Eportfolios: more than a digital resume

Allison Miller, eWorks Accredited ConsultantAllison Miller is a regular contributor to eWorks’ blog. Allison is passionate about providing learners with the knowledge and skills that they need in order to succeed in the world of work. Here she discusses ePortfolios, often misunderstood to be solely digital CVs, but in reality offering so much more.

Isn’t an eportfolio just a digital resume?

The concept of electronic portfolios or eportfolios has been around for nearly 20 years but still many educators grapple with what it is and how they could use it.

One of the main reasons for this is that an eportfolio is both:

  • a product – a digital collection of evidence which demonstrates a person’s learning, and
  • a process – a strategy to help people manage their own learning (Barrett, 2011).

Often people get hung up on the product and view an eportfolio solely as a digital resume or CV. This is because, as a personal online space which can be shared with others, people often only see the final product of the eportfolio, that is: the digital information and files which showcase a person’s experiences, achievements and knowledge – so you can see why people think this way.

In reality, however, it is the eportfolio process, or eportfolio approach to learning, which is the killer aspect of an eportfolio, so let’s unpick this through these five steps.

5 steps to an eportfolio approach to learning

An eportfolio approach to learning involves leading and supporting a learner through a five step, iterative process which helps learners learn how to manage their own learning. It begins with:

1. What do I want to achieve? – The answer to this question may have already been determined for the learner such as:

  • performance criteria in a unit of competency,
  • learning objectives/outcomes in a curriculum document, or
  • standards set by a regulatory or professional body.

Or, it might be working with the learner to set some personal or professional goals.

2. What do I need to do to achieve it? – This step is best done through using an action planning approach which helps learners to determine the steps, key milestones and resources they need to achieve their learning outcomes or the goals they set in step 1.

3. How will I know when I have achieved it? – This step is often overlooked by educators as they are the ones who decide whether someone will pass something or not, without even including the learner in this decision-making process. However, educators should help their learners recognise when they are competent or achieved their learning objectives. The best way to do this is by teaching learners how to recognise their own ‘picture of competence’.

A picture of competence is when someone is performing what is required of them in a job role eg a barista making the perfect flat white coffee. To help a learner recognise their own picture of competence, you need to deconstruct the picture of competence so a learner can recognise when they have achieved it.

This is best done by using a rubric which explicitly describes what people are doing or thinking when they have achieved their picture of competence.

4. What evidence can I capture to show that I’ve achieved it? – once learners recognise that they are competent or have achieved their learning outcomes or goal, the learner then needs to capture evidence of this achievement. In a digital age, learners can use a variety of ways to capture this evidence and keep it in their eportfolio, such as using:

  • An audio recorder on their mobile phone to capture reflective dialogue with others.
  • A digital camera or video recorder on their mobile phone or via a Go Pro type camera strapped to their head to capture live evidence of them doing something.
  • Writing blogs or online journals (either public or private) to capture what has happened on the job or at their work placement, or writing reflections of their learning journey through describing what they have achieved and why it is important.
  • Using Movie Maker, iMovie or Photostory to create digital stories about themselves and their learning journey.
  • Adding digital badges and digital certificates that they have received from their study, training or attending workshops.

5. How can I present this evidence to third parties in a way which meets their requirements? – This where the product part of an eportfolio comes in.

This step, however, isn’t just throwing together all of the evidence that a learner has gathered. It’s a thought out process which enables the learner to present their information in such a way that it demonstrates what they are capable of, and the presentation of this evidence will change depending on their audience.

This is where a good eportfolio tool comes in such as Mahara or PebblePad, as these tools allow learners to easily reuse and repurpose the evidence that they have stored in their eportfolio. This step also requires the learner to have good digital literacy.

Why use an eportfolio approach?

As a summary, an eportfolio is more than just the final output ie the online collection of evidence. It is the process which empowers learners to manage their own learning. In an era which requires people to have higher order thinking and problem solving skills (Australian Government’s “Ideas Boom” Innovation Agenda), an eportfolio approach provides a learning-centred approach to education and training.

