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Open Resources for Implementing EPortfolios in Higher Education

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AUTHORS: Lourdes Guàrdia, Marcela Maina, Elena Barberà and Ivan Alsina

1st International Workshop on Technology-Enhanced Assessment, Analytics and Feedback (TEAAF2014)

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Open Resources for Implementing EPortfolios in Higher Education

  1. 1. OPEN RESOURCES FOR IMPLEMENTING EPORTFOLIOS IN HIGHER EDUCATION AUTHORS: Lourdes Guàrdia, Marcela Maina, Elena Barberà and Ivan Alsina. 1. Introduction Having models and strategies for assessing and accrediting the competencies developed throughout life, whether in the formal or informal educational field, or in professional and social settings, is an issue that is constantly discussed given the benefits that it would bring to the different actors. The theme addressed in this seminar has motivated us to share the experience that is being carried out within the EPNET (European Network of ePortfolio Experts and Practitioners), a European funded project. The main aim of EPNET is to develop a constantly updated European learning space focused on the design and use of ePortfolios. This is being achieved by bringing together the European community of ePortfolio experts and practitioners and developing a Learning Community Portal as a space to publish, share and review data and resources on ePortfolio practices and technologies (the portal is available at: http://www.europortfolio.org/). Within this framework, we have developed a variety of resources for those interested in starting to use ePortfolios or who are already using them but would like to improve their practices. Indeed, while studying the different uses of ePortfolios, we noticed that they are being used to extend evaluation of online learning as a methodology, not just as a final assessment or accreditation, but also as a strategy for monitoring the learning process. Unfortunately, there is still no comprehensive and accepted definition of what an ePortfolio is (Balaban, Mu & Divjak, 2013). This is probably due to the wide range of ePortfolio uses, purposes, contexts of application, potential users, underpinning technologies, and so on. To overcome this issue, Guàrdia (2014) provided a definition designed to be as inclusive as possible and highlighting the complexity of ePortfolios: “An ePortfolio is a strategy or tool that displays a selection of evidence in relation to the competencies that a person or an organization has developed over a period. Depending on the purpose of the ePortfolio and the intended audience, the selection and presentation of evidence can consider elements of reflection and the use of different media formats facilitating their understanding, visualization and evaluation” In a wider sense, an ePortfolio offers an opportunity to create and manage an online space for digital artifacts (including documents, graphics, audio files, videos, reflections, feedback, ideas, and so on) that provide evidence of students’ knowledge, skills, competencies, experiences, and achievements. Thus, an ePortfolio may provide both evidence of a person’s learning and his/her reflections on that process. It is important to note the potential of ePortfolios for promoting Personal Development Planning (PDP), Continuing Professional Development (CPD) and the Accreditation of Prior Learning (APL). In Higher Education (HE), ePortfolios are usually used as a tool/strategy for making student learning and assessment more user-centered, allowing students to manage their own educative journey over time. Simultaneously, ePortfolios help teachers to observe students’ work and processes over a specific period of time (López-Fernández & Rodríguez-Illera, 2009). As stressed by Barrett (2010), an ePortfolio offers many
  2. 2. features which support both summative assessment (at the end of a program) and formative assessment (during the process of learning). It is generally agreed that ePortfolios can be used by students as a method for presenting evidence of learning so that the teacher can evaluate or accredit the development of competencies or skills defined in a specific formative curriculum. Despite ePortfolios’ great potential for assessing and recognizing competencies, this important fact has received scant attention until now. New resources, instruments and tools are still needed to help teachers and/or institutions implement and improve (when necessary) their practices with ePortfolios. This is precisely the main aim of our work in the EPNET project. 2. Objectives The main goal of the present work is to develop a variety of resources for teachers and/or educational organizations interested in using ePortfolios as a means to recognize and accredit competencies, recognize prior learning or improve their traditional assessment strategies. The resources could be used by those unfamiliar with ePortfolio design to help them identify potential uses, purposes, best instructional designs, and supporting technologies or to determine which teaching/learning strategies may be implemented. At the same time, the resources being developed are designed to help teachers and institutions analyze their current use of ePortfolios and identify areas for further improvement. 3. Methodology To develop the materials and resources mentioned above we followed a number of sequential and gradual steps. First of all, and given the lack of up-to-date literature reviews on ePortfolios, we conducted an Integrative Literature Review (Torraco 2005). This method allowed us to review, analyze, criticize and synthesize the representative literature on ePortfolios in a structured way. As a result, we detected the main types, purposes, contexts of application, technologies, potential owners, and intended audiences of ePortfolios. Then, after reviewing the literature, an Expert Panel Assessment method was applied (Swales and Harris, 1995). Seven international experts on the topic were enlisted to extract new ideas, suggestions and proposals which were integrated into the results obtained during the reviewing phase. This methodology allowed us to develop both a document on the state of the art and a conceptual map of the uses and purposes of ePortfolios (see Table 1).
