“We aren't the University of Phoenix. And we don't want to compete with the University of Phoenix.” Those sentences are standard fare at many institutions, such as ours, where technology use sustains a weak pulse. Technology using faculty are scattered throughout the campus, and, according to a survey of offerings, about 28% of courses have Blackboard or Moodle course shells (“Blackboard” 2011). Even though Blackboard purchased WebCT in 2005, campus documents still refer to Blackboard as “Blackboard (Web CT),” which indicates a low level of technology awareness. In all, however, the story above merely reflects the typical cycle in which users adopt and integrate new technology into their everyday routines, according to Dennis Baron (2009), as adopting new technologies is expensive, is time consuming, and requires training. Further, according to Sheridan, Ridolfo, and Michel (2005), adopting new technology entails both securing access and working within the dominant framework. The dominant framework for conducting the business of teaching in college is a paper framework.
So the story goes–As the Writing Coordinator, Harris often meets new English majors during their senior years or during the end of their first year in graduate school, when they typically take the composition theory seminar required of all teaching associates. By then, students have become familiar to the routine of study in paper-driven classrooms. So Harris’s heavy use of technology comes as a shock to them, even though some faculty, at least, are among the 25% who use Blackboard, Moodle or websites to distribute documents and handouts to students. These anecdotes are important here, as we will critically reflect on the first year of an eportfolio pilot, paying special attention to administration of eportfolios. In discussions of eportfolio implementation, it’s important to discern the extent to which faculty use technology, as it’s important to provide a solution that will adequately serve faculty, student and administrator needs without overcoming them with a sharp learning curve.
Nonetheless, faculty and administrators on campus have begun to develop new technology initiatives and the steam liner is making that slow, laborious turn towards the digital realm. In the summer of 2010, the Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies assembled an ad hoc Educational Technology Committee, and the committee was tasked with drafting proposals for new technology initiatives. First, the ad hoc committee was created to address two primary issues that the campus was not directly addressing—incorporating technology into the classroom and assessment. With a Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) accreditation visit looming, scheduled for Fall 2010, the campus was energized to explore ways to increase student engagement via technology. What started as oblique discussions of clickers, Kindles and iPads developed into pilots of Moodle, eportfolios, and clicker technology. Late in the summer of 2010, pilots were approved for eportfolios: TaskStream in Liberal Studies and Google Sites in the Honors College. A Moodle pilot was also approved, largely because Blackboard informed the campus that it would need to upgrade three versions by June 2012.
These moves to explore technology highlight issues that prevail on many campuses, and they are pertinent to discussions of eportfolio implementation. It is not overwhelmingly deleterious to the underlying reasons for using technology that finances helped to spur the campus move to Moodle. While that may be the case (as explained in Harris 2010), faculty can take the initiative to develop quality learning experiences.
While this webtext will discuss local challenges in implementing eportfolios, 1) similar challenges are often shared on many campus, and 2) not much scholarship dedicated to discussing eportfolio administration exists.