In simple terms, the eportfolio approach is about:

  1. Goal setting
  2. Action planning
  3. Reflection
  4. Multi-media and file management
  5. Web presence development

To learn more about eportfolios

Quality assessment with LMS Gradebook

Allison Miller, eWorks Accredited ConsultantAllison is passionate about providing learners with the knowledge and skills that they need in order to succeed in the world of work. And part of good teaching is quality assessment. Today Allison considers the one of the best ways to manage the assessment process – LMS Gradebook.

Improving the quality of assessment in VET

Excellent Feedback Thumbs Up Review Like ApprovalThe Australian Government’s “Improving the quality of assessment in VET” agenda aims to identify reforms needed to improve the conduct of assessment in the Australian Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector.

This has come about as a result of audits and strategic reviews undertaken by the Australian Skills and Quality Authority (ASQA) which identified that Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) train well but assess poorly. This is because whenever an RTO is found to be non-compliant at audit, assessment was always an issue. While there are many components to a quality VET assessment system, one key component is effectively managing the assessment process itself.

Enter the Learning Management System (LMS) Gradebook

One of the best ways to manage the assessment process is by using a Learning Management System (LMS) Gradebook. Interestingly, this is the case even if the training program isn’t an online course. The LMS Gradebook replicates a traditional gradebook or marks book, where there is a list of learners’ names down the left hand side, and along the top is all of the assessment activities that need to be assessed. The matrix in the middle is then populated by your learners’ work, their results and your feedback.

What’s so good about the LMS Gradebook?

There are many ways the LMS Gradebook can improve assessment processes, such as:

  • All assessment information and criteria, together with the learner’s work, is all located in the one place, which you and your learners can access from anywhere and at any time.
  • The Gradebook enables consistency and quality as all learners across a training program are given the same assessment information and criteria.
  • Learners can provide comments about their work which the assessor can take into account when marking their work.
  • As soon as you mark your learners’ work and provide them with feedback in the LMS, this information is automatically populated into the Gradebook, and the learner is notified by email that their work has been marked.

Using the LMS Gradebook means that you have a record of all your learners’ work (evidence), their results (your assessment judgement) and your feedback all in one place. This means you can easily access this information to:

  • manage the assessment validation process
  • know where learners are up to in case a trainer leaves (or wins lottery or becomes ill), or
  • a learner disputes their results.

LMS Gradebook also helps improve assessment activities

As an LMS offers a range of individual and collaborative activity options that are linked to the Gradebook, you can draw upon a range of assessment methods such as:

  • assignments
  • quizzes
  • forums
  • instant messaging
  • groups activities: Database, Glossary and Wiki
  • importing external / customised tools / objects.

The types of assessment activity options available will depend on which LMS you are using and whether your LMS has additional ‘plug-in’ options.

Most standard files types are accepted by an LMS Gradebook, so you can accept a range of evidence types such as images, audio and video.

And it can even help improve learner’s work while reducing cheating

On the World Wide Web, finding and copying information or accessing other learners’ work and using it as your own is very easy to do. By using the LMS Gradebook with anti-plagiarism software you can discourage cheating and plagiarism as learners’ work is checked upon uploading. This software can also encourage learners to review their work properly for any glaring blocks of text which could be viewed as plagiarised before submitting it.

Sound like what you need?

Contact eWorks to find out more.


Digital badges: The future of tracking staff development

Allison Miller, eWorks Accredited ConsultantAllison Miller is a member of eWorks’ team of accredited consultants, and a regular contributor to eWorks’ blog. Allison is passionate about providing learners with the knowledge and skills that they need in order to succeed in the world of work. And this means all learners – whether they are straight out of school or adult employees. Today Allison considers the nature of workplace learning and how to provide evidence of this learning.

How do people learn in the workplace?

Highly successful companies know that being a learning organisation is a key factor in helping them face the daily pressures of remaining competitive in an ever changing business world. Using strategies such as developing a shared organisational vision greatly increases the likelihood of their staff working together to achieve a common goal, and thereby contributing to their overall success.