  3. 3. Table 1: ePortfolio Conceptual Map These initial steps provided the basis for developing a variety of resources aimed at improving existing practices with ePortfolios. In the next section we briefly describe the main results of our work. 4. Results As a product of the previous work, we developed a variety of resources on ePortfolios: an ePortfolio and Open Badges Maturity Matrix, an ePortfolio Competency Recognition and Accreditation Framework, and an ePortfolio Introductory Course. All these resources will be available through the EPNET community portal. We believe that these results can help us reflect on the role of ePortfolios as a fundamental strategy of eAssessment, projecting their benefits beyond the learning process in the classroom and connecting them with the social and professional environment of those being evaluated, thereby adding a different dimension to the evaluation. 4.1 ePortfolio and Open Badges Maturity Matrix The matrix was designed to help individuals, organizations, communities and public authorities to reflect on and improve the use of technologies for learning, with special focus on ePortfolios and Open Badges. The matrix consists of a set of structured levels and dimensions that describe how well the behaviors, practices, processes, and services of an individual or an organization can reliably and sustainably produce required outcomes. It can therefore be used as a diagnostic tool by individuals and/or organizations to analyze how they use ePortfolios by providing guidance that allows them to identify which elements they can enlarge or improve, when necessary. The matrix maps out the complex nature of learning in relation to:  Two contexts: formal and informal.  The spaces: learning, working and social spaces.  Four components: learning, technologies and their combination in ePortfolios and Open Badges  Five maturity levels: Not Yet Started, Aware, Committed, Established and Advanced.
  4. 4. 4.2 ePortfolio Competency Recognition and Accreditation Framework The use of ePortfolios for competency recognition and accreditation is an important area that has received scant attention in specialized literature. To overcome this barrier, we have drafted a document that identifies the policies, concepts, artifacts and instruments that could potentially be integrated into a coherent Competency Recognition and Accreditation Framework of Life Long Learning. The document is structured in five blocks:  ePortfolio artifacts and technologies that could support recognition and accreditation.  Levels of competency recognition and accreditation through ePortfolios.  Organizational units that recognize and/or accredit competencies.  Differences in accreditation across contexts.  Suggestions on how to integrate ePortfolios into accreditation processes. In general, the document aims to enhance the systemic approach towards using ePortfolios as a means to recognize and accredit competencies. From our experience as teachers and users of ePortfolios, we believe that their they show undeniable potential as a tool for accrediting skills. We often need to recognize the experience of some of our students but we do not know how to do it. There is no standard to guide this process and often the evidence required by educational institutions does not demonstrate the skills we are seeking to test, it is simply a series of certificates or documents without much value. 4.3 ePortfolio Introductory Course The introductory course provides an entry point to the subject of ePortfolios for non- expert users and/or early adopters. Specifically, the course is targeted to those who use or support others’ uses of ePortfolios: learners, teachers, educational institutions, employers, educational authorities and policy-makers, answering to their practical interests, theoretical concepts and practical models. This course is divided into seven learning modules with a total workload of 3 ECTs. All the modules are usable as self-study resources or can be integrated by teachers or facilitators into existing courses. In addition, to provide high levels of flexibility, the modules can be read selectively according to the interests, concerns and goals of the reader or progressively to build up a greater understanding of ePortfolios. Finally, it is important to note that learning modules are focused on real tasks and produce actual results (such as sustainable practical artifacts) that can be collected in the learners’ individual ePortfolios and shared with others. The introductory course is open (throughout the EPNET portal) and available in a variety of languages: English, Croatian, Danish, French, Dutch, Polish and Spanish. 5. References Balaban, I., Mu, E. & Divjak, B. (2011). Critical success factors for the implementation of the new generation of electronic portfolio systems. In Proceedings of the ITI 2011 33rd International Conference
  5. 5. on Information Technology Interfaces. University Computing Center SRCE, University of Zagreb, pp.: 251-256. Barrett, H. (2010). Balancing the Two Faces of ePortfolios. Educação, Formação & Tecnologias, 3(1), 6- 14. Guàrdia, L. (2014). ¿Qué cambia cuando se evalúa el aprendizaje en línea? En Traspasando la Línea- Blog de El País. Avaiable at: http://blogs.elpais.com/traspasando-la-linea/2014/03/qu%C3%A9-cambia- cuando-se-eval%C3%BAa-el-aprendizaje-en-l%C3%ADnea.html López-Fernández, O. y Rodriguez-Illera, J.L. (2009). Investigating university students’ adaptation to a digital learner course portfolio. Computers & Education, 52, 608-616. Swales, S. y Harris, J.H. (1995). The Expert Panel Assessment Method (EPAM): a new tool for determining environmental flows in regulated rivers. A Harper, D.M. y Ferguson, A.J.D. (Eds.): The Ecological Basis for River Management. Wiley: Chichester, UK. Torraco, R.J. (2005). Writing Integrative Literature Reviews: Guidelines and Examples. Human Resource Development Review, 4(3), 356-367.