Category Archives: ePortfolios

Supporting interoperability…

My previous post appears to have exposed concerns shared by others about the way in which VLEs/LMSs etc are being integrated and used within our schools. The idea that the “promise” of these systems has yet to be realised is due in part to the change in pedagogical practice that is required of those using them, and in part also beacuse of the rapid changes in the technologies upon which these systems are built.

As we see a move away from a ‘walled garden‘  approach to a more open and configurable concept of a learning management system (or any system for that matter), the issue of interoperability becomes key. Just released is a report from SALTIS in the UK titled “Supporting Interoperable Learning Technology – a strategy for better e-learning in schools“, sent to me this morning by my friend Malcolm in the UK. This is an excellent read for those who may be unfamiliar with this rather technical field, as well as those who are working in the field. The concept of interoperability is well explained and illustrated, as is the historical development of standards which is helpful for those who are trying to ‘catch up’ with what has happened.

There’s also a useful discussion around content vs. community that reflects some of Paul’s comments on in my recent post – the fact that it’s not ‘either/or’, but both. On the topic of content, learning objects get a mention – highlighting the complexity of issues in trying to develop a standard for universally ‘portable’ content elements, and reinforcing for me that there’s still a long way to go yet before we’ll have something truly useful.

The scenario towards the end of the report titled “imagining an interoperable future’ provides a useful insight into what advantages there might be to learners and learning if we can succeed in achieving the interoperability vision outlined in the report. For my money this is an excellent starting point for schools looking at implementing any sort of system – begin by creating your own scenarios and building a picture of what you’d like to see acheived, then set about building it up with the tools and applications that will make it happen.

Download as PDF (2.2Mb, 24pp, published January 2009)

Conceptualising ePortfolios

JISC (UK) has recently released ‘Effective Practice with e-Portfolios’, the newest guide in the JISC Effective Practice series. (PDF download here).

The publication explores good practice in the use of e-portfolios as a support for learning. It is being launched in conjunction with an e-portfolios infoKit which covers the main drivers, purposes, processes, perspectives and issues around e-portfolio use.

For anyone interested in understanding what ePortfolios are, and what some of the different conceptual understandings of them might be, this is well worth a read. So to is the infoKit, which contains links to some great case studies, as well as links to related resources on Social Software and Effective Use of VLEs.

I recently attended a meeting in Wellington where the topic of ePortfolios was raised and where I was again reminded that before we can begin evaluating the usefulness or otherwise of ePortfolio Software it is important to understand just what we mean by an ePortfolio and how it is intended to be used. We had a presentation from Owen O’Neil (Manager of the Australian Flexible Learning Framework’s E-standards for Training Business Activity) titled: ‘what the e-Framework can do for you and interoperability standards for e-portfolios’ in which he introduced a Service Useage Model (SUM) for an ePortfolio that he has been a part of developing in the VET sector in Australia.

I really liked Owen’s SUM, it bore a lot of resemblance to the features of an ePortfolio described on page 7 of the JISC document (Understanding how ePortfolios Work), and focuses specifically on a three phase “collect-manage-present” model. As I listened it reminded me of the diagram I’d constructed as part of CORE’s ten trends for 2007 where ePortfolios were featured, so I thought I’d included it here for reference as it’s likely to become lost in the archives 🙂

Essentially, the model illustrates how artefacts need to be gathered from a variety of places where they have been created and possibly stored, then managed within a repository of some sort, and finally presented for different purposes. Important things here are that the portfolio process is (a) “owned” and managed by the individual, not by an institution or organisation, and (b) unencumbered by a lot of unnecessary extra features, most of which are present in a variety of other applications and environments.

Ten Trends for 2007


We’ve added a new logo on the right hand side of the CORE website -titled CORE’s Ten Trends for 2007

Clicking on this logo will take you to a list of ten trends that we’ve identified as being particularly important in 2007. The aim is to create some dialogue around some of the things that are happening in the NZ context regarding the use of ICT in education. The emphasis is on looking at the bigger picture, rather than the things absorb our time every day at the “coal face”.

I will be using these ten trends as the focus of my Spotlight at the Learning@School conference this week, and would love to see plenty of contributions being made in the comments section at the end of each “Trend”.

