Sunday, 20 November 2016

#ePortfolio Workshop at #MonashCollege: an introduction.

During October (19-21) I had the opportunity to do some work with Monash College, through Dr +Kulari Lokuge, introducing various teams to ePortfolio practice. The workshop ran over a 3 day period, and the major groups included the educational design team, teaching team leaders, HR, and teaching staff.

Dr Lokuge (Associate Director eLearning at Monash College) and I met through the ePortfolios Australia community gatherings and forums over the last few years. The successful implementation work at University of Canberra had attracted Kularis' attention and, with a view to implementing ePortfolio practice at the college, wanted to introduce various major stakeholder groups to the world of ePortfolios. With some good organisation and thanks to Kulari's leadership at the college we managed to deliver a solid and well attended program.

Design of the Workshop

Introducing people to ePortfolios and the related technology for the first time is a huge challenge, because both the pedagogies, concepts and the technologies are new and each depend on the other. There are some transferable skills and knowledge from social media, cloud storage, blogging and such, and these should all be relied upon to help describe ePortfolio practice. Getting the concepts across requires a mix of demonstration, discussion, and participation. Departing this time from the now common design thinking workshop approach I decided to use guiding questions mixed with other strategies like group work, think/pair/share, demonstration, and presentation. Asking the right questions and grounding these in existing knowledge would be key to supporting people to develop their own meaning of ePortfolio practice. The questions I designed are below, associated with each stakeholder group. As said above, I used as a basis concepts that I thought the audience would already have a good handle on. this was to help build an understanding by helping people make connections, avoiding the situations where new terms or ideas are isolated and lack meaning (connections make meaning, I was once told, like it's common sense ... which I've always lacked). So I decided to hang the hat on a few known hooks such as:

  • Monash Colleges' educational strategies (if it doesn't connect to these why do it?)
  • shoe-boxing (keeping certificates, letters, etc, for just in case situations)
  • existing pedagogical strategies such as active and authentic learning
  • communication, promotion, and making records
  • evidencing learning (how do students show what they have learned? How might they?)
  • keeping a diary (building up to critical reflection using frameworks)
The workshop relied on theory such as social construction of knowledge and Vygotskys' Zone of Prox Dev.  This was achieved through think/pair/share, group task activities, and making thinking transparent to the whole group using whiteboards. Scaffolding the group tasks was achieved through using the KWL model (Thanks for the introduction to KWL +Misty K!). This enabled the groups to respond to the questions in stages, what they knew, what they wanted to know, and what they had learned from the presentations, demos, and discussions. 

Educational Designers

The educational design team were very enthusiastic, keen to see what ePortfolio practice was all about (for those new to the practice) and how they could incorporate it into their work with teaching staff. This group had two sessions, one using small group work and the other (bottom picture with long table) using think/pair/share held on different days. The sessions were very fruitful, as evidenced by the work of one of the breakout group's shown in the photo of the whiteboard.

Questions for ed designers (each question had a KWL chart associated, as with all other questions).
  • What are the core aspects of your eLearning Strategy and what methods and practices do you currently use in achieving your eLearning strategy?
  • From your perspective as an eLearning Designer, what does “ePortfolio practice” mean to you? What does evidence mean in relation to learning? Give examples of learning in the college and what you would consider ideal ways to show evidence of that learning.

Teaching Staff

Students in the college go through programs lasting only a few weeks, so adapting portfolio thinking, which is suited to long term use, didn't seem to fit for process oriented portfolio thinking, and staff already had tools for process oriented pedagogy. However we collectively determined portfolio thinking may suit product oriented approaches, where students would be able to show achievement through the pathways programs when they apply to the university. The #smartevidence module of Mahara, new as part of 16.10, was also of interest to track student achievement of various standards and frameworks.

Questions for teachers
  • What currently constitutes evidence of student learning for you as a teacher? What are the strengths of this evidence, what are the limitations?
  • What other skills, knowledge and experiences, particularly gained from authentic learning experiences, would you like to see captured by students both within and beyond your units/courses?
  • Describe the kinds of evidence you would ideally need to see in order to effectively evidence students situated and authentic learning experiences, and the process of capturing, and methods of presenting this evidence.

Teaching Team Leaders

The group of team leaders related to the ideas of portfolios for promotion, PDR activity, a record of achievement that has a broader audience that an immediate team, and the ability to organise and draw together evidence quickly when needed.

Questions for TL's

  • From your perspective as a Team Leader, what does the term “Professional portfolio” mean to you and how would you describe your own ideal professional portfolio?
  • Besides yourself, who would be the potential and intended audiences of your professional portfolio and, detailing a range of digital formats and mediums, what skills/attributes and/or performances would these audiences want to see demonstrated in your professional portfolio?


