The pros and cons of electronic portfolios Essay

ABSTRACT

Modern technology has led to the invention of various devices that are also gaining their popularity in the education sector. With almost everything being digitized, portfolio assessment methods have moved from physical to electronic. Electronic portfolios have been preferred by modern students due to their flexibility. Apart from their reliability, electronic portfolios are being encouraged in schools due to the technical exposure that the students using them will gain. Their frequent use by the students concerned will expand their knowledge on the different computer packages that are fundamental to their careers. Despite the few challenges experienced by the students in using them, those that have embraced their use have experienced positive results in their performance.

THE PROS AND CONS OF ELECTRONIC PORTFOLIOS

Introduction

            A portfolio is a record that is kept by students and is used to store all the information pertaining to their academics. Portfolios were generally in form of files and folders from where papers and other academic materials were kept. This forms of portfolios proved to be bulky and cumbersome for students. Papers stored could either be destroyed or lost and thus making it difficult for the student to refer. With the emergence of technology, portfolios have taken a different turn and changed from physical to technical, (Marilyn, 1998). Electronic portfolios which are in forms of hard disks and software’s have been appreciated by the modern students due to their convenience. Despite their wide use by students, electronic portfolios have their own advantages and disadvantages.

How High School Business Students Can Use Electronic Portfolios

            Electronic portfolios can be of great help to the high school students if they are equipped on how effectively they can use them. Students are supposed to seek technical help from their tutors on how the devices they desire to use work. They need to know the technicalities that are involved and how they can avoid loosing important materials just incase the devices fail to deliver. An electronic portfolio contains all the necessary information that a student has gained during his or her class period. The portfolios help the student to monitor how he/she is progressing academically and what he/she needs to employ to improve accordingly. Portfolios are used as assessment procedures for students.

            Electronic portfolios make it possible for a student to organize his/her work basing on how he or she has been performing in the past and whether he/she is recording progress or not. The records need to be regularly counterchecked by the student so that he can know where and when to make improvements. A student needs to check through his records and determine the kind of reading procedures he/she employed for the subsequent results. It will be easier for him/her to note the study methods that brought about positive results and those that did not work. An electronic portfolio is an important tool that will enable the student to make decisions pertaining to his career. From the portfolio records, the student is able to know his areas of weakness and improve on them.

            For a business student in high school, electronic portfolios are a good exposure to what he/she may intend to do as a future career. Use of electronic devices in school is a good starting point for the students who may gain from the experience of using such devices. The current business world is utilizing electronic devices for communication and networking, it is therefore important that the business students get acquainted with them for easy future adjustments (Tosh, 2005). Some of the electronic portfolios that they may use for storing their academic files may not necessarily be related to their field of study. Therefore, for them to effectively use the devices, they will have to gain some technical know how. This is an exposure that will keep them informed and updated of the technological developments in the current world.

            By using electronic portfolios a business student will automatically know how to store different kind of information in the hardware. The class may expose him/her to a lot of theoretical lessons on managing accounts and other related business topics. By storing the information in the portfolios, the student will automatically be exposed to the practical field of storing the information technically. This will be of great help to the student after his studies. When he/she goes to the practical business world, it will be easier for him to adjust due to the experience that has been gained.

            Technology keeps changing and so is the portfolio. Compared to the earlier days when paper files and folders were basically used as portfolios, technology kept improving where floppy disks became common. Floppy drives became less unreliable due to the insecurity they were exposed to and made compact disks to be preferred. Compact disks have also lost their familiarity due to their short lifespan. This transformation is yet to be experienced as more inventions are being made in the field of information technology. When students are exposed to such transformations, they are able to identify the various shortcomings of the devices that they are using and make a better choice.

            The experience they get by using the various electronic portfolios help the students to make informed decisions when purchasing them. This experience will be applicable in many other areas of their lives where they will need to make certain decisions. As business students, their future careers will require them to be intelligent and make urgent decisions that will be cost effective. Since they are exposed and used to making such technological decisions, their minds will be ready to adjust to the fast growing business world. Teachers should therefore ensure that the students are exposed to as many electronic portfolios as possible. This will give them an easier task of not having to explain how to store and retrieve data from the portfolios. The students will be able to discover some things on their own and share it among themselves.

Obstacles with Secondary School Students Using Electronic Portfolios

            There are three main disadvantages that electronic portfolios expose the students to. They include program implementation, time and effort used and reliability of the technology.

