Saturday, August 19, 2017

ePortfolios for Australian Degrees

The Australian National University (ANU) launched its e-Portfolio system yesterday. E-portfolios have been in use in Australian universities for at least a decade, but are still not easy to use. QUT lead the Australian ePortfolio Project, which produced a 175 page report in 2008. QUT also produced a 41 page report in 2008 on what they were implementing at their own institution, which remains a useful guide for others to follow.
QUT identified three styles of student ePortfolios:
  1. Structured: predetermined framework of objectives to meet external / internal needs
  2. Learning / Dynamic: opportunity for self-audit, recording, reflection, feedback and on-going development
  3. Showcase: collect together, organise and present accomplishments...
From:  QUT's Student ePortfolio as a 'real world' learning tool, Harper, Hauville & Hallam, 2008
The type of e-portfolio I am most interested in is Structured, where the student can be guided through the requirements of a course, degree program, or professional certification, without being limited to completing fixed coursework or tests. Mahara's SmartEvidence may make this easier. This and could be used for courses, or whole bachelors, masters and professional doctorate degrees.
Problems occur with e-portfolios when the purpose is not clear. In particular a structured or learning e-portfolio is unlikely to be suitable as a showcase. The student's detailed work and reflections are unlikely to be of interest to a prospective employer, and may not be suitable for public release.
One problem is where the student is undertaking professional practice work in a real commercial or government workplace. The student's work can contain sensitive commercial or government information, which  instructors are permitted to see, but cannot be made public. In reflections, students can reveal much personal information, including mental illness, personal and family relationship difficulties, which are not suitable for release.

Also I don't agree with QUT's claim that "Writing reflectively is easy". Providing the digital tool is easy, but getting people to use it effectively is very, very, hard. In particular, reflective writing is not something which comes easily to STEM students, who have been trained to write in the third person from a neutral "objective" point of view. Reflection is something the students need to be trained to do, supported by a qualified teacher.

Athabasca University introduced an ePortfolio for MEd students in 2012. However, this was modified a few years later, in part due to the difficulties the students had in completing a portfolio (Hoven, 2015). It should be noted these portfolios were for students of education, well versed in writing. If anyone should be able to do an e-portfolio, it is an education student.

I was one of the cohort of students during the transition to the new Athabasca MEd e-portfolio process. We were given to choice of the old process, or the new and I chose the new. Rather than the e-portfolio being appended after then end of coursework, it was a capstone course. An instructor took students through stages of work, with peer feedback. However, even with this additional support, the e-portfolio process was not easy. Based on that experience, I hope to help avoid some of the problems with e-portfolios at ANU.


Hoven D. (2015, January 7). ePortfolios in Post-Secondary Education: An Alternate Approach to Assessment. UAE Journal of Educational Technology and eLearning. Edition 1. URL

No comments:

Post a Comment