By Paul Taylor, Sr. Product Manager
You probably hear a lot these days, at least in the last few years, about ePortfolios. Experienced educators probably read about them with a worry smile as we have heard about them for many years and they have never really delivered on their promises. Most industries, not just education, are awash with technology that claims to be the bright young thing which will change their world. For me though, the difference with a proper ePortfolio is that it is made by me and for YOU (whoever that might be). Most LMSs (Learning Management System) are very top down. My teacher/trainer/manager gives me stuff to do, I do it, and I get something for it. However, there is little in most instances of the ME in what I do. I respond to some instructions and give the best material I can, but it might not be the best impression of me. It will likely never show you, or anyone, what I really am.
There are a lot of good studies on ePortfolio use and practice which talk about “ineffable skills” These are the skills and experiences that are difficult to measure but are essential for life skills. Many higher education institutes will award degrees to students which say they are a Bachelor in subject X, but it will not say a great deal about how good they are at leading teams and motivating their peers; it will not give a clear and rounded picture about who you are about to employ. Yes, these may well be garnered at the interview stage, but even here it might be difficult to really gauge who or what this person is or might be. It is here that an ePortfolio comes into it’s own. I can incorporate all my formal skills and experiences as part of a resume page. I can incorporate some of my best material, with peer feedback and critical reflection from me and others as to why it is there and what it shows. I can have videos of myself winning sporting trophies, not just saying that I have won them. Using an ePortfolio system that has social networking capabilities, I can incorporate into my ePortfolio on-going discussions with people in various walks of life that act as mentors and guides. These people may be specialists in their fields, but this would never be shown in a traditional application process.
The other great aspect of a digital portfolio is that it can be truly a lifelong learning experience. As an elementary school student I start collecting my digital artefacts and organizing them to show my teachers and parents. I then move on to High School and start collecting more experiences and best work, as well as reflecting on my learning, and use this in order to apply for a job or apply to a higher education institute. I continue adding to my ePortfolio. If I am at university, I use it to apply for graduate school. If I am in employment, I use it to try for promotion or to move to a better career path. All the while I keep adding and trimming the system and the materials in a way which reflects who, what, where and why I am me.
How would I use ePortfolios?
Here at Remote Learner, we love our ePortfolios and we, to quote one of our senior staff, “eat our own dog food”.
On our internal ePortfolio site we have professional development, but also personal groups to garner team building and support outside of the usual work related areas. In some instances, the group based discussions and interactions can lead to courses being developed on our internal training system (Moodle and ELIS of course) to plug up some identified skills gaps.
We also do some custom developments for our customers and show them how they can use this system, particularly when linked with Moodle or ELIS. The ePortfolio can be used as an assignment for example. The learners can click on t assignment link in Moodle and this will open up their ePortfolio. They then create and select a page of material for the assignment and this is linked back to Moodle. The person assessing the assignment clicks on their name and it take to this page in the learner’s ePortfolio.
In the image above, the employee here has created a page linking to their ePortfolio from ELIS-Moodle, and that page in turn is linking to their Open Badges backpack. The backpack displays the badges they have earned at other organizations, with the criteria for their being awarded. You can also see that the manager has given some feedback and a formative assessment back in the ELIS-Moodle site. Both systems are also matched in terms of their responsive theme design.
In order to allow end users to gather and display more in the way of competencies, we also incorporate the Outcomes functionality from Moodle. Once these outcomes are earned, they are automatically pushed out to the end user’s ePortfolio for them to incorporate into their pages they share with colleagues or others.
In this view, the end user is a student nurse and has been awarded some Outcomes from the ELIS-Moodle site which equate to nationally recognized Nursing competencies. The ePortfolio pulls these competencies in from ELIS-Moodle and automatically creates a drop down menu to display them. In terms a professional portfolio, the nurse can now use these, as well as her formative assessment grades, in order to apply for a job at a hospital or for promotion in her existing place of employment. This can be used by any professionals such as teachers, lawyers, doctors, early responders etc.
Once all of this material has been collected and organized, the end user can then use it to share with other people. These could be others in their own organizations, but could also be people outside of the organization. The ePortfolio is multi-institutional, which means that a local high school could link up with nearby colleges and companies and students could talk directly with people at these organizations in a closed and safe environment. They could ask the people at colleges to look at their portfolio and give them constructive feedback on what they need in order to get a college place. Equally, they could ask local employers what they need to concentrate on to get a job in e.g. engineering.
In this view, a newly qualified trainee teacher is putting together an interactive resume in order to apply for their first teaching position. The ePortfolio view can be exported as an encrypted link which means the person she sends the link to can see this page, but nothing else. The difference with a traditional application is that this one is “live”. The plans she is making and the discussion forums she is linking to with other teachers and her university tutors are all live and evolving, so the potential employers get a full view of their potential. The Resume on the left side includes goal and skills, and the view also includes video material, as well as links to learning plans and continuing professional development objectives. All of these were chosen by this person to reflect who they are and who they want to be.
If you are interested in seeing how we can help your learners or employees use this type of technology, please get in touch on our contacts page.