PBL – Portfolio Based Learning? And the Eternal Funding Question

We’re ready to unveil ePortfolios at the institution I work at and I’ve had a hand in developing the training materials. I love the tool, and I hope that the faculty love the tool as well. I do hope that the students love it as well, however I have some reservations.

The first reservation is that the tool looks old. While there are workarounds, and ways to make it look better – the templates provided look like junk. Especially now that Desire2Learn’s LMS looks beautiful, sleek and modern. At the organization level, we’ve done our best to address the clunkiness of the ePortfolio templates – replacing ones that are better suited to a K-12 environment with a more adult, er, professional look. I’m sure that the templating system will change in forthcoming revisions to the tool – it’s something I know I’ve complained about, a couple of times, directly to D2L – they now have shown they can create an elegant, modular product, so I expect those changes that have been made to the LE be moved into other tools throughout the suite.

The looks aren’t the only thing. Faculty are going to have to get a handle on changing how they teach – which is problematic from an institution viewpoint. People change slowly, but the institution demands change – probably because the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities are breathing down their neck too. Of course, it doesn’t help when austerity measures in the province of Ontario are hitting all the public sector workers – we are offered 0% wage increases over the next two years. I can stomach that – I have a comfortable job that affords me a world of luxury that I didn’t have previously. I recognize that. I also recognize when MTCU and the Ministry of Finance are at odds over funding of development in the education sector. It’s funny how on one hand they want people to do more (with more students) and the best practices point to more student-centered approaches, when there clearly is no way that those approaches are able to be met. Portfolios are a great example – here’s an alternative way to run a class, but no one’s thinking about the nitty-gritty part of it – how to manage all the information that portfolios generate. That costs money.

Combine new rules at the Federal level (Bill C-11 comes to mind, with new restrictions on fair use in education) – and ultimately it’s the support people who end up doing the grunt work on supporting the initiatives (and might end up Federal watch, er, lapdogs as well).

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