Flexible Learning requires portfolio-centred course design.

ePortfolios, and indeed their analogue counterparts, allow learners to make selections of educational evidence, bring them together so that the learner self-manages their reflections, progress and learning journey. They can also be used as tools for storing and sharing assessment, academic records and certifications.

I recently had a discussion with a colleague who advocated LinkedIn as a portfolio platform for vocational tertiary learners. That assumes that learners are ready to share the results of their endeavours, to present themselves to the world. A networking portfolio. That is one facet of a good portfolio tool. The process of selecting artefacts to share, writing articles and posts for LinkedIn is certainly advantageous for established and confident learners, but it is not suitable for the vast majority. LinkedIn is a professional social networking platform first and foremost, and an effective one, but it is not an ePortfolio for learners.

An effective ePortfolio tool is essential for contemporary learners in an environment in which digital forms of learning are ubiquitous. The ability to bring together, to aggregate, all forms of informal, non-formal and formal learning is something any serious educational provider needs to consider now.

An ePortfolio tool could provide the backbone of all the diverse provision across work-based, distance and flexible forms of learning. It diminishes the importance of where specific learning experiences are sought, which platforms students are required to logon to access their learning content, and instead provides a single reference point. ePortfolio tools that can be linked to any number of different virtual learning platforms and commercial storage options (Google Drive, OneDrive, Dropbox, etc), that enables artefacts to be selectively shared or kept private already exist.

The Mahara ePortfolio ( https://mahara.org ) environment is one of those New Zealand government funded initiatives that, despite a lack of ongoing investment, has continued to exist simply because it is fundamentally sound. I am merely a user of Mahara and have no commercial or other vested interest in the platform. But I am beginning to anticipate how useful, and central, it could be to the mission of all educational providers if serious attention and investment was made into the Mahara platform. Learners would be able to logon to their ePortfolio, in effect as their personal portal, and be able to search across all provision, from micro-credentials to full degrees, across all modes of delivery. Learners would be able to add options to their ‘wishlist’ and could submit it for career advice. Learners would be able to move across different modes and locations as life intervenes. With some further integrations and a bit more UX development, learners would be able to upload images and video from the construction site, kitchen or orchard. Learners would be able to talk to other learners outside of their cohorts or courses, across providers and their platforms. With some additional investment Mahara can be used across all forms of ePortfolio use in vocational learning.

Portfolios can provide a personal profile, serve as a capstone portfolio for a qualification, a reflective space and a store for artefacts. It could also be used as a portal for other assessment and learning resources.

Flexible learning requires a portfolio-centred approach to learning.

Photo by Milad Fakurian on Unsplash

Author: Simon Paul Atkinson

30 years as an educational strategist, academic practitioner and developer, educational developer, educational technologist, and e-learning researcher. Simon is now an Educational Strategic Consultant. An experienced presenter and workshop facilitator. Previous roles include Head of Learning Design at the Open Polytechnic of New Zealand, Associate Dean for Teaching and Learning (BPP University), Academic Developer (London School of Economics), Director of Teaching and Learning (Massey University - College of Education), Head of Centre for Learning Development (University of Hull), Academic Developer (Open University UK)

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