July 2nd saw the first public presentation of the ePortfolios & Open Badges Maturity Matrix, one of the outcomes of the Europortfolio initiative (www.europortfolio.org). This post reports some of the ideas that were presented during this webinar.
Why a Maturity Matrix?
A growing number of individuals and organisations are exploiting or planning to explore the benefits of ePortfolios and, more recently, Open Badges. What are the successful indicators of such an implementation? How does one implementation compare to another? What possible steps can be taken in order to improve current practices and technology?
While a number of reference documents have been published, in particular the very comprehensive guidelines from JISC and the Australian ePortfolio Initiative, notwithstanding previous attempts at creating an ePortfolio maturity matrix, there is not yet a consensus, within the learning professional community, on what could constitute a maturity model of ePortfolios and Open Badges implementation.
The maturity model underpinning the ePortfolios & Open Badges Maturity Matrix aims at being inclusive, i.e. recognising what people and organisations are doing today, while providing a framework for future improvement, so that learning practitioners will be able to state: “this is where we are today, that is where we want to be next year.” The main function of the Maturity Matrix is to provide a tool to facilitate the dialogue with practitioners, leaders in education and decision makers. If you are an innovator and feel lonely in your institution, you can use the Matrix to engage in a dialogue with your colleagues, learning community and community of practice. If you are an education manager, you can use the Matrix to review and/or plan the changes required to support effective ePortfolio and Open Badge practice.
The maturity model also aims at debunking some of the prejudices regarding ePortfolios, in particular the requirement to use something labelled ePortfolio Management System or ePortfolio Platform in order to support ePortfolio practice, an issue addressed (and IMHO resolved) a long time ago by a number of publications, in particular Evaluation of E-Portfolio Software by Klaus Himpsl & Peter Baumgartner Danube University Krems (2008). While organisations are perfectly entitled to have ePortfolio management systems, and probably should, they are not a prerequisite. There are organisations with no such systems that are very advanced in their practice — and conversely!
The other long called for debunking is the idea that without ePortfolios no reflective learning or practice is possible. While reflective writing is certainly a useful competency (c.f. in medicine professional education) it would be a mistake to equate reflection with reflective writing — mammoth hunters certainly reflected on their hunting practice! Reflective learning and practice can happen without any ePortfolio, and filling-in a field called “reflection” when uploading an essay or a piece of evidence is more a way to pay lip service to reflection than to encourage deep thinking…
How was it Produced?
After an initial review of ePortfolio literature, a number of questions were raised. A first set of questions were in relation to the complex nature of ePortfolios, which are at the same time products, processes, platforms and services. Could we define different levels of maturity for:
- ePortfolio products: is a scrapbook less mature than a blog?
- ePortfolio processes: is reflection with an ePortfolio more mature than without one?
- ePortfolio platforms: are Pebblepad or Mahara more mature than WordPress or Drupal — or conversely?
A second set of questions was related to the stakeholders: who is the audience? Learners, teachers, employers or policy makers? All of them?
A third set of questions was related to the wording and the aims: as ePortfolios are a means to an end (learning, employment, etc.), could we create an ePortfolio Maturity Matrix without using the word ePortfolio? As mentioned earlier, if one of the goals of ePortfolio is reflective learning (and practice), wouldn’t it be enough to establish a maturity scale for reflective learning without mentioning ePortfolios?
Another set of questions was also related to the wording, this time in relation to the inclusion of Open Badges —when the Europortfolio project was designed, Open Badges were still in their infancy. As Open Badges are now a key component of the ePortfolio practice landscape, when designing the maturity matrices, should we have different matrices for Open Badges and ePortfolios or could we write indicators mixing both (e.g. “A limited number of junior and senior staff have an understanding of the benefits of ePortfolio & Open Badges”).
A final set of questions was related to the function Matrix: should it describe current practice or suggest a model for possible futures, a tool to support the transformation required for the 21st education landscape, the ePortfolios and Open Badges being the catalysts to trigger this transformation?
Why this Structure?
After some discussion, the option chosen in the current version of the Matrix (which could be reversed if the feedback we receive goes into another direction) was to create a series of matrices related to:
- People-Teaching Staff
- ePortfolios — Technologies
- Open Badges
The first matrices (learning, assessment, people, technologies) address the underpinning elements of any ePortfolio and/or Open Badges strategy. There is no need to mention ePortfolios or Open Badges as they are the prerequisites to any (most?) ePortfolio or Open Badge practice. For example, techno-literacy (of teaching staff and learners) is certainly a key maturity indicator which has an impact on the other choices related to technology and pedagogy.