Research (O’Keeffe, 2002) shows, however, that a high percentage of learning in the workplace is incidental through every day problem solving and experimentation, and is less reliant on formal training. Team or shared learning through regular discussions, open communication and shared findings provides even better learning outcomes than traditional education and training.

The 70:20:10 framework of learning

More recently, this learning is talked about as being part of the 70:20:10 framework of learning, and it is fast becoming the preferred way to improve workplace performance (Jennings, 2016).  That is:

  • 70% of workplace learning and development happens through day-to-day tasks, challenges and practice.
  • 20% of workplace learning and development happens when working with others and from observing what others do or have learned.
  • 10% of workplace learning and development happens through structured courses and programs.

While this is a fantastic model and a number of learning and development teams are using it, the problem still lies in capturing and tracking the evidence of people’s learning, whether that be formal, informal or non-formal learning.  This coupled with the fact that formal education and training can quite quickly go out of date. So how can the age-old issue of easily managing and monitoring staff training and development be solved?

Enter the digital badge

A digital badge is an online image which holds important information about a person’s abilities and experiences which can be shared online. Beyond its Boy Scout Badge image, the digital badge’s killer app is its embedded metadata. This metadata holds all of the information about a person’s achievements within the badge itself. It also verifies the issuer of the badge, and if relevant, identifies when the badge ‘expires’ or if ongoing professional development is required, such as for a White Card or CPD.

On issue, the digital badges can be displayed by the receiver in a number of ways, through a digital backpack, in an eportfolio or on a website. This form of digital credentialing has many advantages over traditional paper parchments and academic statements in that they are linked back to the ‘source of truth’ of the issuing organisation, and are very hard to ‘lose’.

digital badgesCredits: Modern Communication by CURSOCH

How can digital badges help to track achievements?

Digital badges are perfect in the workplace to help manage people’s training requirements. Imagine each line manager having a visual dashboard of digital badges which showcases the training and achievements of each staff member, and most importantly, what they haven’t achieved.

As these digital badges evolve, imagine they could change colour to highlight when training was due to be updated or is out of date. These badges also enable staff to display their own training and achievements as part of their digital portfolio / resume.

So who’s using them?

Deakin Digital, subsidiary of Deakin University, are using this form of credentialing to allow people to digitally document the skills they have gained in work and life (Presant, 2016). Once learners have completed a full catalogue of digital credentials they can use their digital badges to gain a unit of study as a pathway to a graduate degree (NMC, 2016).

Allyn Radford, CEO of Deakin Digital, describes this method as moving an organisation’s learning capabilities from being a black box, where you can’t see what’s inside, to that of a glass box, where leaders can see everything that their staff can do (and need to do).

The Australian Institute of Training and Development (AITD) have implemented digital badges to recognise the contribution and achievements of learning and development professionals. Badges are issued to AITD members, to participants of AITD’s events and activities; to people who contribute to the running of AITD, and to the finalists of their Awards program.

Even Samsung has jumped on the bandwagon by issuing digital badges to reward staff for completing product based training.

Is it hard to get started using digital badges?

It’s REALLY easy to get started with digital badges if you are using a learning management system (LMS) such Moodle and Totara, as these systems already have built-in digital badge issuing capability. Partnered with their sister products, Mahara and Totara Social, receivers of the organisational issued digital badges can host them in their own online learning space as an all-encompassing digital badge organisational solution.

The difficulty comes if you would like to design and manage your own badges, and/or embed more sophisticated meta-data, but there is plenty of help around if you would like to go down this path.

Where to next?

First and foremost, it is crucial to consider the importance of being a learning organisation with regard to the success of your business, and how you are managing that now. Is there room for improvement, especially in meeting compliance? If there is, review some of the links in this article and do some of your own research to learn more about digital badges.

Alternatively, contact the eWorks team to discuss how you can use digital badges to track and manage your staff’s development.

