As with traditional paper-based portfolios, a number of issues and challenges arise with the use of electronic portfolios in education. In Kristen Steele’s article What it takes: Issues in implementing electronic portfolios, the author listed the issues discussed by other experts.
Abrami and Barrett (2005) discuss the challenges to assessment that electronic portfolios present.
- It is difficult to authenticate the evidence in such a portfolio – is it really the work of the student in question?
- The technical knowledge required to create a portfolio may also unfairly disadvantage some students, and the danger is that students will end in being assessed more on their technology prowess.
Finally, Challis (2005) raises a number of issues that will need to be addressed by an institution:
- How to manage the volume of data
- Who will have access to the electronic portfolios, the security and privacy of students’ work
- Copyright and intellectual property concerns.
Steele Barrett and Knezek (2003) argue that electronic portfolio systems need to find a balance between highly structured templates, which scaffold the learning of the portfolio process and are useful for novice portfolio users, and open-ended or self-directed portfolio tools, which foster learners’ knowledge of themselves, and suit more advanced users.
Carliner (2005) agrees, suggesting that electronic portfolio software be designed for users with multiple levels of technical skill. Perhaps software for electronic portfolios could be designed to allow for more flexibility.
Both Heath (2005) and Pecheone et al. (2005) agree that:
- Electronic portfolio construction takes time, which require technology skills or adequate training to gain those skills
- Technical problems with software or equipment can be very frustrating and stressful
- If equipment needs to be upgraded to take full advantage of electronic portfolios, the process can also be very expensive.
Tosh, Light, Fleming and Haywood (2005) provide a timely warning of the
problems that can be encountered in electronic portfolio implementation if the needs and attitudes of portfolio developers and student users are not taken into consideration. Their research shows that addressing issues of buy-in, motivation, assessment and electronic portfolio technology can increase engagement with portfolios. To improve student and teacher buy-in, the way electronic portfolios are promoted is extremely important. Administrators, teachers, students, and anyone else involved in the development process need to see good examples of electronic portfolios, understand their benefits, and know how they will help students to develop as learners.
Tosh et al. (2005) document the concerns the individuals in their study had over the electronic portfolio technology they were using.
- Many had problems with the software, complaining it was anything from too complicated to lacking in functionality.
- It’s time taken to learn the software, and to customize it to their needs.
- The privacy of the material in a web-based platform is also a concern, because the owner wanted control over what was publicly accessible and what was private.
Finally, Lorenzo and Ittleson (2005) provide a list of questions that need to be considered before an institution considers adopting electronic portfolios:
• Should an e-portfolio be an official record of a student’s work?
• How long should an e-portfolio remain at an institution after the student
graduates? Should the e-portfolio go with them?
• Who owns the e-portfolio?
• How should an institution promote and support the use of e-portfolios?
• How are e-portfolios evaluated in a manner that is both valid and reliable?
• How can institutions encourage reflection in the design and use of e-portfolios?
In other words, some of the benefits of electronic portfolios can also be issues that need to be resolved before they can be successfully implemented.