The value of ePortfolios in education is widely recognised. Gray (2008, 8-11) suggests that while the development of ePortfolios provides a mechanism for presenting reflections, experiences and achievements to others, they are equally useful as a personal documentation of an individual’s learning journey and that the reflective nature of the content developed still supports learning.
ePortfolios have been used sporadically across the university for some time but take-up has been limited due to the existing institutional solution proving to be inflexible and unengaging. Tutors within the university often found and implemented their own alternate ePortfolio solutions resulting in a plethora of unsupportable, unsustainable ePortfolios products.
A project was initiated to co-ordinate the expertise and views of the seven Academic Schools in order to identify a single solution that could meet the ePortfolio requirements of all disciplines within each School and fulfil the pedagogical requirements of tutors.
At an early stage, the decision was made to approach the project in a structured manner to comprehensively identify the requirements of the institution and to ascertain if there was a product that could fulfil these and provide a long-term sustainable, supportable and flexible solution.
Sutherland and Powell (2007) define e-Portfolios as “a purposeful aggregation of digital items – ideas, evidence, reflections, feedback etc. which ‘presents’ a selected audience with evidence of a person’s learning and/or ability”. While a literature search produced many such similar definitions, ePortfolios in reality are used for many different purposes.
It was important to identify the different potential applications of ePortfolios across the university in order to inform the development of a functional requirements specification. Various uses were identified through consultation with the Schools and an all-encompassing ePortfolio definition model developed. It was interesting to note that ePortfolio not only function as a learning technology, but also as a learning management technology.
Using the ePortfolio definition model as a basis, an extensive list of required functionality was then developed, pulling on the existing experience of the team and collaboration with colleagues at other institutions.
Potential product identification was next. Products which were already in service at the University were considered, along with commercial products and shareware solutions that had been successfully implemented at other UK institutions.
Commercial software providers were then invited to present their solutions and non-commercial products were evaluated by contacting other institutions with an existing rollout of these products. Each product was benchmarked against the functional requirements.
The results of the process were then collated and a management report with recommendations made available to the Vice Chancellors office. Of the solutions evaluated one clear winner emerged which could satisfy the requirements of all discipline.
This presentation will examine the triumphs and barriers encountered during the project life cycle and the project methodology that was used to evaluate competing products. It is likely that this methodology is transferable, and could prove of value to any institution wishing to define, investigate and evaluate competing solutions in any technology enhance learning related area including those looking to implement a central ePortfolio solution.
Barriers included the co-ordination of the time of various project members and individual preferences for incumbent systems, while triumphs included the development and acceptance of a single model that suited all disciplines. The methodology involved the development of a very precise definition of the product and functional specification upon which to base the evaluations.
Gray, L. (2008). Effective Practice with e-Portfolios. Retrieved October 27, 2012 from http://www.webarchive.org.uk/wayback/archive/20140615090512/http://www.jisc.ac.uk/media/documents/publications/effectivepracticeeportfolios.pdf
Sutherland, S., & Powell, A. (2007) JISCMail – CETIS-PORTFOLIO Archives. Retrieved October 29, 2012, from https://www.jiscmail.ac.uk/cgi-bin/webadmin?A2=ind0707&L=CETIS-PORTFOLIO&F=&S=&P=21258