I would like to take the opportunity of a colleague’s request about ePortfolio standards and interoperability, to present EIfEL views on this issue.
Today, even if few ePortfolio suppliers are engaged in the implementation of existing specifications, those doing it generally do so within the context of a specific community, using what is called application profiles, i.e. an adaptation of a base specification to the particular requirements of this community. This adaptation adds a level of complexity to the issue of interoperability, as different application profiles of the same base specification do not necessarily interoperate…
The following list presents a series of application profiles that have been tested during previous ePortfolio plugfests organised by EIfEL:
- Employability ePortfolio (NL) is based on IMS ePortfolio (which includes IMS Learner Information Profile — IMS LIP). There is a discussion whether in the future the profile should rather be based on the next HR-XML V3 specifications which should cover ePortfolios.
Compliant Solutions: eXact Folio (Giunti), Winvision.
- UK Leap (UK) is based on IMS LIP (which is more restrictive than IMS ePortfolio). Even if this profile has been formerly standardised by the British Standards Institute (BSI) it does not benefit, yet, from an extensive implementation. A reflexion is engaged for a UK Leap Version 2 but it is not clear whether it will still be based on IMS LIP.
Compliant Solutions: PebblePad, ePet (University of Newcastle).
- HR-XML application profiles — there are a number of HR-XML application profiles dedicated to specific communities:
- iProfile (HR-XML CV profile), is implemented by SkillsMarket in UK, which hosts more than 2 millions CVs for recruiting agencies.
- GermanCV (HR-XML CV profile) is used by job boards in Germany.
- HR-XML Europass CV (EU) is a binding of Europass (a European CV format) using HR-XML specifications as well as external competencies definition based on IEEE RDC. Support of the European Language Portfolio is also under discussion. The work done by EIfEL in this area has contributed to address the needs specific to ePortfolio not yet covered by existing HR-XML specifications to elicit new requirements for the next HR-XML V3 specifications.
Compliant Solutions : ePet (University of Newcastle), Eurocv.eu, Kite, CVUniversel / Universal CV (the implementation has just started, and a presentation will be made during the next ePortfolio & Digital Identity conference in Montréal)
- hresume microformat — It is used for LinkedIn public profiles (several million users). Microformats are a bottom-up alternative to XML standards (microformats can be defined and implemented by end users without the burden of standardisation bodies.
So far, I’ve just described data formats, but if you believe, like EIfEL, that ePortfolios are more than data and that they contribute to one’s digital identity, then it should be necessary to take into account what is happening in the field of social networks and social computing, Web 2.0, the emergence of new types of job boards, etc. Moreover, if you take into account the difference between individual ePortfolios (that could be developed with any kind of tools) and ePortfolio Management Systems (ePMS) that institutions need to manage a number of ePortfolios for specific processes, then a number of additional emerging standards should be taken into account.
- Identity Management such as Liberty Alliance federation of identities and services, OpenID or CardSpace will play a central role in the seamless exchange of information across services used by ePortfolios.
- Interoperability frameworks such OpenSocial (used by Google, Plaxo, etc.) and Dataportability.org are emerging and open a new kind of door to the exploitation and sharing of personal in a professional perspective.
This is just a rapid overview of ePortfolio-related standards. In the next posts, we will go into more details to open the discussion on the future requirements for ePortfolio standards and interoperability. The conversation will also take place during the next Montréal conference.
NB: for all those who would like to know more about the subject of interoperability while being refrained by its technical nature, I would like to encourage you to go beyond your inital reticence. The lack of interoperability is generally more the result of misunderstanding or lack of human will rather than the lack of understanding of technical details or technical issues. We need You!