in praise of BLOGS as eportfolios

in praise of BLOGS as eportfolios

by Derek Chirnside -
Number of replies: 6
Blogs for eportfolio activities.
I've approached the notion of eportfolios very simply. At it's most basic, the main items with eportfolio creation to add 'evidence' to a course for course completion/assessment are:
  1. Content - a document, some writing, an image, a movie clip
  2. Commentary on the content.

Examples of content + commentary

1. In the nursing scene, it is a requirement here in NZ to produce a report on a specific patient from birth to now, including mental health issues, involvement with alcohol and tobacco/other drugs, health history, family illnesses etc etc.
The written form to guide this is quite complex. So an e-portfolio 'entry' for this may be
  1. a note about the patient, why he/she was chosen, issues around the carrying out of the report etc
  2. the report itself
  3. Supporting reference material eg an audio/video recording, copy of a permitted file etc.
2. In a bakers course, a picture of some bread can be sent to a blog via cell phone SMS at 4.50am while working hard - and may be followed later with some written comment.

What to do with these content + commentary 'entities' and how to 'deliver'/'present' for various purposes?

Having worked with a number of eportfolio systems, including Mahara and one we designed outselves, my current preference is a good blog - or a blog like entity.

My first rationale is ease of use.

If we assume that particpants know about using mobile phones and e-mail then they have the concepts of texting, sending pictures via phone SMS, e-mail address, attachments, subject, body, editor, cc/bcc etc.

Four (new) blog concepts are needed:

  1. Blog Entry
  2. Category
  3. Tag
  4. Comment
This is now much much easier than a couple of years ago with the pervasive influence and experieince of social networking sites, particularly Facebook.
One other skill that has been troublesome (still) is that of inserting a link. (One of the first literacies I check if any class I teach has 'got')
This then takes care of basic skills needed to begin to work.
Another is the size of images (on the HDD) vs the size of images on the page. Software can help this.

Practices to create e-portfolio KISS

The protoculs can be something like this:

  1. Each class assignment/activity has a tag
  2. Each course has a category
  3. Multiple part assignments or major assignments could have their own category.
  4. Students can add any other categories they like

Scenarios with a blog

Assessment (One off, summative):

Lets say you have a major assignment for NUR101 Patient Report
1) Student tags the final items with something like "101 Patient Peport"
2) Assessor clicks on the category, all blog posts appear relevant to this assignment . .
3) Assessment begins. Could be printed out etc.
Note: the ONE major thing we have found a minor limitation is the printed order on the page. It is reverse chronological. However each post + associated items (tags, comments, files) is an entity at the code level and it would not be a big deal to produce a page in an alternative order: such as numerical/alphabetical by subject.

Assessment of long term project

1) Student records activity in posts. Can be public or not.
2) Tutors comment when required.
3) Produce a final post to wrap things up

Interactive options - with other students.

Teacher posts in All blogs an assignment. Can assign other blogs to post feedback on. Again, simple categories.
"This week, post a comment on topic with the category "Week 3 Topic". Next week, respond to those in your group with a comments"

Group work

Don't bother with a blog: Moodle wiki plus closed forum plus open forum

Other notes:

In the College of Education teachers courses this enables the same work to go towards two assessments. Just assign more than one category. Why have to do a "rationale for lesson plans" or "Vygotsky overview" in every course?

Qualification blog (rather than course blog)

Graduate attibutes are a big thing here in NZ. This scenario can lead to a pretty complex blog if it goes on for a while. But it seems to be OK at the moment. Stuff can have a life over a multi course qualification.

Technical notes.

First we used out own blog/journal component inside our old home grown LMS. We tailored the CSS to get nice printouts using a minimum of paper. Wordpress (with posts and pages) would seem to be idea.
Stick some social networking stuff in if you really like with buddypress.
Categories and subcategories can really help here. In Wordpress you can move all old categories for 2009 into 2009 sub categories to tody things up.

Ongoing, long term portfolio.

We didn't move on to this very much.

A) Getting a job stuff: port folio/showcase

The end result was simple websites, with material uploaded to suit.
The best quickest was when blog material was in the same server and a simple commentated page with links to material was created.

B) Ongoing (longer term) professional/personal reflection

Another bigger topic. We have NOT done much here.

Final comments

Staff development.

Did not need a lot of help. The same skills of the students are needed, and not a lot else.

Einstein said: Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.

This blog scenario is the simplest I can envisage at the moment.

Is it too simple?

