By karendeller, 21 August, 2013

Chartall Business College is in the process of developing an e-portfolio to assist learners to collect evidence for assessment.  This e-portfolio will work in tandem with on-line learning, face-to-face learning or RPL. 


However, preliminary discussions with a number of the SETA QA departments have revealed a prejudice against the e-portfolio methodology.  The usual response being that there is no way of validating authenticity.  This is a flawed argument because many traditional portfolios are typed or hand written and there is no way of validating their authenticity either unless the learner is physically observed completing the portfolio in front of the assessor.  Anybody could have typed the answers for the learner and anybody could have handwritten the answers for the learner – it’s the same problem.  However, with e-portfolios additional validation checks can be built in and plagiarism can be more readily identified.


But my argument for e-portfolios is even bigger than its ability to assist with plagiarism and validity.  The e-portfolio has the potential to replace the traditional CV as it provides a fuller picture of an individual’s competencies and skills – probably more so than the actual qualification that is awarded.


Let’s face it – the formal qualification (particularly a degree) remains the pinnacle of achievement – simply because it is accredited and conferred by a recognised university.  But what does this qualification really say about the learner?


It says that they have satisfied the requirements set by SAQA, but it says little about the learner’s skills set and ability to succeed in the workplace.  The only ‘proof’ that the learner has to give to a prospective employer is the certificate – and the value of that certificate is made more or less meaningful depending on the institution that conferred it.  In many ways, the certificate says more about the conferring institution than it does about the individual learner.  It is depersonalising and everyone has the same.


But a flexible e-portfolio allows the individual to showcase their own skills, interests and abilities.  This e-portfolio can be built up to satisfy the qualification requirements (to earn that certificate) – but in addition it can showcase all the non-formal and informal learning achieved.  It can store examples of plans created, presentations delivered, research conducted, etc. etc.  This evidence would be far more relevant to a prospective employer than the generic certificate.


The e-portfolio can also do more.  If it is well designed it will have the functionality for facilitators to award badges of achievement to learners.  This is new concept in South Africa, but internationally it is a trend that is catching on quickly.  These badges are awarded to learners for competencies developed over and above the qualification requirements.  And these competencies are often the ones employers are interested in (the CCFOs in our qualification system).  So badges can be awarded for team work, supporting others, cognitive thought, analytical reasoning, etc. 


These badges can develop a ‘currency’ of their own, over and above the currency of the qualification or credits achieved. 


I guess the points I am making can be summarised as follows:


  1. Learners need a specific skill set over and above the qualification if they are to succeed in the workplace – but employers currently have no way of assessing whether these skills sets exist;
  2. The e-portfolio can provide us with an alternative credentialing system – which showcases the life skills required by employers and it provides physical evidence of each individual learners’ skills and competencies;
  3. The e-portfolio can be maintained well after the qualification is completed – to show progression in learning far more effectively than an updated CV can do (it can even be used as the basis for RPL later on – earning the learner another certificate);
  4. Badges can be used to recognise the development of personal skills and knowledge (CCFOs, etc.) beyond the actual outcomes of the qualification.  This can act as a catalyst for lifelong learning;
  5. These badges can take on a credentialing value of their own (there are examples of this in the USA where certain badges are requested by prospective employers (think about the boy scouts system of badge awards – only moved to the adult world);
  6. Badges can be motivating – they say more about the learner and the learners’ skills than the generic qualification does (which, by its nature, says that everyone who holds that piece of paper has the same skills);
  7. This is a portfolio that the learner can control and modify depending on their intended use – they can use it for credits or they can use it to showcase skills to an employer;
  8. The e-portfolio is available immediately to show a prospective employer – it does not have to wait for the issuing of the SETA certificate (which sadly can take years!)


In fact, the e-portfolio has great potential - both for those who also earn the full qualification and those who don’t quite make it and are awarded only part qualifications.  I, for one, am looking forward to experimenting with it (with the more forward looking SETAs of course!)


facebook/Chartall Business College has more on e-learning, the flipped classroom and the e-portfolio




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