'Users are at the centre of their e-portfolios… and without tight integration with, and concern for their uses and needs, e-portfolios will not be used.'
EPISTLE project final report (2007)
Undertaking an investigation and analysis before choosing your system in order to ensure that your e-portfolio system meets the requirements of stakeholders is an important process in choosing the right e-portfolio tool.
Considerations for choosing the right system
Selecting the wrong product or one that is not appropriate for institution-wide implementation can limit the impact of e-portfolios. In the Kent PLPP project staff were frustrated by using what they perceived to be an untested product which was in a ‘relatively raw state’. (Kent PLPP project Appendix F). The type of language used in the system can become a barrier for learners.
For example, in the myWORLD project, an e-portfolio implementation based on Sakai 1.5 found that the system was inappropriate because the interface had been developed for undergraduates in the United States. For non-traditional learners, this created a barrier and alienated users.
Deciding on requirements
A multi-disciplinary approach involving all stakeholders is essential to elicit system requirements. This will help ensure a greater level of engagement from users and that use of the system is maximised. Involving learners at this stage can provide a different perspective on the user interface. A clear set of requirements, including the goals for the project and pedagogic model of e-portfolio, will go a long way to a successful implementation. This approach is recommended by the ComPort project which emphasised that ‘it was vital to fit the e-portfolio to the needs of the learners and programme’.
It is important that system selection is not viewed as a technical project or a problem but involves pedagogy and organisational considerations as found in the EPICS project: ‘It is clear that the main issues were not just technical, but were about pedagogy, organisation and governance.’
In 2005 the then Department for Education, in conjunction with Becta and Jisc identified the following key features for e-portfolios (based on the concept of multi-user and multi-component):
- Users: learners, teachers, employers, examining boards, parents
- Components: learning space, record, plan, CV
- Transactions: planning learning, assessment, admissions
- Features: accessibility, secure, portable
- Requirements: user policy, strategic architectures.
Source: Wright (2005)
The EELLS project listed 5 tools which were the basis of their e-portfolio system:
- File repository: where users can upload, modify and organise documents such as multimedia files, images, photos and files
- Learner records: a non-editable ‘transcript’ which is downloaded to the e-portfolio from an academic institution’s student database
- Showcase and CV builder tools: these allow the user to provide evidence about learning, skills or competencies and to showcase these to a variety of selected audiences
- Personal Development Planning tool: the EELLS project used a PDP framework taken from the Learning Matrix portal
- Course catalogue: this would market courses that were available at the institution(s).
The University of Bradford undertook a formal evaluation of 2 e-portfolio tools before making their choice. They developed very clear and detailed criteria of their requirements which can be found on the wiki.
Our checklist later in this section includes a technical section for further consideration.