Sarah Stewart is a midwife and Senior Lecturer in Midwifery at Otago Polytechnic, Dunedin, New Zealand who has been investigating the use of e-Portfolios (ePF) as part of a requirement of her recertification as set down by the Midwifery Council of New Zealand to maintain a professional portfolio.
Recently Sarah participated in a presentation about the ePF Tool 'My Portfolio', and was concerned about the fact "that at the moment it is associated with educational institutions in New Zealand which means only students of the institution can use it. Once the students have left the institution, they are no longer able to use it."
One idea to overcome this problem would be to create a 'thin e-Portfolio on legs' – an ePF which is more of an interface that will connect an individual’s digital artifacts/identities together, and one in which the individual would ‘carry’ with them from the ‘cradle to grave’. This interface would be similar to an iGoggle or Protopage, however, it would give greater control to the owner of the ePF as to who 'views' what sections of the ePF and would allow access to secure information stored about the individual in educational/organisational databases. This would require a ‘national’ approach to ePF and would require a lot less ‘storage’ space than the current ePF tools, as the information would be ‘hosted’ in a number of locations, and would therefore be a lot less ‘costly’ to the organisation hosting the ePF interface.
This concept, however, is a little while away.
A more tangible and immediate option will be to make the information housed in ePFs 'transferable' from one ePF to another as an individual moves from Secondary School to Higher Ed to Employment, or at least have the information contained in an ePF readable in its own right in other web and digital environments. This way a person will always have access to their ‘information’ by burning it to a CD or onto some other storage device, even if they don’t have access to the tools and wizards to generate this information in an ePF tool.
I have also been playing with the Mahara e-Portfolio tool, and a couple of other e-PF tools, and although they are restrictive in one way or another, they do create a structure for people to develop their skills in using an e-Portfolio.
So, for people like Sarah, who already have the skills of file management, being organised, able to plan and reflection, as well as know the value of good record keeping etc - than an ePF tool will seem restrictive and less useful, but for those people who are yet to develop these skills or develop the confidence to show themselves to the world (warts and all), than an ePF tool will really be of grat benefit, as long as they have access to some guidance and structure in developing the ePF and the skills that come with this process