17th February 2006 at 00:00
Pete Roythorne looks at e-portfolios and their future

The idea of e-portfolios isn't a new one - students having their own learning spaces on a central computer where they can store their work as a record of their achievement has been around in higher education since the mid-90s.

However, you've probably noticed they've gained prominence recently with plans to extend this concept and use it as a cornerstone for lifelong learning.

The idea is to have a centralised archive of all an individual's achievements in text-based, graphic or multimedia forms. The data need not be just academic, it could also contain information about the individual's learning styles, examples of the individual's work and links to awarding bodies to verify qualifications. A personal e-portfolio could also store details of voluntary work or sporting activity.

Storage could be on anything from a personal webspace, weblog (blog) or Wikis (shared space which others can access and add comments) to a template for storing evidence of achievement.

The new plan is that these e-portfolios will be portable and follow the individual throughout their education from school, to college, to university, to professional development and into lifelong learning, helping build not only an education profile but also a skills profile, allowing you to present digital evidence of progress to others. The portfolio could contain academic achievements as well as presentations, job or course applications or a CV.

The benefits of e-portfolios range from supporting the management of a variety of achievements and pieces of work and giving appropriate views of achievement and work to appropriate people, to providing learning continuity as a person moves between establishments.

These ideas are in the early stages of development and there are huge technical issues surrounding not just the storage of all this information (potentially having to cater for every UK resident), but also around areas such as access, authentication and security - not to mention how the portfolios are transferred between establishments. If you happened to stroll onto the Becta stand at BETT and picked up the Becta's View E-assessment and e-portfolio leaflet you'll know that building a digital infrastructure to support this is one of their main aims.

We may be someway off the fully portable e-portfolio, but they are gaining creedance throughout the education system.



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