with the presentation creation aspect of the tool. He mentioned some things that they were working on, specifically learning goals (unfortunately I couldn’t ask him more about this) and automatic page creation based on tags.

D2L ePortfolio and All About Me

Durham CDSB use ePortfolio as a way for students to think about where they are going. Specifically these are K-6 students, so elementary students for those who don’t reside in Canada. It seems the program is all about identity forming and goal setting. Interesting aspects, and the approach is pretty much how you’d expect. Students are prompted to answer questions about their future, and they periodically answer the questions over the six years. One key thing is that they’ve developed a workflow page, which I think goes a long way to helping students with their tool use. Another interesting aspect is the teacher is selecting artifacts for the student, putting them into a collection and then sharing that collection with the student.

Learning Portfolio: Year One

This was my co-presentation with Catherine Swanson, the Learning Portfolio Program Manager. We talked about some of the challenges of introducing a portfolio process across all disciplines, in all facets of campus and how we did. As an institution we did fine. In many of the cases where the ePortfolio tool was used in conjunction with a good use in a course (particularly good where one has to make a choice or work through a messy process to “learn”) it was ultimately successful. Where the purpose was less directed, more fuzzy, well things didn’t work as well.

 

More About the Learning Portfolio

I’ve written a fair bit about my process for developing support materials – which is something I’ve become good at over the years. I haven’t really spent any time writing about some of the other, smaller initiatives around the Learning Portfolio. One of which is getting students to set their own learning goals.

It’s ironic that an institution (who have their goals for students) wants students to be self-directed, yet everywhere in their classes have very little choice in the way that they can determine their own goals and achieve them. This self determination is left to their own time, and is in every sense, not a part of school. However, the institution is certainly looking at ways that students can determine, set and track their own goals – and to that end, with a consultation with Desire2Learn, developed a widget that sits on the homepage that students can click on the link, enter their information on a form which creates an artifact in their ePortfolio/Learning¬† Portfolio. A small portion of the student population use the Learning Portfolio (about 5%-10% of our full time enrollment) but use is picking up. Use of the Learning Goals widget is also a large percent of that group – maybe making up 2% of our total population.

The idea with this widget is to get students thinking about their own goals and trying to tie those goals to their academic learning. I don’t know if there’s enough being done around this – and we’re only in the beginning, but some thinking needs to be done about this for sure. We aren’t tracking whether these goals are ever met, or even the content of these goals – in fact we only can make a guestimate based on how many times the title of the widget shows up in the Learning Portfolio object creation report.

I’d be interested in hearing about whether anyone’s doing major ePortfolio/Capstone project work – trying to encapsulate a student’s experience at University or College in that course/project – and ways that an ePortfolio might help that along. Sure, we know that portfolios are great for procedural/project based learning, especially when guided. I’m more interested in if this can be done institutionally. Really adding a great incentive to building this work.