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.

7 thoughts on “Conceptualising ePortfolios

  1. Good question, Richard. To be honest, i don’t have a ready answer for you as the field is still maturing. Mahara certainly began with all the right design concepts – but has expanded out to include a lot of social networking features etc which, in my view, make it a bit cumbersome. in saying that, this is one of the interpretations of a portfolio that is alluded to in the JISC document. I’m picking that in the future a lot more attention will be given to the portability of portfolios – allowing for the transfer between systems etc., but this work is still in its infancy. The MoE has recently put a pile of money into a Mahara trial with some schools, which paid for the future development of the product to suit the needs at school level, so there may be some advantage in starting there. The big thing is not to see anything you go with as being the be-all and end-all, but more of a temporary solutions, thus your artefacts need to be portable, and so too do your portfolios as they are collated.

  2. I was thinking of using e portfolios with my provsionally registered teachers as a way to collect evidence, readings, observations etc. The more I read about the, which by the way is not much and any suggested readings would be welcome, this seems like a good idea. Have you any comments?

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