I'm involved with an ePortfolio project with our Faculty of Education - aimed at getting student teachers to build a series of high quality, interactive, personalized portfolios outlining their development as professionals. It's more about the journey (self reflection, writing, documenting) than the destination (the final website) so we were looking for tools that wouldn't require technical know-how in order for the students to produce interesting products. When the project got off the ground (in the fall of 2005), there wasn't really any off-the-shelf product that fit the bill, so we started to implement an instance of Pachyderm so the students could start authoring in it.
But, things changed recently, when Apple announced and released iWeb. It's a dead-simple app to use, and comes with some great design templates. The output is just standard HTML, which can be served from anywhere.
To help figure out if iWeb would serve as an adequate ePortfolio management platform, I just whipped up a quick and dirty skeleton of my own ePortfolio to see how it works out. After about 15 minutes of play time, I'm really impressed. Built-in blogging (with multiple "blogs" in a site, each with their own RSS feed). Great content-agnostic templates that let you basically do anything you want to.
I'll be trying it out a bit more over the next few days to see if we should switch strategies, but if I was to start this project over now from the beginning, I'd have recommended iWeb as our first choice. It's not perfect - things like the generated URLs make me want to cry - but it's so simple to use, and flexible enough to let you be as creative as you can be.
There are 3 issues with this solution, that I see:
- Cost. The computers available to the students will have to be equipped with iLife '06. Many of the computers are old enough that they'd have to be upgraded to install iLife '06 in the first place. Perhaps just iWeb can be installed on lesser/older computers? Making each student cough up for their own copy of iLife '06 isn't going to fly. We could try to get some kind of bulk purchase price or something, but that's not something to count on.
- Mac-Only. Many of the students don't have their own Macs. Ideally, a cross-platform solution would be better. Perhaps Contribute may be up to that task? (but, see previous point about cost)
- Publishing. iWeb has automated publishing to a .Mac account. Most students won't have one. (again, refer to point #1) Heck, I don't even have one any more. FTPing files will be beyond many of the students. How about a built-in FTP upload function, or WebDAV?