E-portfolio 2013 – a reflection from afar… by Rob Ward, CRA, UK

As one who contributed to the first e-portfolio conference in Brisbane in 2008 it is great to touch base, albeit virtually, again.  And listening from afar to the keynote presentations from ePortfolio Australia both confirms how small the world is and reminds us of some shared challenges.

Phil Long refers to the thinking of Serge Ravet, a key leader in our own Europortfolio initiative (http://www.eportfolio.eu/), and to initiatives (Open Badges and Tin Can) we see as important in enabling the representation of learning and development from the learner’s perspective.  Both he and Alan McAlpine suggest that, while e-portfolio technologies may continue to add value in the context of the emerging – maybe already here – learning paradigm, they are unlikely to deliver alone given the ‘world of multiple repositories and resources, some of which may prove more attractive to learners than institutionally bounded and focussed systems.

So far so familiar, so how do we work with this?  Two related ideas from the UK which may be of interest here, and are offered on a personal basis:

  1. We need to be clear about what might be termed ‘personal space’, ‘shared space’, i.e. what the individual is prepared to share with others (and who and on what basis) and ‘institutionally controlled space’ (i.e. containing marks and grades, and what wider achievements an institution of learning is prepared to validate or verify).  This is not new, or even particularly original, way back in the 1990s we spoke about such a configuration when considering strategic institutional approaches to recognising and recording student achievement in UKHE.  Portfolio systems can, but don’t always, relate to all three, of course.
  2. Related to this, we need to be thinking less about simple linear connections –e.g. between e-portfolios and employer selection systems, and more about how multiple sources contribute to views of ourselves and what we want to share with others for different purposes.  ‘Mash-up’, is as Alan McAlpine suggests, the game now in town.  In the UK we are currently working, for example, on how information held in institutional systems can be transferred by candidates into online recruitment systems, and how this can be added to / from other sources by candidates themselves.  Our experience is that universities, as organisations that – ultimately – assess and assure learning, are very important sources of information; it’s now about collating information held digitally from multiple sources for particular purposes, and the student/graduate/candidate, as the active agent, is at the centre of this.  It also changes the question, from ‘will employers ever use e-portfolios’ to ‘‘how might the information within the e-portfolio add value- alongside other information – to your application’.

From the Blog Editor: Thanks Rob … we may be many miles away geographically, but our thinking is so close.

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