Is your information past its sell by date?

All too often I read a report or survey on Learning Technology to find that although it is presented as though new, on closer inspection, I find that the information it relies upon to form a conclusion may be traced back to information from over a decade ago or even further. This particularly applies to technology for the work based and adult learning sector such as e-Assessment Portfolios for apprenticeships which some organisations appear to ignore – which begs a few questions:

If an organisation presents themselves as an official body or at least an agency with a reputation of expertise in the sector, why would it need to rehash old research, unless, of course it is shown alongside current knowledge to show how things have changed during the intervening period?

What use is old information, dusted off and given a lick of paint, when technology changes at such a pace that information just two years old has to take into account advances and changes in thinking since. Surely such judgement is just as applicable to education as anywhere else.

Put it this way, you go to a restaurant, what would you prefer, a meal made of fresh ingredients, bought the same day or a dish concocted from something pulled out of the freezer that’s been there for a while and heated up in the microwave? There’s no contest.

But this isn’t a question of taste, nor is it about ‘trends’, we are talking about Learning Technology which learning providers need to consider when planning a strategy to enhance quality, become more efficient and perhaps reduce costs.

Which led me to emulate yet again, an organisation seeking guidance online to find that the self proclaimed source of advice on technology for the sector, has a website which offers a ‘guide to e-portfolios that includes how ePortfolios work’ from a report published in 2007 and even more ‘advice’ predating that. It doesn’t take a specialist to determine whether or not such pearls of wisdom might help in planning a relatively ‘future proof’ IT strategy.

Delving further into the guide and with just a glance at the opening page I see that it was first published in 2008 and updated in 2012, although what ‘updating’ took place is unclear as pretty much the rest of the content includes opinions, reviews and case studies based upon conditions from as early as 1998 (before Wikipedia, Facebook, Twitter, iPhones, iPads ever existed), with the most recent information taken from 2012.

Needless to say, there is no mention in this guide or the report from a much vaunted survey for that matter, of the eAssessment portfolios currently being used by hundreds of colleges and other learning providers which the authors referred to in this guide clearly had no experience of. Despite the more advanced versions being pioneered at the time and promoted by the LSC (Learning & Skills Council), the funding agency of the day.  Which again begs the question, why do the curators of such reports, not use the evidence that is under our nose?

Having written on this subject repeatedly, I had planned never to bother again, especially as a friend advised me recently that I will find limited support for any controversial opinions despite the accuracy behind them!

But then ‘the obvious sources of information’ are also contributing to a new portal specifically designed to support the ‘future of apprenticeships’ which appears to be an extremely well thought out well structured source of much needed information with excellent toolkit’s. Despite which I failed to find reference to eAssessment Portfolios or Learner Management systems. So I searched in its ‘Excellence Gateway‘ toolkit under a category for Independent Learning Providers for e-Portfolio which I thought might narrow it down a bit, bearing in mind the portal is dedicated to ‘the future of apprenticeships’.

Considering how up to the minute and useful the rest of the portal appeared to be, I was actually surprised (for about 30 seconds) that of the 99 search results, none provided any information about eAssessment portfolios and the vast majority of results seemed to have been created in or around 2011/12. Which begs the question, is that when they closed the library?

Of course not all ‘old’ information is bad information or even outdated. An Elizabeth David recipe for lasagne or cassoulet are classics, a dictionary from 2007 will be just as helpful today as it was then, literary criticism doesn’t date, but technology and techniques in Learning Technology most certainly does.

I would think that most people would prefer to rely on up to date medical research in 2016, rather than 2007 and anyone looking to purchase a mobile phone or laptop would be somewhat surprised at being offered s device from another era, just because it was great at that time. It wouldn’t happen. So why should technology for education be any different?

So who do you ask?  You figure it out.

Colin Gallacher
Learning Technology Consultant
Incentive8

See also: What is an ePortfolio?
Apprenticeships, employers, providers…

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