Each month or so the CORE staff are going to expand one of the themes with further links and references to prompt a deeper level of participation and discussion. We’re sure to have missed some that people think are important, or included some that others think aren’t – all of which should make the discussion fuller and richer!

e-Portfolios and assessment strategies


The latest edition of ‘innovate’ has just been released, and this edition focuses on online assessment and effective course design, the value of e-portfolios as dynamic records of academic and professional development, and the creative use of synchronous communication tools for online tutorials.

This issue is very timely, with the upcoming EiFEL e-portfolio conference happening in Wellington at the end of March where we’ll get an update on Mahara, an open source e-portfolio product that has been developed here in NZ with money from the eLearning Collaborative Development Fund (eCDF). (See details in a previous entry)

I enjoyed the article by Cara Lane titled The Power of “E”: Using e-Portfolios to Build Online Presentation Skills. Cara uses research from the University of Wisconsin on how students approach e-portfolios to illustrate how students understand e-portfolios in relation to social Web spaces, how e-portfolios allow students to increase their understanding of Web conventions, and how e-portfolios serve as a means of fostering multimedia literacy. The student-centred approach highlights different issues than those commonly discussed in the academic literature; instead of discussing reflection or standards for example, students emphasize design and audience.

I also liked Judith Boettcher’s article titled Ten Core Principles for Designing Effective Learning Environments: Insights from Brain Research and Pedagogical Theory in which she summarizes ten principles based on recent research integrated with traditional principles of pedagogy and instructional design. It’s always useful to read someone’s attempt to ‘organise’ the thinking that is emerging from a number of perspectives. For me this article provides a useful framework to inform some of the discussion around ‘formal’ vs. ‘informal’ learning, as what Judith is focusing on here relates to what she calls “structured learning experiences”.

ePortfolio roundup


ePortfolios are a hot item in the news this week with several items worth noting. One is the posting of the ePortfolio Project and Mahara Update No.3 on eduforge which got a mention by Stephen Downes who also points to a powerpoint presentation you can download for more information.

Mahara is is a collaborative venture funded by New Zealand???s Tertiary Education Commission???s e-learning Collaborative Development Fund (eCDF), involving Massey University (lead provider), Auckland University of Technology, The Open Polytechnic of New Zealand, and Victoria University of Wellington. The project is charged with developing an open source ePortfolio application and to provide implementation strategies for the New Zealand tertiary sector – although it is clear that what is being developed will have much wider appeal, both nationally and internationally.

A Review of the Literature on Portfolios and Electronic Portfolios (.pdf) that was completed as part of the Mahara project has also been released. it provides an overview of benefits, functions, and successful criteria of portfolios, and an exploration of portfolio use in teacher education, medicine, and nursing. The second half of the report explores eportfolios (the section on benefits is quite thorough).

Also recently released is the EduTools ePortfolio Review, a review of seven ePortfolio products on the behalf of seven partner institutions or systems of institutions. I wasn’t able to locate a print form of the report, but there’s a link to a webcast featuring the research results of the ePortfolio project.

And lastly, a list of ePortfolio readings and papers posted on Helen Barrett’s blog. This includes an article from the Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology by David Tosh, Tracy Penny Light, Kele Fleming and Jeff Haywood titled Engagement with Electronic Portfolios: Challenges from the Student Perspective. A line from the abstract sums up a lot of my feeling about the use of ePortfolios in education:

If students do not accept the e-portfolio as a holistic means with which to document their learning in different contexts and more importantly, agree or wish to use the e-portfolio as an integral part of their educational experience, then the potential impact the e-portfolio will have on learning will not be realised.

e-assessment and e-portfolios


Helen Barrett recently posted a number of new articles about e-portfolios on her blog, one of which is Becta’s View: E-assessment and e-portfolios (pdf).

It’s an interesting read, with relevance to many of the educational issues that we’re confronted with here in NZ, including personalising learning and life-long learning.

