ePortfolios So Far…

So I’m the (self proclaimed) technical lead for the ePortfolio tool (which McMaster has rebranded Learning Portfolio). Actually I fell into the role when the person who was supposed to manage it ended up not being able to deliver the initial rollout presentation due to illness. The tool has worked admirably, scaled well, and frankly done its job. There are warts on the tool – maybe barnacles are a better imagery (to go a step further, barnacles can be removedĀ  with a lot of hard work). The way one assembles a presentation (a sharable portfolio) is very mid 90’s – which makes the product a hard sell to student used to the ease of Tumblr or WordPress. Despite that major hurdle, we have seen over the first semester a moderate success, just over 21,700 items built in ePortfolio, with close to 3500 of those being reflections. We have over 3200 unique users, with just 17 courses using it. We’re now starting phase two of the first year, which will be periodic reminders to students, and we should see an uptick in usage – as well as an addition of two courses which will impact at least 1500 students. Now the real question is will students start to use it outside of classes?

NMC Horizon Report 2014


With every passing year I spend in edtech, I always pick this PDF up with some dread. It provides hope on many of it’s long view items – hope that educational technology will get better, less manipulative, less data driven, and more inventive – allowing teachers to do what they love (hopefully) better and differently. This year’s report is pointing at The Quantifiable Self as something teaching and learning will be doing in five years as well as Virtual Assistants.

On the surface, these seem reasonable – however I believe that most institutions are doing this in some form already. The Quantifiable Self is really about identifying trends (mostly around health through tools like FitBit or Nike+ app) and using that physical information to push you to do better, walk more and so on. With education, in a well designed course, students are already doing this – taking self-assessments that build confidence in a field, confirming that the student “knows” something. LMS analytics also contribute to this – in our instance Desire2Learn has the Student Success System, which gives feedback to students individually on how they’re performing in the class and in school in general. This horizon technology is already here, not five years away at all. At some point, there will be pushback (I hope) on all this data collection that is saved in private institutions – you as the creator of that data should be able to control it – it is in fact your intellectual property.

Virtual Assistants? Oh c’mon. That’s here in higher education now. Students are checking Google on their phone, which gives them more information (tailored to their search patterns) that they might need. On the Android phones, Google Now is providing contextual information that can be used in context – if you search for political science information every Wednesday at 7:00, Google Now will start feeding you information about political science at that time. Furthermore, Google then takes your new interest in political science into consideration on future searches. Siri and Iris are omnipresent in classrooms, and used to fact-check, find alternate solutions to problems, or just alert the user to a new deal on shoes. Again, this is not on the horizon, it’s here.

What is on the horizon is faculty using and integrating this technology into their classrooms in creative ways.