EIfEL becomes a MultiplePortfolio (MeP) organisation

Until now, the issue of ePortfolio interoperability was mainly considered within the framework of documents export/import, hence the focus on data structures and the lack of appetite, except for EIfEL and very few others, to fully embrace identity and access management (IAM) as the central locus for ePortfolio interoperability.

In order to contribute actively to the design of state of the art interoperability solutions, EIfEL has decided to become a MultiplePortfolio (MeP) organisation, i.e. an organisation where each of our member will be able to choose their own ePortfolio platform while still being able to fully interact with the organisation and their peers to support their continuing professional development and recognition as professional members of the learning community. In doing so, EIfEL aims at being a life testbed, a benchmark for interoperability.

As an organisation wishing to represent all the actors of the ePortfolio community, unlike other organisations, it was not possible for EIfEL, even if we have our personal likes and dislikes, to select a particular platform to support the continuing professional development of our members. Moreover, many of our members already have their own ePortfolio system that they use within their organisation or institution and several already have to deal with multiple ePortfolio systems — e.g. a member of the Institute for Learning (IfL) who uses REFLECT, based on PebblePad, for his/her CPD might work at a college using eXact Portfolio to support teaching and Multi-Port to support the delivery of NVQs (just to name the 3 Gold sponsors of the 2009 Learning Forum London conference!).

Committed to become a fully functional MultiplePortfolio organisation, EIfEL will work with all the ePortfolio and learning technology publishers and providers to demonstrate the feasibility and benefits of an interoperability framework where individuals are free to choose the components of their own ePortfolio system while being capable of interacting with a number of different institutions across time (diachronic interoperability) and space (synchronic interoperability). A MultiplePortfolio approach is a necessity to territorial approaches, i.e. to the implementation of systems working across multiple institutions within a city, a district, a region or a state.

EIfEL’s MultiplePortfolio environment will be dedicated to supporting the continuing professional development (CPD) of our members validated through peer review of their CPD ePortfolio. Reviewing other members CPD portfolio is part of members’ own professional development to demonstrate assessment skills and gain an opportunity to explore a range of different professional practices.

EIfEL will provide its members with an environment to publish their ePortfolio(s), select the reviewers for their CPD portfolio and publish the outcomes of the review process —a choice of ePortfolio platforms will be offered to those needing one. EIfEL staff will mainly support the quality improvement of the review process, and interoperability.

As MultiplePortfolio organisation EIfEL will go through the following stages:

  1. At the initial stage, each ePortfolio platform will be independent from each other, so the reviewers of peers’ ePortfolios will have to register on different systems. The focus on interoperability will be on the ability to publish ePortfolios using RSS/Atom/RDF feeds, based on multiple formats (LEAP2A, HR-XML, Europass, microformats, FOAF, etc.) and packaging ePortfolios (ZIP, IMeP, etc.) for archive and verification —quality assurance. We will also be working on the systematic exploitation of unique resource identifiers (URI) to competency definitions hosted in shared repositories of occupational standards, so definitions will be independent from ePortfolio platforms and could be used for many other purposes, e.g. to post a job, set a 360° assessment, etc.
  2. The second stage will be the implementation of single sign on mechanisms (SSO), so a member already identified by EIfEL platform will be able to use the same identifier to review a colleague’s CPD ePortfolio. This will require ePortfolio providers to support IAM standard frameworks.
  3. The third stage will be the implementation of circle of trusts and attribute sharing. At stage 2, the granularity of access is the whole ePortfolio, while at stage 3, elements of ePortfolios can be shared with other members of the EIfEL community —and others. This is very convenient when members work together on a project and want to share evidence from their respective ePortfolios. Sharing evidence is one of the means to increase the trustworthiness of individual ePortfolios.
  4. The fourth stage of interoperability will be the provision of ePortfolio readers independent from the idiosyncrasies of the different platforms, so a reviewer will be able to browse multiple ePortfolios created on multiple systems, while having the same navigational and informational interface. This will be particularly relevant in specific processes such as the accreditation of prior learning (APL) when an assessor needs to review evidence against a number of occupational standards of competence.
  5. The fifth stage of interoperability will be the ability to create a seamless space between the different components of one’s digital identity in an Internet where individuals exist as autonomous and empowered entities, lifelong and lifewide.

Of course, EIfEL will be working on these different stages in parallel, in cooperation with ePortfolio publishers, clients and users, exploiting the outcomes of existing and future projects (like TAS3). We will be looking at establishing a quality mark for the ePortfolio and ePortfolio-related solutions that have demonstrated their interoperability within EIfEL’s MultiplePortfolio environment.

The MultiplePortfolio initiative will be launched during Learning Forum London, the international ePortfolio conference, 22-24 June 2009. Demonstrations will be made during ePortfolio plugfest and participants will be invited to contribute their reflections to this ambitious and challenging project.

3 thoughts on “EIfEL becomes a MultiplePortfolio (MeP) organisation

  1. Quite a challenge if I have understood it correctly. Assumption: unlikely that we will ever converge on a ‘standard’ ePortfolio, therefore we use the technology to enable learners, all using different ePortfolio tools, to benefit from the ePortfolio process.

    Sounds eminently sensible to me, reinforcing the message that if it is the ePortfolio process that has value for learning, we should develop tools and techniques that support the processes and allows the learner to select the ePortfolio tool that suits them. After all, by allowing them to have choice and voice as the select the learning tools that they ‘want’ to use we will be supporting the ‘personalisation’ agenda.

    Reflection is essential to the ePortfolio process; being able to share and enter into a learning dialogue about their reflections, thinking and planning reinforces the value of reflection and supports learning. Anything that makes it easier for learners to do this, regardless of their choice ePortfolio tool, must be good.

  2. I Agree with you John. We shouldn’t aim for a ‘standard’ ePortfolio —that’s my idea of a 1984-like nightmare. We want standards that empower individuals in the management of their personal assets, independently from any platform. The same piece of evidence can be used, not only for multiple portfolios, but for work, life or fun. There should be no need to upload at any time any piece of evidence into any ePortfolio Management System. We want an environment where we can organise our assets the way we want, with the tools we like. On the other hand, we should be able to easily compile an ePortfolio for a job, to get a qualification, etc. But the way to do it should be by simply using references to things that are in my world wide repository, and not limited to the straight jacket of current ePortfolios management systems.

    ePortfolio management systems should only deal with references to external objects accessible through a URI (unique resource identifier, that can be a simple URL). These external objects should be enriched with meta data, like link to competencies, as well as any other meta data that are relevant, independently from any ePortfolio purpose.

    So the role of ePortfolio platforms should not be the management of assets, but of part of their metadata, those relevant to the purpose. For example, if a piece of evidence has been accepted by a reviewer, it should be possible to simply add this information to the piece of evidence. As the piece of evidence can be anything and can’t be modified (as this would change other data, such as the modification date), it is possible to create a set of metadata that are connected to this element through a URI. This is more of less what happens with social bookmarking. Pages are being enriched with metadata that are stored somewhere else. This is the service ePortfolio management should provide. Like that, any institution could accept that everyone chooses his/her own ePortfolio management system. Just like you can chose today your own social bookmarking system.

  3. Serge,

    I welcome this venture and hope that this will enable e-Portfolio developers to establish a community of practice whereby we can test out the effectiveness (or not) of the interoperability of our various tools.

    I hear stories of an institution exporting from one system but files not being importing by another system. And then, of course is the IMS/SCORM/SIF/LEAP2 debacle (apologies if I have missed out any other systems!)

    I just wonder how many years it will take to develop effective interoperability?

    Best Wishes,
    Ray T.

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