Over the last few years, electronic portfolios have become a staple in the education arena. They work as powerful tools to provide students an opportunity to create an identity through work projects and proven skill sets in an easy-to-use and easier-to-share platform. While educators have increased their use of ePortfolios across the campuses of universities and colleges throughout the world, selecting the best fit platform isn’t always done the first try. If you’re looking to switch ePortfolio platforms, here are a handful of helpful tips to make the process painless.
#1 Determine the Problem(s)
It isn’t necessary to continue using an ePortfolio that feels outdated, doesn’t offer the functionality you or students needs, or simply is not up to par any longer. Although it can feel like a safe choice to avoid a change in platforms, either because it has always produced the results you expected or because users are already comfortable with the system, there comes a time when an update is crucial.
Ask yourself the following questions to help uncover what problems your legacy ePortfolio platform has so that a sound decision can be made regarding a switch.
- Are you missing functionality for students, faculty, or others in your current ePortfolio system?
- Are there features you know would make a positive difference in adoption rates? Is your legacy system outdated in how it is used or how ePortfolios are viewed/shared?
- When might be the right time to make a necessary change in order to serve your students and their career initiatives best?
#2 Know What You Want – and What You Don’t!
You’ll do yourself and your students and faculty a disservice if you switch to a new, updated ePortfolio platform without first identifying what it is you want – and don’t want – in that system. Reasons need to be justifiable so this step may require involving faculty and staff in the discussion. Ask them what new, innovative features or functionality they would prefer to see in an updated system, and think big picture as to how the change would impact your overall campus goals.
Creating a detailed requirement specification document for a new ePortfolio platform is easier when you based it on the following questions or desires:
- How clear and easy-to-use is your legacy ePortfolio?
- What can you do differently with your new system that might make processes more efficient?
- Do you need a mobile-friendly, modern interface that is both intuitive and requires no user training?
- Does your legacy system offer in-house, 24/7 live chat support?
- Would employer-matching capabilities for skills learned in class to job criteria be helpful for students?
- Is your legacy system portable after graduation, and is it free for life?
- Are students adopting the legacy platform?
- Can faculty and staff use the legacy system as a reporting tool?
If you can answer these questions with a tilt toward a new ePortfolio platform, it’s time to make the switch.
#3 Data and Tech Requirements
In the process of switching platforms, it is crucial to take an inventory of the types of information your legacy system captures and provides. It is also important to understand the impact a shift in technology may have on faculty and staff workflow so that there is minimal disruption when a change is made. Here are a few questions to ask yourself before taking the leap:
- Does the data provided by the ePortfolio system help the department measure actionable insights on learning outcomes?
- Do those insights connect to accreditation at the course, department, and institutional level?
- With an implementation of a new system improve faculty and staff workflow process?
- Do processes need to be adjusted prior to or after implementation of an updated platform?
- Will the new ePortfolio platform integrate seamlessly with your LMS?
- Are the software and tools that students are already using the same with the updated system?
Answering these questions before switching to an updated ePortfolio platform gives you a better understanding of the potential challenges the department, students, or faculty could face before implementation.
#4 Making the Switch
Once the problems have been described and the expectations from the new ePortfolio specified, do a feasibility analysis for implementing a new platform. You will need to identify some of the key challenges that you and others may face during the implementation. These can be categorized into different categories, including:
- Data migration
- Training history challenges
- Adoption willingness by your students
- Competency of the faculty and staff to cope with the new system
- Workflow management
It is beneficial to think through these challenges as best as possible before switching platforms.
#5 Prepping for Migration
This is one of the most crucial processes in switching over from one ePortfolio to another. Given the fact that a new system will be different in technical nature from the first one, you must ensure that there is no data loss during the switching process. Fortunately, most new technology platforms let you upload CSV files into their database, but first, you need to make sure your legacy ePortfolio allows you to download pertinent data in this format.
Think about the following critical information you need from the legacy system:
- Existing data about students
- Course information
- SCORM packages
- Assignment details
The main goal with migration is to transfer existing data from ePortfolio A to ePortfolio B, without loss. Typically, this is a collaborative process that requires help from all necessary departments and system administrators, with a commitment to work through a well-defined process.
#6 Make it Official
If you build it they will come, right? Well, not exactly. One of the most difficult aspects of switching from one system to another is adoption. It’s hard enough to get buy-in from faculty and staff – it’s even tougher to get students to adopt a new platform. A few things to consider asking a new ePortfolio provider include:
- What is the average adoption rates at schools similar to yours?
- What marketing strategies do other schools employ to increase student adoption?
- Is the platform designed to foster adoption through social media components or an intuitive interface?
Taking the time to work through each of these steps, focused on the details as well as the big picture, creates the best possible landscape for an update to your ePortfolio platform, without unnecessary bumps along the way.