April 11, 2018
What are the advantages to Online Portfolios?
In school, especially in Elementary school, it is common for teachers to keep student work and the progress they make throughout the year in a portfolio. Typically, this portfolio can be in any shape or form that the teacher desires- folder, binder, box, etc.- and is usually given to the parents or the student at the end of the year. Currently at my school, we are having the, “Paper Portfolio vs. Online Portfolio Debate.” Each grade level from K1 through 5th Grade has to keep a portfolio. Most grade levels do a hard copy of a portfolio, keeping all student work in a binder or folder. Only one grade- third grade- requires all teachers to keep an online portfolio. But another issue that has been arising at my school is vertical alignment and information on students from year-to-year as they progress through school. This conversation has a sparked a question for me: What Are the Advantages to Online Portfolios?
There are a lot of viable options for online portfolios (e-portfolios). At my school, the two most commonly used are Google Sites and SeeSaw. But there are many others including: WeLearnedIt, Weebly, Kidblog, and Edublogs. A benefit to most e-portfolios is that with the correct login information, the e-portfolio can be accessed by all (students, parents, and teachers). This makes all parties more accountable in regards to the work that is being done in school. Instead of wasting time through communication, parents can go straight to the source to see the work. Allowing parents and students to be able to access the online portfolio gives them a chance to ask specific question, creating a more productive meeting time. Another advantage of online portfolios is that they can be easily transferred. As a teacher at an international school, I have many students who join or leave during the middle of the year. If those students would come with an e-portfolio with all their previous school information, it would make the transition that much easier. Online portfolios allow for an easier transition between different school as well as between different grade levels. At my school, we have an issue of transferring information vertically. Everything is in hard copy and needs to be transferred through binders and heavy boxes. This transfer usually does not happen until after the new school year has started, and that information is not needed any more. By keeping all information electronically, the transfer is a lot “lighter” and can be done in less time and even before the school year starts!
There are many benefits to creating an e-portfolio, but there are also many disadvantages. One setback is cost. For apps and sights such as SeeSaw and Weebly, you only receive limited access with the free version. For example, with SeeSaw, you only receive one year with the free subscription, and after that year is up, all the data is gone. The information cannot be saved or transferred without a paid subscription. In weebly, you do not have access to all of the edits and features with the free subscription, you can only access those under premium- which cost money. Paid subscriptions are not cheap; sometimes it is cheaper to by 22 binders for each student portfolio as opposed to buying an online subscription. And many times, subscriptions have to be paid yearly, and if not all progressed can be lost! A second disadvantage is accessibility. Easy transfer of an online portfolio was presented as an advantage, but it can also be a disadvantage. For most e-portfolios, WiFi access is required. If there is no WiFi access, no one can view the portfolio. Nine times out of ten, WiFi access is easily accessible, but there are still those occasions when it is not. What happens then? Should you carry a hard copy of the portfolio just in case? Then what is the point of having an e-portfolio is you have to carry around a hard copy as well? Accessibility is not only hindered by WiFi, but also compatibility. If you carry around a portfolio on a flash drive, you have to hope that whatever device you connect to will be able to read your portfolio, or that it has the appropriate software to read your portfolio. Basically, an e-portfolio relies on a lot of other factors that will either make or break it’s accessibility.
Online portfolios are the way of the future. They are better for the environment, can hold more information in a slimmer fashion, and just look cooler than hard copy portfolios. Currently, we are in a transition period. There are still those who believe the hard copy portfolios are the best choice, because the are reliable and known. While there are still some glitches to be worked out with e-portfolios, they are a great tool to have. The truth is, e-portfolios are just one technological tool that are the way of the future. But currently, not all students are able to live in that future. And while e-portfolios offer a lot of benefits, until all students have easy access to this electronic tool, it should not be the sole carrier of portfolios.