Program Implementation

            Students have had to deal with various issues pertaining to the implementation of different electronic portfolios. Students have failed to recognize some of the criteria used by their professors to implement certain types of portfolio. Professors may fail to realize the needs of the students and introduce portfolios that may be confusing to the student. Some of the efforts made by the students to seek technical advice on how the portfolios work has been fruitless as the lectures may not give clear information. It has been discovered that some of the electronic portfolios implemented in class are not well understood by the lecturers. Some of the electronic portfolios introduced in class may be technically complicated which makes the students confused on how they work (Gibson, 2002). The supervisors who may have the responsibility of explaining them to the students may have no idea about them or simply lack the interest of explaining them. This may be a bit frustrating to the students who may wonder whether the portfolios were introduced to benefit them or confuse them.

Time and Effort Used

            The time spent in designing portfolios is a lot in terms of what the students would have achieved while doing other activities. Different electronic portfolios take different times according to the current design. It becomes even more hectic for the students who may lack technological know how. Some portfolios may be complicated in application and consume more time than earlier predicated by the student. Scanning and downloading the portfolios via the internet has also proved to be difficult for some students (Barrett, 2007). Students usually go to the sites expecting to spend certain amount of time on the internet. It may turn out to be frustrating for them when the materials take more time than they expected to download. This has had to consume time for other activities that they had planned to do.

            Students are usually expected to make reflective portfolios on a regular basis. Professors may require that they make them on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. Depending on the number of subjects that the student may be dealing with, the process can be hectic and time consuming. They are at times forced to repeat what they had written in their daily portfolios when drafting their weekly and monthly ones. This has become the main activity of the students who are obliged to do it not because of their own benefit but simply because they are required to. Such portfolios may prove to be worthless to the students’ especially when the professors do not use them much. Hence, all that the student is required to do is reflect on what he /she have been doing during the day and draft a portfolio. The routine may be boring to students who may want to think of doing something else rather than drafting a portfolio.

Reliability of the Technology

            Most students work on their electronic portfolios in the campus laboratory. This is due to the free and reliable facilities that they are provided with. However, the technicalities come when the students have to share the facilities which may not be enough to accommodate all of them. They need to queue up for the facility or else come in at an odd hour which may interfere with the other class activities. The school laboratory or library may also not be convenient for some students who may prefer to work in their hostels or at home. Students who can not bear up with using the laboratory in the school campus have been forced to buy their own facilities (Pecheone, 2005). These facilities may however not be of benefit if they are not complete or if they may not know how to use them. Even though most students can easily access internet at home or in their dormitories, they may not have the scanning machine to transfer the files from the internet to their EPs. They also do not have access to some sites at home due to the additional software’s that need to be installed. Purchasing all the software’s that may keep changing tend to be cumbersome for them.

            Even though the campus offers the facilities free for students, the laboratories are not accessible twenty four hours. Therefore, they need to access them during normal school hours which may not always be possible with the other study activities going on. During these times, most students may be accessing them making them unreliable (Baeten, 2008). Most students have preferred to acquire their personal facilities which they can access at any time without having to go through such inconveniences. Students are usually in need of technical guidance when uploading files to their EPs. In as much as some institutions provide workers who can assist the students through the process, some students are not provided with such facilities. They go through a lot of difficulties trying to figure out what is needed which may make them spend a lot of time doing nothing. Some students have complained that such inconveniences have made them re-do the assignments.

How Electronic Portfolios Enhance the Business Education Curriculum

            Electronic portfolios are important tools to students in the business education curriculum. The portfolios enable them to reflect on what they had earlier on covered to enable them succeed. Electronic portfolios take the students deeper into what they have covered where they will generally know and understand what they covered and how the same can be applied to their general lives. When students are denied the ability to deeply understand the relevance of the study topics, they may loose interest in the subject as they see it of no value (Goolsby, 1995). Portfolios generally prepare business students for their future careers, as they reflect on the relevance of the topics; they are able to draw a picture of themselves applying the acquired knowledge in future. This enhances their learning capabilities even as they look forward to gaining more insight on their subjects.

            Portfolios expose students to different kinds of software’s and packages. They are usually required to carry out their assignments using different technological applications. This enables them to acquire extra knowledge that would have otherwise coasted them extra finances and time. They are able to ask their teachers and supervisors some questions concerning areas that they do not understand. By using the different packages, they are able to relate their subjects to other fields and generally identify how they relate to each other.

            Business education students need a lot of technological exposure that will enable them to handle practical issues in their careers. Business today has become more of a technical exercise that physical transactions. Business deals are currently being made over the website where business students who have been exposed to EPs will be able to learn more internet features that are being used by businesses to network with their stakeholders (Del, 2002). As the students learn more about different technologies applied in the business, they will be curious to know more about it as they apply the same to draft their portfolios.

