E-portfolios have increasingly been seen as a good thing. A welcome innovation in assessment practices that show evidence of institutions improving their learning and teaching. At the same time, there’s been an increasing question about whether a student’s e-portfolio should be hosted on an institutionally owned system. Various questions arise, including
- What happens when the student, as many often do, start studying at another institution?
- What happens when the institution decides not to support the e-portfolio system any longer?
Around this same time has been the growing question of just how much technology should be provided by the institution given the increasing wide-spread availability of technology? Back in the mid-1990s Australian Universities were providing students with dial-up Internet access. They don’t do this any more. Email addresses? Mostly hosted by Google or other service providers?
How long can/will institutions provide e-portfolio systems?
A sign of the limitations of institutional provision of these systems is when you get an email from the folk supporting the institutional e-portfolio asking for details of assignments you’ve set that use the e-portfolio. This is so they can be aware of the peaks and be prepared for them.
I’m pretty sure WordPress.com don’t email their users asking for help in identifying peaks. Instead the have the infrastructure and people in place to deal with the peaks. Can an institutional e-portfolio system ever hope to have the same capability? Or will the expense of doing so be what convinces the institution to allow students to use their own technology?
Cost as the ultimate driver
Central IT and support organisational units are loathe to give up their systems and subsequent control. Even when there are better systems available externally. However, it appears that there is definitely a trend where cost becomes the ultimate driver/change agent. The reason they give up ownership is when its demonstrably cheaper to out source than provide an equivalent level of functionality.
That’s what has happened with the provision of Internet access, student email accounts and increasingly in the school sector it is the driver beyond the adoption of bring your own devices/technology (BYOD/BYOT).
What does it say about organisations – especially educational organisations – when the technology choices are driven more by ownership, control and cost than what is best for the organisations, its members and stakeholders (can’t bring myself to use client/customer).