As an instructor in Athabasca University‘s Master of Distance Education program, I was involved in providing an e-portfolio option to replace the standard comprehensive exam process for non thesis route students. The old ‘comps’ consisted of the candidate writing yet two more essays on material covered in the porgram and defending the essays with two faculty members via audio conference. As students in our program write at least 30 papers over the course of the 11 courses in the program the added value of writing yet two more seems of little value.

We use the elgg platform with its “presentation” plugin to create the e-portfolio. We extracted the graduate competencies from throughout the program and then required students to demonstrate with a blog reflection and an artifact or two from their course work or ‘real life’ to show how they have achieved this competence. The assignment also called for a final terminal “reflection” on the whole program and the e-portfolio exercise.

During the “oral defense” The candidate did an excellent job of both over-viewing the courses and resulting artifacts and as importantly showing how the activities were implemented in her workplace (a teacher in an on-line high school delivering programming to First nations students in Northern Canada).  Unfortunately, she has not yet made the e-portfolio accessible to everyone, though she noted her intention to do so. The nice thing about the elgg system is that permission to view ALL information posted by any participant, is under the control of that participant. They can chose private (for drafts and development), logged in users (people officially associated with the University), restricted to ‘friends’ or people enrolled in particular communities or classes and public (accessible by everyone including search engine bots).

After the experience, I am convinced that this use of e-portfolios is pedagogically much more useful than the alternative, results in increased skills to participants and doesn’t take more time from either authors or the reviewers.  Thus, it scores as a winner for me!