I’ve been discussing eportfolios with colleagues this afternoon, particularly the Portfolio InterOperability Prototyping Project (PIOP). PIOP is looking at using Atom as a basis for ePortfolio interoperability. PLEX is an exemplar of a personal learning environment (PLE) created a few years ago. Quite a few people have made connections between the concept of a PLE and the personal character of an ePortfolio but we generally see ePortfolios realised in institutional software applications, i.e. institutional rather than personal environments.
The thought which occurred to me was triggered by talking about a perceived requirement for learners to take their portfolio content away with them when leaving a learning institution. Realistically, today, this would probably end up being a zipped-up collection of web pages, images and documents or a cryptic technical format. Maybe the learner would have a saved version at home. Chances are that structure and content would be lost or be unusable to the poor learner. But it probably educational institutions should support meaningful export of a learner’s digital material and tutor comments etc as well. One of the PIOP scenarios involves someone making a transition from an NVQ3 into a Foundation Degree at a different institution but what would happen if there is a small break between the two? Is it realistic to expect institutions to exchange portfolio content in such a case?
Assuming there will be institutional software holding ePortfolio information while a course is being undertaken, wouldn’t it be a good idea to use the PIOP specification to build an adapter for a PLE like PLEX?This could both give the learner the rich structure and allow them to select and publish into the ePortfolio system of their next course provider or into their personal blog. As many blog applications support Atom, the backbone of PIOP, it would be natural to include a “download your institutional blog” facility too. Something like Atom Publishing Protocol (APP) would work nicely for the uploading: APP already has support in the blog world and could be extended along the PIOP lines much as the SWORD project did for repository deposit.
Where does this approach get us? It bridges the personal and the institutional. It exploits a shared web technology (Atom) for ePortfolio, treading a path of low resistance. It is an uncontroversial scenario – a learner working with their stuff – that could be a Trojan Horse for getting adoption of ePortfolio interoperability, from which platform further innovation can later jump.