Tuesday, July 07, 2009

ePortfolios for ABE

California has created an ABE Initiative, supporting adult education programs to look at different ways to support Adult Basic Skills students and to serve them better. We have an online community for the Initiative (not open to the public). I recently received a request from several program administrators to look into the possibility of having some kind of eportfolio system for ABE students.

The things they want to be able to add to an eportfolio are: education plan, personal goals, employment goals, resume, checklist of competencies, work samples, awards, recommendations. The idea is that the student would add to or work with the portfolio maybe weekly, the instructor could check in weekly or monthly, and the student might review their portfolio with the counselor each quarter or semester. The portfolio would go with the student to higher level classes, post-secondary, or employment.

I imagined that there were several free options online, but it hasn't been so easy to find them. I started with EPAC (electronic portfolio action and communication) and their extensive list of resources, which was quite overwhelming, so I emailed Helen Chen at Stanford who was kind enough to talk with me about our goals and the various possibilities. She made several recommendations regarding programs that have implemented eportfolios, including Penn State which has a nice description for students of the steps in creating an eportfolio.

Helen also recommended Helen Barrett, who currently provides information on how to create an eportfolio using Google apps - Google Sites, Google Docs, Google Groups, etc. This might be beyond the comfort level of ABE teachers and students, though.

My current favorite possibility is Mahara - an opensource product from New Zealand that incorporates all the features we're looking for, and is also easy to use, and best of all, free! Students can create a profile, a set of goals, and a resume. They can upload files and media, as well as embedding. They can create different views of their portfolio - one for the instructor, one for prospective employers, another for themselves and their friends. You can create a demo account to try it out.

Research also took me to David Warlick's recent post on ePortfolios as the next killer app. He includes a list of features that he would like to see included. The comments and discussion on this post are interesting, and contain links to other products. I will be presenting Mahara at a meeting this week, and will see what kind of feedback it gets.


nmckeand said...

I' be interested to know what your instructors think about Mahara. Some of us are considering using it at the university where I work. It seems a little too structured to me, but then, it isn't necessarily meant for me, either.

Marian Thacher said...

Thanks for your comment. We are still exploring it, but for our students, basic literacy students, I think we will need to create some very structured paths to create a portfolio so that people don't get lost. The main drawback so far is on the admin side, not enough ability to put users into groups (i.e. classes) and institutions. Since we are planning to manage this for all adult learners in California, we will need to figure out the management side, and possibly do some programming. It's a relatively young open source program, so there is room for improvement.