The paper intro reads:

Within a few years,e-assessment and e-portfolios will be integral parts of modern learning and teaching.They are vital elements for personalising learning,with benefits for both learner and practitioner.E-assessment provides the flexibility for learners to strengthen their understanding of key concepts,and to formally demonstrate that understanding at a time that is right for them. E-portfolios allow learner and practitioner to track progress,carry evidence of their work across transition points (for example, from school to college),reflect on their learning and build a skills profile across a lifetime.
This document provides a short introduction to e-assessment and e-portfolios,how they might develop,and why Becta strongly believes that they will support engagement and achievement in learning. “

One of the things that caught my eye is the list of “Essential Functionality” that appears on page 5. The paper states that whatever e-assessment and e-portfolios may be used for in a local context, Becta believes that both should:

  • allow 24/7 access

  • be based on open standards
  • support nationally agreed interoperability standards
  • be based on functional specifications
  • be convergent with national approaches to MIS architectures in all sectors
  • be transferable across phases of learning
  • be usable over mobile and wireless technologies
  • be able to incorporate many different types of learning and evidence of learning, including multimedia files
  • allow the learner to maintain access to their learning and evidence of learning across a lifetime.
  • be built with accessibility for all learners in mind.

I really like the cross-sector emphasis here, and the reference to mobile learning. It’s a future-focused, ’embrasive’ position that I’d like to see inform what we’re doing here in NZ.

Model of portfolio differences

Portfolios for learning.jpg

Interesting entry from Helen Barrett on her e-portfolios for learning blog in which she introduces a model of portfolio differences. The model is a response to what she sees as a lack of understanding between the use of portfolios for learning and for accountability. The model stems from the work of Dr. Evangeline Harris Stefanakis in her book, Multiple Intelligences and Portfolios, which contains a diagram placing portfolios along a continuum of Learning and Accountability. The model combines Stefanakis’s diagram and some of Barrett’s work, and is called the Stefanakis-Barrett Model of Portfolio Differences (PDF)

I rather like what the model portrays – particularly because it emphasises a continuum view rather than a binary choice, and in this respect complements the thinking I’ve been doing and writing about on the scope of the online learning environment.(PDF dowload), and the continuum model I’ve developed to show the differences between established and emergent approaches within our education system.

ePortfolio Workshop

Thursday at the Alt-i-lab conference in Sheffield
Today I’m attending a full day of workshops on ePortfolios – this morning is with the team from the Open Source Portfolio Initiative (OPSI) who are sharing where they’re at with the development of the Open Source Portolio product. It was useful to work through the online demo of the OSP to be able to visualise the way this product works – this demo is available for anyone to access and work through, providing you with a number of demo logins that have been populated to represent the view of different individuals.

The focus of our discussions this morning are the standards that underpin the OSP development. Release 2 of the Open Source Portfolio (OSP) [software] already makes extensive use of Sakai services and is technically built on the Sakai framework. Release 2.1 is planned for March 2006.

I see a lot of potential with where this project is heading, especially for us in NZ where we have plans for the use of ePortfolios as part of the Early Childhood ICT Framework, and the advantage we have with the National Student Index )NSI) which means we won’t be faced with as many problems of data exchange between and among organisations and institutitions.

Having spent much of the week with the good folks from CETIS, I am interested
in the overview and explanation of the technical terms that Scott Wilson has provided on his weblog.

ePortfolios and Helen Barrett

BarrettBuzz.jpgI’ve just come from a most enlighttening morning of workshops with Helen Barrett (pictured here with “Buzz”!). Helen’s speciality is in the areas of Electronic Portfolios and Digitial Storytelling .

Something that I found really useful was Helen’s empahsis on the role of reflection, and her comment that “portfolios without reflection are simply a digital scrapbook.” Further, Helen distinguishes between the creation of a digital archive, and drawing from that archive to create portfolios for different purposes (eg. to document a learning journey, to provide evidence for assessment, or to support a job application.)

The other thing Helen does so capably is weave the practice of digital storytelling into the preparation of electronic portfolios – linking this in both practical and theoretical ways. The power of some of her digital stories had the group at our workshop really engrossed.

A key issue that arose in our workshop was the observation that there is an increased interest in portfolios for assessment, and that they are being used in ways that are not consistent with the ‘learner-owned’ models of self-review and self-reflection being promoted in Helen’s workshop. We discussed the tension between those who are wanting to use portfolios in a “positivist” way, where they have really been developed from within a “constructivist” paradigm.

I’ve added more of my reflections/notes from her presentation in my extended entry.