Wednesday 17th October was the first of the three main days of the ePortfolio 2007 conference in Maastricht. It was a varied day, with the plugfest track for which I was billed as chairing, as well as work on HR-XML and ontologies, which I would have liked to attend as well. The practical plugfest work was mainly, as it turned out, on IMS ePortfolio. There was some success with exporting and importing files, though little details continue to cause problems.
One issue with IMS eP which was raised is about to what can be related to what. The eP spec suggests that relationships use identifiers inside the XML. Marc van Coillie suggested that relationships could be defined on the Content Package (things in the manifest). Several people suggested that instead of the relationships each being in their own file, they could all be put into one file. Various people have just implemented this anyway.
I suggested that the two final sessions of the day from the plugfest and from the HR-XML discussion be merged, and the resultant discussion was certainly interesting. There seems to be a consensus that the educational and employment domains should be brought closer towards interoperability. This could conceivably happen through building a common ontology. On the one hand, cooperation between IMS and HR-XML could be helped through organizations that are members of both. On the other, perhaps ontology could be developed independently, to guide both efforts. But who will resouce building such an ontology?
One of the things that came out in the day was that HR-XML 3.0 will refer to the UN/CEFACT CCTS and the OMG IMM approaches.
The Thursday and Friday were regular ePortfolio conference days. On Thursday there was an inspiring plenary about the Dutch car manufacturer, NEDCAR. They are using a portfolio approach both to prepare employees to move out or in, depending on the fluctuating need for employees, and for interfacing with the Dutch job system, which includes sophisticated matching services.
I chaired a session on “ePortfolio Challenges in Higher Education” on Thursday afternoon. I was somewhat disappointed. It seems that educators and agents of institutional change are different people: the continuing discussion on pedagogy and e-portfolio practice no longer inspires me. Yes, I know that various pedagogical theories can well be adopted in conjunction with e-portfolio tools, and that the resulting practice is often well-received. That is no longer news. But what of the challenges to institution-wide adoption? What about the issues of getting to grips with the institutional change that seems to be required? These were not, unfortunately, discussed in that session.
The main theme I followed on Thursday and Friday was, appropriately, to do with organisations and employability. To me, there did seem to be real progress being made and to be made, related to what we often call “employer engagement”. This ties in with what seemed to me to be a well-chosen theme for the event as a whole – “Employability and lifelong learning in the knowledge society” – and a move away from the token “e-portfolio” towards the wider implications of such practice in the economy.
The sense I got was that people felt the conference overall was a distinct improvement over last year. Maastricht is a very pleasant and interesting town, with a fascinating history.