Only the last matrices make explicit references to ePortfolios and Open Badges. While some indicators are identical for ePortfolios and Open Badges, they have been kept separate as not all Open Badge practitioners use ePortfolios and conversely. There is one matrix related to ePortfolio technologies, and not to Open Badges technology. It is a work that remains to be done and I’ll provide indications of what it could look like in a future post.
What is the Rationale behind the Maturity Model
The maturity matrix has been designed to take into account the different contexts, spaces and components of learning.
The maturity model aims at taking into account learning whether it is intentional or accidental/incidental, whether it is formally recognised or not.
source: OECD, Recognition of Non-formal and Informal Learning
One important element of the reflection behind the matrix is the desire to take into account the recognition of learning, whether formal or informal, within the educational, social or working space.
Most of the time, when the words learning, informal, and recognition are combined into one sentence it is to address the formal recognition of informal learning (try a search on Google!). What about the informal recognition of informal learning? It is probably one of the most interesting lessons learned from Open Badges, i.e. the ability to place on a par the formal and informal recognition of learning, moving the centre of gravity of recognition from institutions to individuals and communities of practice.
The informal recognition of informal learning is not something new, it has happened for many years, e.g. when someone without an engineering degree has the title engineer in the payroll system and printed on the pay-slip. What changes with Open Badges is the ability to move this informal recognition beyond the current silos. An Open Badge provides the opportunity for everybody to create records of their achievements and make them visible to the world. With the ability to endorse Open Badges (a feature available soon), a simple mechanism will empower communities to establish trust networks for the recognition of achievements and competencies.
How to use and not to use the Maturity Matrix?
The objective of the Maturity Matrix is to help organisations and communities to use the opportunity of implementing ePortfolios and/or Open Badges initiatives to transform learning and the technologies are being used. This transformation might occur at individual level (one teacher), within a department, an organisation or across a whole region or nation — something necessary in order to fully exploit the benefits of ePortfolios and Open Badges.
The Maturity Matrix could be used by Marie, a science teacher, who wonders whether she could start using ePortfolios in her teaching, despite the lack of interest of her colleagues. She could use the Matrix to find supportive arguments to engage the conversation with her colleagues and management to extend her initiative beyond her class and/or discipline. It could be used by educational leaders willing to position their organisation and plan future developments, or by educational managers who have understood the pervasive nature of ePortfolios and Open Badges and are willing to establish a consortium beyond institutional boundaries.
The Maturity Matrix should not be used as a normative tool. It is very likely that some of the rubrics will not fit certain organisations and that they would like to ignore, rewrite or add rubrics. If this happens, then our mission will be a success!
What we have produced is a blueprint and a space for conversations, not just a conversation between the Matrix Designers and the rest of the world of education, but a conversation between all the actors of the educational community.
How Mature is the Maturity Matrix?
To use the levels of the maturity model (1 to 5), we are at level 3 (committed) and looking for the feedback of the community to move to level 4 (established). Once we will have collected the feedback (September 2014) we will publish a new version that will be used to create a self-assessment tool / 360° review tool, which in turn will be reviewed to help finalise the Matrix.
As suggested above, the Maturity Matrix will mature as through the many conversations it will have triggered. A tool for transformation should be able to be transformed itself!
The ePortfolios & Open Badges Maturity Matrix is accessible at:
- http://bit.ly/mmpdf – a pdf to download
- http://bit.ly/mmgdoc – a Googledoc open for comments. Editing rights will be provided to those willing to work with us.
The Europortfolio team is looking forward to your feedback, suggestions and criticisms. You are welcome to add comments, suggest alternative rubrics and matrices or remix entirely the Matrix*. You are also welcome to explain why we shouldn’t try to establish such a matrix!
* In that case, please provide a link to the new document
To produce the Matrix, the Europortfolio team has reviewed and exploited a number of documents, in particular the reports produced by The Australian ePortfolio Project, the Australian ePortfolio Initiative, Becta, JISC, EIfEL and SURF. The full set of publications will be available in the final version of the Matrix.
Slides of the webinar