In a previous post (The ePortfolio is dead? Long life to Digital Identity! (1)) I expressed the idea that a fully developed ePortfolio is in fact a digital identity and that most of the so called ePortfolios are little more than paperless portfolios. What I would like to do in this post is reflect on (some of) the consequences in terms of technologies and solutions and respond the the questions: do we still need ePortfolio Management Systems (ePMS)? Or, formulated differently, do we need to replace ePMS with DIMS (Digital Identity Management Systems)?
First, I would like to reassess something that I’ve been repeating for some time now and formulated in a position paper: there is a general misunderstanding on the difference between ePortfolios (which belong to individuals) and an ePortfolio management systems (which belong to organisations) — here I use ePortfolio in the restricted sense of the term, not as synonymous to digital identity. In order to create you own digital portfolio, you can do a simple bricolage using any kind of digital tool, from a simple blog to a sophisticated website publisher.
The limit of bricolage appears quickly when a certain level of management is required:
- exchanging data with a potential employer or a job board (having a portfolio HR-XML compliant will be a necessity)
- managing a large number of ePortfolios in an institution or in processes requiring quality control — think of the NVQs (National Vocational Qualifications in the UK) where nearly 500,000 qualifications are delivered each year on the basis of a portfolio — and a growing number of ePortfolios
If the level of management required is for a small group then a simple RSS aggregator (many tools provide RSS feeds) might be sufficient to monitor the changes in almost real time. If you need to manage multiple level of accesses (for parents, teachers and pupils in schools, for peers, colleagues and managers in a company) then a bricolage might not be effective. If you live in the UK and you have some responsibilities in the field of National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs), a bricolage is definitively not an option if you care for quality control and are costs conscious.
I see a bright future for ePortfolio platform providers. Organisations, regional authorities will need tools to facilitate the management of large cohorts of pupils, students or employees, they will require software solutions dedicated to the management of specific documents (portfolios) and processes.
I see an even brighter future for DIMS (Digital Identity Management Systems). Just have a look at current social software (Gaia online, FaceBook or Linkedin) and you might have a hint of what I mean…