For the last couple of months now I have been pondering about what exactly I am researching. I think the real reason for this is that I haven’t really identified a research problem. I have spent most of my time lately developing an e-portfolio system, and putting my research on the back-burner till I have a suitable platform to work with.
I had previously read a lot of literature on e-portfolios, and have written a few literature reviews. From the literature, I have found that e-portfolios are all about establishing rich “connections” between academic endeavours and the skills and knowledge acquired.
So my research question is, “how to manage these connections within an e-portfolio?”
Already I am finding that dotFOLIO is able to create connections by “clipping” a piece of reflective writing (from a blog) to a learning artifact stored in the file repository. The repository essentially stores all of the student’s work completed for a course. The blog provides a way to reflect on what was learnt from a learning activity, the evidence of which is located in the file repository. The clipper tool in dotFOLIO creates the relationship between reflection and the evidence.
Other relationships can be created. For example, a student could be reading a fellow student’s blog within dotFOLIO, and feel inspired about writing about their own ideas on the same subject matter. The student can then use dotFOLIO to clip the other student’s blog entry to their own, so as to provide a richer context for the ideas established.
So dotFOLIO already provides the infrastructure for creating connections between learning activities and knowledge acquired. What would be interesting now is to visualise these connections. If we were to map these connections, we will have formed a network conveying all the learning sources for a specific student. The network would look similar to the learning-network diagram displayed.
The diagram is just a snapshot of the Java SimpleGraph applet demo. I intend to modify the applet so that it can dynamically create a graph that corresponds to the learning network for a learner.
From the graph we’ll be able to identify whether a student learns from reading material such as websites or from their peers and instructors. We’ll also identify whether they only use dotFOLIO for assessments or for their general learning.
Next semester we’ll be trialling dotFOLIO with about 200 students. The learning network from this should be quite impressive, and the resulting graph will be quite complex.