Organisational ePortfolios

I received an email from my colleague Eva Heinrich, from Massey University that EIfEL had the chance to welcome during a sabbatical year in France. Her email was about a research student who is looking for “requirements, proposal of new features of eP tools to support organisational learning.”

EIfEL has invited contributions on organisational ePortfolios for some time now. In the 2004 ePortfolio conference’s call for contribution we wrote:

“While paper-based portfolios have already been used by millions of people across the world, the ePortfolio provides an opportunity to explore new territories that go far beyond ‘paperless’ portfolio. The ePortfolio has been described as the toolbox for the knowledge worker, the foundations of organisational learning, the interface to communities of practice. New concepts emerge such as the ePortfolio of a course (e.g. linking alumni and teachers ePortfolio) the organisational ePortfolio as well as regions and cities ePortfolios.”

Since, very little has been published on organisational ePortfolios (22 entries on Google) and we had two case studies submitted at the last international ePortfolio conference (Maastricht 2007).

Why should we be interested in organisational ePortfolios and why such an apparent lack of interest?

If ePortfolios are a support for and an expression of reflective learning, then, if we agree with the idea that organisations learn, we should be able to elicit practices and tools that, one way or another could be connected to ePortfolios, even if they exist today under another name. What technologies for (reflective) learning organisations.

Reciprocally, if learning organisations have developed their own practices and technologies, what can we learn from them to imagine ePortfolios that are not mere paperless portfolios? For example, the ability to exploit tacit knowledge and informal learning processes.

The main problem with the development of organisational learning is the general lack of competence of many human resource managers and directors who, when planning the use of technology for learning, eLearning, are entirely focused on individual formal training, implementing (costly and overrated) learning management systems (LMS) to deliver pre-digested contents and collect responses to multiple choice questions as evidence of learning. For the vast majority of HR managers, learning is an individual formal process and only a handful have seized the opportunity of digital technology to design integrated eStrategies for individual and organisational learning.

Nevertheless, despite not yet competent HR managers and primitive usage of technologies, organisations learn — just like people learn without (and ofter, despite) computers and training managers. Some organisations might not be as effective learners as others, but the fact is that they do learn and many small and medium enterprises (SMEs) would have probably not survived if they had not done so. In a sense, a learning organisation is a redundant expression, just as a learning individual is. It is only once we are dead, that we stop learning and eventually rest in peace — unless our digital identity decides to have a life of its own…

So, where do we have a chance to find organisational learning technology? Based on what precedes, it must be a place with a lot of technology and innovation, while being free of HR professionals! As David Gurteen, quoted by Rob Lewis, explains: “HR professionals don’t seem to get involved in KM, and I don’t quite understand that, because HR is now probably one of the most obvious places for people in an organisation to drive it” I would assume that it is where we should be looking for.

Conversely, if KM is the place we should be looking for organisational learning technology and ePortfolio, this makes perfectly sense with one of the original ideas that an ePortfolio is some kind of personal KM system.

Individual learning, organisational learning, Individual KM, organisational KM, individual eP, organisational eP are certainly spaces worth exploring. If you would like to contribute to this reflection, please send us your views, articles and contributions to create a feed on this subject.

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