Core activity 3.2: Recommending an eportfolio system

For this activity we are asked to provide advice to a learning provider in their choice of eportfolio system.  This is a situation I have been in many times in my role as an elearning advisor.  The following advice is based on discussions between my colleagues and me about the different types of eportfolio system available as well as on research and the experiences of others.  The scenario I will choose is a large Further Education Colleges who is looking to get an eportfolio system to be used with assessors on Btec and NVQ courses, for art students to have an electronic version of their traditional portfolio and to be used throughout the college as a way of planning future progression.

I would first suggest that they stop using the word eportfolio on its own.  The word ePortfolio means so many different things to different people, that using the word on its own causes confusion.  Instead I would use the terms assessment eportfolio, reflective eportfolio and presentration eportfolio.  Although most of the systems available can fall in to more than one of these categories, their primary focus is usually only of these.  If you are looking for a single system that will do a good job of all three, then you will be disappointed.  Although the initially obvious eportfolio solution would be to get a single system for everyone in the college to use, a one size fits all approach does not work.

There are a number of assessment eportfolio systems commercially available including onefile, eNVQ and PF Global.  There are also open source systems available which can be integrated with a VLE such as Mahara and MyStuff.  When using eportfolios for assessment there are usually large numbers of detailed criteria which the learner must met, which will be different for each course.  Commercially available systems would usually be able to provide templates for a wide range of courses making it clear for the learner what evidence is required, with artefacts being automatically cross referenced.   If you chose an open source system, it may be possible to edit these systems so they have similar features tailored to the requirements of specific courses, however this will take a great deal of skill and time by your technical staff, particularly if this is required for a number of different courses. Commercial systems also have the benefit of guaranteed support.  Although there is an online support network for open source systems, you might not want to rely on this for learners’ assessment, particularly as these networks are nowhere near as developed as other open source networks such as Moodle.  There are also a number of features you might want to think about when making your decision such mobile access, can the information be saved, transferred or accessed once the course has finished, what would happen to the information if the company collapsed?  I would get the various companies to the college and ask them questions before deciding which system fits the needs of your learners.

For a lifelong reflective and presentation eportfolios, open source systems such as mahara and Mystuff can be used, however if there are hosted internally, will the learner have access to them throughout their lifetime and will they have a sense of ownership? Commercially available systems such as pebblepad, provide a wide range of features and customisation options.  They also have options which allow the learner to continue to use the system after they have left the college or transfer the data to a system of their choice.  An alternative is to encourage learners to develop their own Personal Learning Environment (PLE) systems which can include blogs, social networks and media sharing sites.  Although this looses any sense of standardisation, it is the most likely option to lead to a sense of ownership and for the learner to continue using the system once they have left the college.

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