The HR session ran very differently to what I was expecting, and I had to adapt by throwing out what I had planned. Instead of using the advance organisers I demoed Mahara, discussed other forms of portfolio such as blogs, showed exemplar portfolios that had been used in PDR processes (Thanks again +Misty K!), held wide ranging conversations around portfolios and employers, and also demonstrated #smartevidence, which garnered a lot of interest from everyone. By the end of the session the the group seemed very confident that ePortfolio practice was part of the future for professional development, as well being a valuable pedagogy.

Questions for HR
  • What do the terms “ePortfolio” and “Professional Portfolio” mean to you? Are they different? How?
  • Who are the potential and intended audiences? What would each set of audiences want to see in a professional portfolio?

Innovative Spaces

I was struck by the innovative space designs and uses at the Monash College 271 Collins Street address, for both students and staff. The Lounge room with the mirror on the wall is a meeting room!

Thanks for a wonderful time everyone!!!!!!

See photos below.

Thursday, 29 September 2016

2016 #eportforum in Sydney - #greatcommunity #greatideas fantastic time.

I want to post on one workshop I went to by Joyce Seitzinger +Joyce Seitzinger , it was on LX - Learner Experience. The essentials of this user/customer/student/staff centered philosophy has underpinned the University of Canberra's entire approach to the Virtual Learning Environment procurement project, a project I've been managing since last April hence the gap in blog posts! Anyway here are the notes, with links to resources for you to access as shared by Joyce.

As an example project, Joyce worked with the Australian Institute for Training and Development to develop their digital badges.

See work by Marc HassenZahl - LX - What is it? In the context of someone using a tablet or smartphone - the tapping on glass is not for the experience of the phone it's for the emotional and learning experience through the app or web site. It's about creating an experience through a device.

For our VLE project this was also applied to the suite of educational technology and library platforms - its the experience that matters.

Google the Learner Experience Pyramid. Based on the CX pyramid by Aberdeen Research.

Download the LX Design Toolkit

Some people define Learning Experience as User Experience - IT IS NOT: See

The elements of user experience: Jesse James Garrett, 2000:

Disciplines involved: as found in the book:

Human Centered Design: Don Norman. The design of everyday things. You don't want people to live in perpetual frustration.

Also related to service design thinking. Service design also looks at the experience of the staff.

Indi Young - Empathy is a noun. You focus on the needs of the user when designing - you listen to the users. How they have been using your systems already. Find any analytics you can. Create personas - these help others in the project be more empathetic with those users.

See also 

Ieleen Scanlon - Professor of Educational Technology

Diana Laurillard: very much about the teacher as designer. A team approach is best to help avoid increasing teacher workload.

Tony bates books -

Sunday, 4 September 2016

#smartevidence #procurement

I'll get back into blogging about whats going on in my UC work life soon, it's been a mammoth year and a bit, procuring a number of major TEL and Library systems in one go. However, we are getting through, and I hope by the end of the year or early next we will be able to write up our experience doing that.

For now, I just wanted to alert readers to a project called SmartEvidence that is an idea forming into code thanks to the amazing people at Catalyst like Kristina Hoeppner:

For current news about this exciting project see

This enhancement to Mahara will enable storing and tracking of achievement against competency frameworks, a practice long held in education using paper based competency grids, but now with a 21st century take. Enjoy! And of course contribute!

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Notes from recent #education conference #ascilite2015

Here are some highlights from my point of view arising from the ascilite 2015 conference - see the schedule here:

A traditional smoking ceremony opened the conference.

One project from the opening day of workshops showed a significant positive difference in engagement with a technology enabled activity when a) it is assessed and b) when students have experience with the tool.

There are a number of analytics modules for Moodle in development, or already out there. Macquarie University has been developing another.

Deakin is moving further ahead with badges, in this case badges for leadership skills.

Have a look for this interesting report: Establishing a framework for transforming student engagement, success and retention in higher education institutions. An OLT funded project.

My biggest take home: Jeff Gomez, the guy who designed one of my favorite games "Turok: Dinosaur Hunter" and someone to follow. Jeff overcame significant adversity in life through others ability to tell stories to become a leader in transmedia storytelling and has worked for some big names including Disney. Check out his site:
The biggest conceptual revelation for me is that through introducing Scenario Based Learning, video, Gamification, badges, interactive lectures, ePortfolios etc, etc, we are bringing transmedia to education. Sometimes new technologies are interpreted as "yet another thing for everyone to learn", yet a Transmedia storytelling way of thinking turns that new medium into an opportunity for "yet another way to engage students in the story" of my discipline.