I admit this is a rather superficial approach to portfolios: it is reasonably pragmatic. No deep engagement, not high level of integration in terms of the tools, no complex views, no fine grained levels of visibliity and permissions, and no voting/SN tools.
However some of the work we have seen from students has been quite deep in the level of thought, personal reflection and creative thinking. While the tool is not complex, the actual outlput has been good. IMO Several aspects have contributed to this.
  1. Catching thinking on the fly is one. My impression is that little thoughtlets caught soon after the heat of a class were very valuable catalysts.
  2. Careful probing questions from a wise facilitator is another.
  3. The odd student who acts as a wonderful catalyst is another. These have been rare, but my impression is they are becoming more visible as we give the tools and the connections precedence.
In some respects, the TASKS that are set are the key. High quality tasks, high quality mentoring/facilitating . . .


I have not addressed the questions of visibility of blogs to the world. We actually has setting Class, LMS wide and world for our blogs, but we found firstly most never changed these. Next that our classes (sometimes 100+) were big enough to provide a sense of audience. A few had their own blogs and just kept their lives a little separate.

Abandoned here.

I'll add another post to respond to a few comments on eportfolio and blogs later. I tried the quote option and it crashed.
In reply to Derek Chirnside

Re: in praise of BLOGS as eportfolios

by Asif Devji -
Hi Derek,

I second your praise of blogs as e-folios and thank you for the detailed tips and info here -- appreciate the fruits of your experience.

One theme that seems to be recurring is lack of clarity regarding the 'long-term' effectiveness of the blogs, both for the learners and the institution.

While I prefer an institutional 'hands-off' approach on learner blogs, I wonder if we can come up with a way to do long-term tracking that can benefit both parties.

Could be quantitative (how far has the learner progressed in their chosen domain, is the blog still being maintained) and qualitative (learner views on the usefulness of the blog vis-a-vis their practice) -- side-by-side with looking at which direction the institution has been moving e-folio-wise during the same period.

What do you think?

In reply to Derek Chirnside

Re: in praise of BLOGS as eportfolios

by Michael Griffith -
Hi Derek- excellent contribution! Can I say this is exactly how my interest in e-Portfolios have evolved. I began with an interest in getting my literature students to do a weekly on-line literature journal as a blog. I began with LiveJournal (still excellent!). This opened up an amazing amount of creativity in the class. Not only did they begin networking but they were keen to share their new-found creative skills (writing poems, stories, prose pieces in response to the literature we were studying- 19th century, 20th century, Shakespeare, Australian etc...- they also enjoyed sharing stories about their own life experience). All this was good... it was stimulating their interest in writing.
In order to capitalize on this creativity I then began to dream of a way in which they could reflectively showcase the work they had been doing during the semester. Hey Presto! an e-Portfolio as a summative assessment in which they have to reflect on -creating links with- all the work they had been doing during the semester. They had to showcase their creative work, their critical work, their contacts with other students...etc.... This is what I am in the process of correcting (as in marking!) at the moment (all 150 ePortfolios!- so far there have been some really excellent ones.
So how did I get from Blog to ePortfolio... that was quite easy. LiveJournal has simple steps to turn their sequential blogs into pages.... this worked quite well.
But as indicate in an earlier post I have recently been "pushed" into WordPress- behind firewalls. This has not been good for visibility, but it has been good for showing me how easy WordPress is for students when it comes to turning blog posts into ePortofolio pages.... it is a snack... and visually quite effective. Sadly however I can't show anyone this work because it is all hidden!.... But I am working on/with the authorities to see if there is a way of getting students to easily switch from (behind firewall) to open forum.
You can see my own attempts at creating a WordPress ePortfolio at
In reply to Michael Griffith

Re: in praise of BLOGS as eportfolios

by Dilip Barad -
Dear Michael,
You have made excellent use of wordpress for ePortfolio. Its wonderful idea. I am planning to work on wikieducator or google groups for students' eortfolio.
I have prepared my portfolio on
Dilip Barad
Bhavnagar University
In reply to Derek Chirnside

