Since November till January, together with Mart, we conducted the web-based e-learning course: “e-portfolio as a professional development tool”. It was the first course for me as a main facilitator, I have had several possibilities for being more like assistant, but this time I was 100% committed to this course. I decided to write a short reflection about the course as I expected from my students to do the same in the end of the course.
The course environment was koolielu. Each of the participants had individual blogs, some of them used external weblogs provided other services, but most of them used Koolielu’s internal blog. The center of the environment was community page, where the communication was conducted. Each week we provided learning material in wiki page, where participants had change to modify it. And the task was given in group forum, where often during the week, discussion took place. It made easier for us to see where are the problematic issues or questions arisen. All the participants were from universities – teachers and educational technologists, together 11 of them.
First week was the introduction week. Theoretical material focused on e-portfolio concept and practical task presumed developing the electronic CV with the most suitable tool or software. Most of them used LinkedIn, some of them created it like blogpost, one used local environment for researchers ETIS. We also asked them to present three “ideal” portfolios with short justification of selection.
Course started actively. There was lot of discussions on e-portfolio, what is it and what is it definitely not. Can someone’s blog be portfolio? Or static web-page? Somebody linked video from Youtube, which explains the nature of portfolio and this video was almost every week under the discussion, it became important learning material. I was surprised that participants went so deeply into the concept of portfolio, I had to often look for answers from web, as I did not everything. I learnt together with them.
As the course environment was new for all the participants and it was new environment as a whole anyway, we had some technical issues also during the first week. The participants needed quite a lot technical support. It made me feel sometimes uncomfortable, instead of focusing on course, they were in trouble with the environment. On one hand, it was new for all of us and every new thing is a discussion object, but still I sometimes thought during the first week that maybe some more familiar environment should have been better. Later I was more confident and the learning environment seemed better every day.
Next week we introduced competence-based learning in portfolio. Participants analysed themselves according to the pre-defined competencies individually. And later they analysed the competence document collaboratively – what needs to be changed, what aspects are important etc. Nice collaboration was conducted and help from us was not needed.
Third week focused on different e-portfolio solutions. We provided learning material of e-portfolio types, softwares, standards etc. And participants chose one environment (open source or commercial) and analysed it according to the needs of him/herself or his/her organisation. They were not supposed to register themselves nowhere, rather look at the existing portfolios, demos and read the features of the software. Some of the technical questions were challenge for me – installation or memory questions and integrations issues. But there was always someone that helped me and so I could help the participants. Activity of the participants was not very strong this week.
Then we continued with the social software. Learning material was about e-portfolio as personal learning environment. And the practical task was to integrate the portfolio with different social software tools – photos from Flickr, videos from Youtube, slides from slideshare etc. The most important question this week was about the advantages of twitter 🙂 Those, who had never used it, wanted to know the benefits, and those who had actively used it, provided thorough learning materials about it. It followed with the discussions that there are too many services and tools, therefore the selection of them is difficult to make. Unfortunately too often the services have been closed or turned to commercial and that made the participants a bit of unsecured. Also was pointed out that there are too many blogs/portfolios/twitter accounts that have not been updated for years. I did not know how to join the discussion. Should I encourage them to try as many tools as possible in order to find the most suitable ones? Or rather convince them that if you are okay with the existing tools, then there is no need to find something better? I actually believe that it is very individual. Some people enjoy keep themselves up with the innovative environments, rather others perform “good and old” things.
Next week focused on reflection in portfolio. Participants were expected to reflect in their portfolios about last two weeks in the course based on pre-defined reflection model. That was also nice week. Although some of the participants pointed that reflection should be individual and private process of professional portfolio. I understand that completely that reflection do not have to be visible to everyone, but that was just the task of the course.
The end of the course was close. During past weeks they had developed their CV, analysed themselves according to competency standard, integrate the portfolio with social software, reflected about recent weeks. Now it was time to finalise the portfolios and to present the story-portfolio for one certain target-group (job interview, accreditation etc). And to be honest, I was shocked to see the portfolios. Some of them were superficial, without any negative tone, developed as just a task. But others, excellent. I was happy and proud to look at them.
Last week they were supposed to evaluate each other portfolios and give the feedback to the course. The course feedback was not only positive. I understand that the environment was confusing, but still it is natural I wanted the course to be the best. Also they pointed that advanced level participants may had a bit too easy, on the other hand very beginners needed very much scaffolding.
Generally I expected that those participants who were more competent, would have been more active. I understand that if you know, how to integrate your portfolio with different tools, it seems too easy to do it in the course. But try something more, have tried to use slideshare? Or Flickr? Just try out. Or if the reflection seems individual.. you were just expected to analyse yourself during two weeks. So, I wish I had accomplished that everyone had at least tried to present all the tasks. That it would have been as game to them – building my own portfolio.
But it was the first time. Next time I would like to see more teachers in my course. And the same active participants who ask and ask and I learn and learn. And in the end of the course I would be amazed again to see the portfolios.