Jeff Gomez will be working with Curtin and Indigenous students on programs that incorporate transmedia education. Here Jeff highlights the age old use of transmedia in indigenous culture.

The HIVE at Curtin Uni supports research and teaching using a range of visualization technologies, including The Cylinder (curved stereoscopic panoramas, 3 meters high and 8 meters long), The Tiled Display (10 square meter surface area with 24 million active pixels), The Dome, and The Wedge, see video (non-3D).

I'll close with a beach shot from Fremantle, WA. 

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Supporting #ePortfolio practice across disciplines in #HigherEd

Jennifer Rowley is providing a link to the September 24 ePortfolio webinar held at CSU (Wagga Wagga Campus).

This is for an OLT extension project focusing on supporting staff interaction with ePortfolios that will end this year.  and Jennifer hopes it has been of assistance. I would say no doubt!

To keep the conversation going she has started a blog on ePortfolios to support creators and users of ePortfolios in higher education across disciplines where research and L&T discussion is generated

Jennifer encourages sharing with your colleagues.

Sunday, 18 October 2015

#ePortfolio Australia Forum ( #eportforum ) 2015 reflections

This year the ePortfolios Australia Forum was held at Edith Cowan University, Perth, Western Australia. A big thanks to Edith Cowan, Vanguard Visions and the community.

The Rendezvous Hotel at Scarborough has a great location.

It was fantastic to catch up with the community after so long, I didn't attend the 2014 forum last year and really missed the enthusiasm and energy it brings to ePortfolio practice. There were the long time implementers as well as people new to ePortfolios wanting to find out what they can offer and how to go about implementation. ECU offers some fantastic learning spaces as well, with now common design trends being applied to their flexible and collaborative learning spaces. Note the fixed monitors that groups can orient around. An interesting thing we noticed was a small team doing the rounds before classes, re-configuring the rooms according to the preferences of the teacher, I assume the preferences are collected at the time of the booking.

PebblePad is a leading ePortfolio application from the UK, and had a strong presence at the forum, hosting some of the workshops and presentations. I was able to learn more about this offering and compare against the system we use, Mahara. In terms of assessment the software can be run independently of an LMS as the software has built in marking and feedback functions. This is quite different from how we use Mahara, which is tightly integrated with Moodle's gradebook function. PebblePad also has functions to support and streamline competency based assessment and evidence collection and assessment, in contrast with Mahara's very flexible but 100% user modifiable template based approach. For Mahara a nice balance might be achieved with SmartEvidence, a new feature that models established practice in paper based portfolios in various parts of the world.

Overall I was impressed with the support PebblePad offers clients and the community. For example they have created a deck of cards, each card shows a particular principle, pedagogy, policy or plan that needs to be implemented to ensure a successful full implementation of PeddlePad. However the cards contents could apply to the implementation of almost anything, and are fantastic. We allowed to keep them without charge, in fact as far as I know they don't charge for them at all! So don't wait, ask them for a set.

They also produce a learner journey map, showing how ePortfolios can be used by your learners. Fantastic!

Kristina Hoeppner from Catalyst IT beamed in via video to tell us about templates in Mahara, how to create them and how they are being used by students to create highly personalized portfolios. Kristina had a few overlapping conferences and other commitments so couldn't make it in person this year.

On the second and final day a number of workshops were run. In one of these the Allison Miller raised the notion of the community working together on a project. I put forward a dormant research project proposal that I had developed for my Masters of Higher Education looking into ePortfolio practice and assessment. If supported by the home institutions it looks like this would be a great community project.

For more information such as the forum program and workshop details visit the 2015 ePortfolio Australia Forum Homepage:

Sunday, 9 August 2015

A bit of history, long live #XML

In 2005 a small team of four designed and developed an online system to collect academic software needs for the student Standard Operating Environment at the Australian National University.
Brian Molinari (Concept) Myself (Programmer, Concept), Adrian Burton (Academic Liaison, Concept) and Patrick Byrnes (Graphic Design).

Today Adrian, still working at the ANU, informed me the biannual call had just gone out for academic SOE needs and that they still to this day use DIANA, the system we developed.

I'm not sure who maintains it now but the About page still has all our names, and is up to version 3.0.0. Given the details on this page I assume it is still the same code base using XML, SOAP (+WSDL), XPATH, AJAX, etc.

It's rare I think for something you helped build 10 years ago to still be in use, especially in the software world. Maybe XML really is extensible and will help extend the life of projects that use it, like we hoped it would in 2005.