Different perceptions about e-portfolio and PLE

Yesterday I had small chat with my colleagues from research group, mostly about e-portfolios. E-portfolio has been part of my work for several years and plays important part in my PhD thesis. I don’t consider myself as expert, but I feel quite confident about using e-portfolios for professional development.

But yesterday it seemed to me that my colleagues consider PLE (personal learning environment) and e-portfolio as something completely different. For the e-portfolio, I use the definition provided by the Helen Barrett: e-portfolio is an electronic collection of evidences that shows one’s learning journey over time and which can relate to specific academic fields or one’s lifelong learning. Learning journey can be seen as one’s formal and informal learning over period of time, it includes the developed or gathered resources, social networks and evidences of one’s competencies. These evidences may include written documents, photos, videos, reports on research projects, observations by mentors and peers, and self-reflections on one’s own professional activities. Barrett emphasizes the key aspect of an e-portfolio: reflection on the collected evidences, such as why it was chosen and what one learned from the process of developing e-portfolio.
And the connection between the e-portfolio and PLE has been done by the Attwell quite well who sees e-portfolio as the DNA of the PLE. And I have defined PLE for myself based on Fiedler & Pata who defined PLE as concept that entails all the instruments, materials and human resources that an individual is aware of and has access to in the context of an educational project at a given point in time..
So based on that – PLE is a concept and e-portfolio is like an implementation of it.

My colleague said yesterday that important, almost like compulsory part of e-portfolio is the possibility to connect the content of e-portfolio with the competences. Yes, I agree with that. In the context of my thesis and teacher training we have strong emphasize on competence development in e-portfolio. But I also think that if competences are missing in my e-portfolio, that does not mean that my e-portfolio is somehow less good. Workplace learning does not include competences in many areas, but it does not mean that workers should not document their development in e-portfolio and provide evidences to that. Evidences is important part of e-portfolio from my aspect. It is not just blogging that I have reached to that point by now and I did well, but I have to add some evidences as well. It is important when I apply for scholarship or other position at work – I present my dynamically up-dated e-portfolio with reflections and evidences.

Another argument of my colleague was that e-portfolio should include feedback from mentor. I also agree that it would be nice to have always the feedback from someone, but actually I update my portfolio for myself. I can’t expect that I have always readers and in case I have them, I can’t expect that they have always something to tell me. I would appreciate if my supervisor always comments me here, but even more satisfaction would be the case if some stranger or unexpected visitor of my blog would like to discuss something with me. So, I think that feedback is nice part of the e-portfolio, but generally I’ll do it myself and must-be comments would not make me feel better, rather spontaneous comments would be interesting.

Anyway, what I wanted to say is that although we are one very well-working reserach group and we have managed to connect our individual expert areas to one whole. But still there seems to be some prejudices or misunderstandings. It would be probably important to combine our expert areas in articles with those colleagues that we usually don’t work together and try to understand each other more.

We continued our little discussion after having comments here. And something that Hans said, made me quite worried. He compared the discussion around the e-portfolio with the discussion around learning objects – one hand every piece of material could be considered as learning object. On the other hand the quality becomes poor and transferring learning objects to repositories becomes impossible, therefore we talk about metadata etc of learning objects. And he asked, maybe the standards of e-portfolio should be therefore set in order to keep the quality and importing the e-portfolio from one system to other becomes easier. I see the point actually, although I don’t like the idea that my e-portfolio should be developed with the specific e-portfolio software.

It is really good to have such discussions, it was not arguing, it was friendly discussion which led me to the understanding that I should study more e-portfolio 🙂


5 thoughts on “Different perceptions about e-portfolio and PLE

  1. Hans Põldoja

    I guess I am that colleague you are writing about 🙂

    Actually I was thinking about the importance of feedback in course blogs. I want to achieve a situation where the students will follow and comment each other. I believe that in order to reach that I also have to give feedback myself. On the other hand there must be a balance, it is wrong when most of the comments come from the facilitator.

    At least in my courses I do not consider student blogs as e-portfolios. To my understanding e-portfolio is a selection of best evidences chosen by the learner. These student blogs typically contain the assignments that are required by the course facilitator. Also I am not sure, if all students perceive these blogs as part of their PLE. Some students use the same blog for all courses and write additional reflections, but there are students who create a separate blog for each course and close it when the course is over.

    Blog can be easily used for creating simple e-portfolios, but there is also need for more advanced platforms that support connecting evidences with competencies, creating different views of the portfolio, exporting e-portfolio in a standardized format, etc. At the moment I am not aware of a platform that does it all, is easy and free to use. Mahara is close to that, but there is no built in support for competency models. Or are we overemphasizing the competency models in our recent projects?

  2. Kairit

    What an unexpected visitor 🙂

    You have done nice job with your students when it comes to provide feedback to each other, they have already nice habit to follow each other. On the other hand they really expect that facilitator comments them as well.

    I don’t consider simple blogs as an e-portfolios as well, sure not. But I also said that e-portfolio does not have to be created with the special software. I can’t imagine myself using some software, I feel here quite comfortable already and I would like to say one day that it has become to my portfolio with evidences and other related content. So many good e-portfolios (with traditional approach) have been developed in other place than Mahara or special environments.

    I also said that competences are important, but take for example web-designer from HTK or programmer – he does not have any competence model to follow in his professional learning. In teacher training it sure important part and not overemphasized, because teachers have to follow different standards in their professional development (qualification standard, accreditation requirements, educational competences standard etc). But if web-designer decides to document his development, analyze himself, collects evidences etc, but there are missing competences, then it can’t be wrong?

    Anyway what I want to say is that I don’t think it is right to say that if e-portfolio is not developed in Mahara (or any other) and is based on wordpress, then it is simple blog. More flexibility and creativity would be nice as long it is a learning journey with evidences.

  3. Hans Põldoja

    I agree with you that e-portfolio doesn’t have to be created on a special e-portfolio platform.

    But when does a portfolio become an e-portfolio? In many creative areas people publish a showcase of their best works as a portfolio (web design, photography, etc). Do you consider it an e-portfolio when it has reflections in addition to evidences? Or is it immediately an e-portfolio?

  4. kairit

    I don’t have an right answer to you, when showcase becomes an e-portfolio or blog becomes an e-portfolio. That is probably why there are tens of e-portfolio definitions and no agreed one. why I raised this question because I have defined e-portfolio more flexible than you, it seemed that way. But I don’t claim that my approach is right and yours wrong. In my trials with teachers we have tried to build e-portfolios to koolielu, simple elgg, mahara, wordpress. and what makes the e-portfolio more e-portfolio is the content not platform. at least it seems to me.

  5. Pingback: Different perceptions about e-portfolio and PLE | Notes « Things I grab, motley collection

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