Some reflections on using the Portfolio Feedback Tool

Guy has blogged about the development of the Portfolio Feedback Tool and some of the issues we (mainly he) identified.  The tool itself is not quite at ‘production’ stage, but is usable enough that I decided to use it to provide feedback on portfolios of work being produced by some of our programming students.

The process was not without difficulties – but, I have to say, these were not problems with the tool itself.

We asked 30 students to produce a portfolio of work, covering a 9 week period of lab practicals, using the standard portfolio tool in Blackboard.  As part of the specification, we asked for a set number of pages (10) within the portfolio.

Some of the students created 10 portfolios.  Some create one portfolio with a smaller number of pages.  Many decided that uploading screenshots so they could then include them in their portfolio pages was too cumbersome, and that they would create Word (or, slightly better, Zoho or Google Docs) documents, and just include links to those in the portfolios rather than writing the content online.  Coupled with this, the Blackboard system was running particularly slowly during at least two of the early sessions, which made their alternative choices seem more sensible at the time, so we extended the definition so that the technology did not cause too much of a barrier.

Consequently, the number of portfolios actually available in the VLE to assess using the feedback tool was somewhat limited.  The real show stopper, however, was that one student had a perfectly legitimate cause for extenuating circumstances to be considered, and there was therefore a significant delay to the original deadline.  During this period, the other students were obviously keen to receive their marks, but we were unable to give feedback because it could provide an unfair advantage to anyone handing in at a later date.

One big advantage of the Portfolio Feedback Tool is that it allows the comments to be immediately available to the student.  I must confess, it had never occurred to me that this would also prove to be a stumbling block, but in this case, I had to resort to typing the feedback in to a word document, to give to the students later.  Consequently, this means that for summative work, the tool needs to have an option to delay the publication of the feedback, so that assessment can be done, but comments are withheld until later – a Use Case which hadn’t been identified previously.

About patparslow

I am a researcher in the School of Systems Engineering, working in the fields of social media, digital identity and learning. I have previously worked in IT training/education, land survey, civil engineering, IT support, and as a software engineer.
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