Re: in praise of BLOGS as eportfolios

by bronwyn hegarty -
Dear all
Derek you have written a wonderful guide covering a lot of relevant things about blogs as ePortfolios. I too have got carried away. My experience in using blogs to support students to document their learning has been in two courses I teach. I had a course blog and all students kept an individual blog. We encouraged this so they would have more ownership of their learning and views about flexible learning.
Flexible Learning - Course blog at:
Participants blogs - over two years - listed at:
  • These are also a great resource for subsequent classes.
In the Flexible Learning class, students had weekly activities which they posted on their blogs - culminating in a Flexible learning plan. It was great to see this evolve over the course of several posts. The open blog environment enabled participants in the course, myself and other teachers to comment, and provide suggestions to students. Also interested colleagues from around the globe contributed at different times. There was some good communication on the blogs and as a teacher I got a good sense of participants' understanding about FL. In 2010, due to some of the grumbles in previous classes about having to keep a blog, I decided to get them to keep a journal in their choice of format which I did not see. Online communication was on an email discussion forum. The group communication has been more confusing and less individual this time round. There is much less cohesiveness to the class interactions. I have much less sense of what participants are doing and I see a lot of them f2f as well. So back to blogs next year.
The second class is Evaluation of eLearning for Best Practice which worked in a similar way. At:
Participants developed their evaluation plans on their blogs - it was great because they got a lot of feedback from each other.

Some good points re blogs
as eportfolios
  • Open blogs are great for interaction and peer feedback - get students to subscribe to each others' blogs.
  • student work can help build up a bank of examples and course resources - assists the teacher and other students;
  • students can continue to access the material - lifelong learning;
  • Guide participants about how to write on a blog. Writing effectively for a blog
  • there is excellent scope for creativity, e.g., sending images etc. to blog via SMS.
  • when combined with a wiki, a variety of content can be displayed.
Some points against blogs as eportfolios
  • not ideal for confidential material - closed online discussion forum is better. Not sure about derek's suggestion re discussion of patients/clients - has to be written very carefully, therefore a lot of the emotional writing which would make a deep reflective post would be lost.
  • a lot of support is needed for some students to get set up with one - can cause delays in progressing through the course schedule.
  • more difficult to choose what is shared - however, if combined with another platform, e.g., closed wiki, Google docs, the "confidential" material can be kept hidden until appropriate to share.
The tricky thing is to get people to write reflectively - and that is what I have spent the last few years researching...more on that some other time.
Now I am off to work on my eportfolio - blog and wiki. big grin T

You might like to take a gander at Sarah Stewart's combo as an excellent working example - her blog is a dynamic chronical of reflections and writing about her practice, and the wiki is her eportfolio which is linked to the blog. The wiki is used for storing and recording other material, documents, evidence. She has made them part of a Personal Learning environment (PLE) (see:My PLE 2009) which incorporates a variety of web-based technologies. The PLE or the ePortfolio - is there a difference? I think it all depends on the attitude to the beast and the tools in use - what do you think?

In reply to bronwyn hegarty

Re: in praise of BLOGS as eportfolios

by Paul Beaufait -

bronwyn suggests,

You might like to take a gander at Sarah Stewart's combo as an excellent working example - her blog is a dynamic ... [chronicle] of reflections and writing about her practice, and the wiki is her eportfolio which is linked to the blog. The wiki is used for storing and recording other material, documents, evidence. (in praise of BLOGS as eportfolios, Tuesday, 8 June 2010, 07:39 PM)

Then she asks about a difference between portfolios and personal learning environments (PLEs).

Offhand, after perusing Sarah's recent blog posts, and listening to Sarah's explanation of how her wiki-based portfolio works, I'd like to suggest that some of the biggest differences between portfolios and PLEs might be in their creators' intentions, and in their human and temporal dimensions.

That is, I imagine the intent of many portfolio creators being to collect, select, reflect (process), and represent (convey/deliver) content online, individually, for various time-constrained audiences, while the dimensions of PLEs may amplify their creators' intentions to embrace and involve others (peers and near-peers) in interactive (dare I say collaborative?) and on-going learning processes, as well as in time-constrained project work, situated (largely) in online venues.

In reply to bronwyn hegarty

Re: in praise of BLOGS as eportfolios

by Derek Chirnside -
Some provocative and interesting comments here.
These are also a great resource for subsequent classes.
Yes - but have you ever checked out how valuable these really are? This as far as I can find is an unstudied question. I'm in two minds here. Too much process stuff can appear as static and noise - but it can stimulate thinking. Too much highly polished finished artifact can be like the butterfly: help it out of the crysalis and it never builds strength. I think some of what I see in failures and success has to also do with individual student's ability to sift and sort, strip and gut, scan the data/input . . then think.
In 2010, due to some of the grumbles in previous classes about having to keep a blog, I decided to get them to keep a journal in their choice of format which I did not see.
Wow. Interesting.
a lot of support is needed for some students to get set up with one
Point taken.
more difficult to choose what is shared
The tricky thing is to get people to write reflectively
OK, are the tools we use as good as they can be for this? I guess that's what al this seminar is about.