7 days of Moodle tasks: Be ready for the new year

Allison Miller, eWorks Accredited ConsultantAllison Miller is a member of eWorks’ team of accredited consultants, and a regular contributor to eWorks’ blog. Here Allison encourages us to consider what we should be doing to ensure that our Moodle courses are ready for 2016. Don’t worry, just one task per day for seven days and you will be set!

A smooth transition into 2016

When I was a child, there were a number of activities that my family always did to prepare for the end of year celebrations. Decorating the tree, hanging up stockings, being nice rather than naughty, and so on. Similarly, as an adult, there are things that I need to get done in my workplace before going on leave. Right about now I’m sure you know the feeling! These activities include cleaning and clearing up so that I am ready for the new year, and this tidying applies to my Moodle courses as much as anything else. Follow these seven days of Moodle tasks to ensure that you’re ready for the new year:

On the first day of Moodle tasks: Request and review student feedback through Moodle Survey

Every cohort of students is unique and different, so it is always important to ask for feedback from your students about their learning experience. Moodle Survey has a number of surveys that you can use to evaluate your students’ learning experiences and to help you reflect on whether the course design or your training and assessment approach could do with any further tweaking.

On the second day of Moodle tasks: Remind students to keep copies of their Moodle work

One thing I learned very quickly about being an online student was that once the subject finished the online course closed, preventing me from accessing my work in the future. This included posts to discussion forums, in wikis and glossaries and so on. To ensure I had access to my work after the course closed, I would copy and paste it into a Word document and save it somewhere safe. So, why not give your students the gift of this wisdom by encouraging them to do the same. You can share this wisdom through a post in the Moodle ‘News’ discussion forum as everyone receives these posts.

On the third day of Moodle tasks: Send students an end-of-year greeting through Moodle Messaging

All students like to feel that they are important to their teacher. This is especially important for online students, who might not have met their online teachers and tutors face-to-face. Take a little time to send your students a Christmas or end-of-year greeting through Moodle Messages. Sending this message makes it more personalised, as each student receives an email message from you. You can easily send all of your students a message through the Moodle ‘Participants’ block, but try to be creative in your approach. As Moodle Messages does not have a WYSIWYG editor, source some text art such as this image below, and copy and paste it into Moodle Messages, along with your Christmas greeting.

ascii star

Credit: ASCII Text Art

On the fourth day of Moodle tasks: Back up your Moodle courses

It is good practice to regularly back up your Moodle course, even if your organisation does a system-wide nightly back-up. This is because your organisation is very unlikely to roll back the whole system back up if something minor has gone wrong in your course. Backing up your Moodle course takes less than 30 seconds, and you should always download the backed up file and save it to another location outside of your Moodle course.

On the fifth day of Moodle tasks: Reset your Moodle courses

Resetting your Moodle course means restoring it back to its original format before any students start working in the course. The end of the year is a good time to reset your Moodle course so that you start 2016 with a clean slate. You can always access your 2015 students’ work by restoring the backup you did on the fourth day of Moodle tasks, so always ensure you do a back-up before doing the reset. Like the back-up, this process is quick and easy.

On the sixth day of Moodle tasks: Ensure your Moodle course is up to date

Content can quickly go out of date due to legislative, regulatory and industry changes and updates. Links to external websites or to internally housed documents can easily become broken links. Staff details and contact information can also change. Spend a little time reviewing your Moodle course content, links and staff profiles to ensure they are up to date.

On the seventh day of Moodle tasks: Make a Moodle course maintenance wish list

Like content, technology changes rapidly. With the release of Windows 10, any Articulate Storyline 1 embedded files in your Moodle course are now not able to be viewed. Similarly Adobe Flash, which previously allowed interactive content to be developed, is no longer supported by Adobe and has never been viewable on an Apple iOS device. Interactive content should be developed using HTML5. So on the seventh day of Moodle tasks, make a wish list of technical improvements for your Moodle course and log a job with your ICT support so your 2016 students have a seamless user experience in your Moodle course when they start in the new year.

And a partridge in a pear tree!

Now that you have completed your seven days of Moodle tasks you are ready for a well-earned break. Have a safe, restorative and fun holiday season, knowing that you are organised and ready to go in 2016.