            Portfolios assist business students to identify their future areas of specialization. The assessments take them through all that they have covered and as they reflect on the applicability of the various subjects, they will be able to realize where their interests lie. They are also able to gauge their future careers with their performance. Performance will generally confirm to them whether they are making positive steps to realize their future careers. If they have passion for a certain kind of career, their portfolio assessment will make them know the next direction to take. They are thus able to seek guidance and counseling from their teachers and supervisors concerning what they should do to ensure that their dreams are fulfilled. If their concerned subjects in the field of application seem to be difficult and unmanageable, they will be able to make decisions of whether to change their career dreams or to employ other study methods that will promise those results.

Positive Impact of Portfolios on Student Learning

Portfolios have impacted positively on the students learning capabilities. Despite the pressure they mount on the students to reflect on what they have learned and how it applies to their careers, they are able to effectively remember what they learned in order to succeed (Vivian, 2002). Students who have positively embraced the use of portfolios to assess their performance have strategically improved their grades. They have come to realize their areas of weakness that have made them to put in more effort. Electronic portfolios have also made the students to acquire new study skills and techniques that have enabled them realize their potentials.

Electronic portfolios have enhanced the relationship between the teachers and the students which is fundamental for their success. Students are able to interact more with their teachers who are meant to provide them with the necessary guidance in drafting the portfolios. The teachers are also able to go through the portfolios of each student and therefore understanding their needs. Therefore, the teachers are able to offer the necessary assistance needed by the students which will in turn boost their performance. Electronic portfolios have helped to seal the gap that was there between the teachers and their students. It makes the students to be more genuine and open with their teachers.

The Future of Electronic Portfolios

Electronic portfolios have proved to be helpful especially to the business curriculum students. There is a need for the technology to be further improved and applied in many other disciplines. With the electronic exposure that they guarantee their users, electronic portfolios can be adequately used to update students in the field of information technology (Paul, 2003). Since technology is growing, there is a promising future for the advanced use of electronic portfolios. Electronic portfolios will be modified to ensure that even the junior students are able to assess themselves and perform better.

Considering the positive impacts that the portfolios have had on the senior students who have effectively utilized them, more commendable results would be experienced by them had they started using them earlier. The education system should be reviewed in a way that as junior as the students may be, they should be able to understand the relevance of what they are doing. This will make them develop a sense of seriousness in their academics as they realize the relationship between what they are learning in class and their surrounding.

Conclusion

            Considering both the advantages and disadvantages of electronic portfolios, we come to realize that the disadvantages arise due to their utilization. Portfolios can be helpful to students when the institutions concerned ensure that the facilities needed are available and reliable. When all students are given equal chances to explore into such technologies, learning will be an exciting experience. Teachers and supervisors need to ensure that the portfolios being given to students have been tested for practicability. They need to be there for their students and help them to apply the technology. Students that find portfolios cumbersome to use only need a change of attitude. They need to realize that what they are doing is not for their teachers but to help them understand what they have learned before.

REFERENCES

Barrett, H. (2007). Researching Electronic Portfolios and Learner, Newark:  Publisher name and contact information, as provided by the publisher; updated only if notified by the publisher.International Reading Association pp4-6

Baeten M. (2008). Students’ approaches to learning and assessment preferences in a portfolio-based learning environment: Instructional Science pp13

Del S. (2002): The name assigned to the document by the author. This field may also contain sub-titles, series names, and report numbers.Creating a Living Portfolio: Documenting Student Growth with Electronic Portfolios pp16

Gibson D. (2002): Directions in Electronic Portfolio Development. Norfolk. Jones & Bartlett, pp. 556-573

Goolsby T. (1995). Portfolio Assessment for Better Evaluation: An indexing term that provides specific identifying information in a category: geographic names, laws and legislation, or tests and testing.Domain Projects pp20

Marilyn M. (1998): Preservice Teachers’ Electronic Portfolios: Integrating Technology, Self-Assessment, and Reflection pp12

Paul T. (2003): The name assigned to the document by the author. This field may also contain sub-titles, series names, and report numbers.Electronic Portfolios Need Standards to Thrive, Michigan: university of Michigan pp10

Pecheone R. (2005): Performance Assessment and Electronic Portfolios: Their Effect on Teacher Learning and Education pp5

Tosh D. (2005): Engagement with Electronic Portfolios: Challenges from the Student Perspective Vivian H. (2002): Challenges of Electronic Portfolios: Student Perceptions and Experiences pp11

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