We’re in the process of reviewing our current student portfolio and looking to move from a paper-based portfolio to an e-portfolio. Once the requirements have been defined and agreed we’ll start to review e-portfolio platforms and decide which one we’ll adopt. I’ve yet to start looking at possible e-portfolio solutions in detail, but some of my medical colleagues have already made comments about the clunkiness of some of the possible contenders. I’m at a loss to understand why usability seems to be overlooked in the development of so many educational IT systems. Why can’t they be as intuitive to use as many of the Web 2.0 type technologies that I use to support my own lifelong learning?
Reading James Clay’s latest blog post about how Posterous had the potential to be used to capture the learner’s voice got me thinking about how some of the features in Posterous would be good to have in an e-portfolio. One of the features of Posterous, that’s appealing to many, is that you can post by email. It’s easy to attach images or web clipings to a post. You can also attach video and audio files and these will be embedded too. For those who want to post online they can and posting via your smartphone is easy. Shouldn’t this sort of functionality be standard in any student e-portfolio?
Thinking about the tutors who need to review student portfolios, again for me usability is a key issue. Working in medical education where many clinical tutors have so many demands on their time ease of use and access are particularly important. Looking again at Posterous, it supports commenting by email. Should e-portfolios automatically send the latest post by a student to their tutor and allow the tutor to post their feedback by replying to the email. With increasing interest in audio and video feedback could such a system make it easier for tutors to give feedback in these ways. With most doctors used to using dictaphones being able to record their feedback to students and email it to their e-portfolios might help improve the level of feedback that students receive.
Another feature of Posterous is autoposting to other sites. Where students are producing their own learning content like video they could autopost to YouTube or Vimeo and share these with the wider medical education and student community and start to accrue some scholarly recognition for the resources they’ve developed.
The other element needed in a medical student portfolio is the abilty to link or map the student’s work to the learning outcomes set out on the GMC’s Tomorrow’s Doctors 2009. Tagging of entries could help with this, but something a bit more sophisticated might be helpful with templates for different types of entry.
Is there an e-portfolio system out there already with all this sort of functionality and ease of usability?