Monthly Archives: December 2010

Delicious and the risks to a distributed ePortfolio

The future of Delicious, the social bookmarking site, is uncertain at the moment. There are conflicting reports as to whether it’s being “sunsetted” by its owner Yahoo, sold off, released as open source etc. Whatever its future, there are implications for people using a range of web 2.0 tools to collate a “distributed” eportfolio.

A distributed ePortfolio would use a selection of tools hosted across a number of services. It might include WordPress for reflective blogging, LinkedIn for a CV, Flickr for a photojournal, Slideshare, Issuu or Scribd for key pieces of written work etc.

It’s not a perfect solution by any means with many pros and cons (which I think I might cover in a future post) but the fate of Delicious points to a major risk.

If an ePortfolio is hosted by an institution on something like Mahara or PebblePad this will be backed up by personnel and infrastructure to ensure a certain level of stability and access.

If you are using extra-institutional services you are at the whim of market forces and fashion amongst other things.

I was a big fan of a service called Fliggo, which allowed you to create your own personal YouTube-like site, controlling access, publication etc – great for eportfolios. Unfortunately the company behind it decided in early 2010 that they couldn’t monetise it sufficiently so channelled their efforts into a Twitter video sharing service. First I found I couldn’t upload any new content to Fliggo, then I eventually lost access to all the videos I’d uploaded.

The other problem is that through embedding and RSS feeds, the tools in a distributed eportfolio may be closely interlinked. If one service goes down it may require updating dozens or hundreds of links or autoposting features on other sites.

At the very least it’s an annoyance when web 2.0 tools change or disappear. At worst, when they host assessment-critical materials, it can be a disaster.

So, if you considering building a distributed ePortfolio using publicly available web 2.0 tools:

  • Plan ahead. Think about your own disaster recovery and have risk mitigation in mind.
  • Choose services that are already established. Some new startups can be innovative and exciting but if the market isn’t ready for them then they’re vulnerable. (Even so, Delicious is an example of an established site and even that’s not assured now.)
  • Be wary of services still in beta testing. They may not be stable, are subject to major change and you may find that they start charging when they go to version 1.0.
  • Look for services that have export functions. You should be able to get your content out quickly in case of emergency, as well as putting it in. Delicious and WordPress have these.
  • If possible, keep copies of important work stored locally. Keep original video files after uploading to YouTube for example.
  • Investigate self-hosting. You can create your own installation of WordPress, for example. This gives you more control over it but does require more effort to keep it updated and secure. (It also means you can create you own eye-catching URL!)
  • Keep an eye open for news about these sites. Following their official Twitter accounts and glancing at their hashtags from time to time is a good start.
  • Be agile. Make the assumption that at some time you will need to move some elements to other services.

I’m not saying that using these sorts of tools for an eportfolio is a bad idea, just that there are certain risks to go with the benefits.

#ePortfolios at the Uni of South Australia (Margaret Faulkner)

Way back in September I attended a conference on ePorfolios run by the JISC Regional Support Centre for Scotland North and East. I did a brief summary on my personal blog but I’d like to highlight one of the presentations; Margaret Faulkner from The University of South Australia (UniSA).

Margaret delivered the first keynote, about their experiences implementing an ePortfolio across a large institution and all the associated successes and hurdles they encountered on the way. They use PebblePad but as with all of these things the platform is the least interesting aspect of the story. It includes brief case studies of ePortfolios in midwifery and engineering studies.

Here’s the presentation, helpfully recorded by the RSC. It’s about 30 mins long and the slides don’t quite match with the audio.

The Lowdown on e-Portfolios at UniSA

View more webinars from RSC Scotland N&E.
There’s also a written version of the case study available here.

WordPress as an ePortfolio platform

There’s been a bit of chatter on Twitter about using Google Apps as a freely available ePortfolio platform.

Another alternative, though is using WordPress. Although a blogging platform, it provides enough flexibility and customisation to be repurposed for use as an eportfolio. Another key benefit is it is fairly easy to export the contents so students can take their portfolio with them after graduation and host it themselves or import it onto another platform.

Ralf Appelt recently blogged about his ideas on using WordPress. My German’s not great (or existent) but Google Translate does a pretty decent job of putting it into English.

There are a few of examples of it already in use:

Duncan Gillespie at Dumfries and Galloway College (South West Scotland) has been running a successful ePortfolio programme with learners for a few years now. Duncan has presented to Netskills’ workshops before about his use of WordPress – see his slides here. HINT: play the slideshare full screen so that all the links to example blogs can be clicked. The examples he links to show the possibilities for personalisation with WordPress which are a great way for helping learners feel that they own the ePortfolio, not the institution. 

Another worth a look is MacCaulay Honors College at the City University, New York (CUNY). They have taken a slightly different route by using the Buddypress, an open source product based on WordPress Multi-User (MU). Buddypress allows an institution to operate WordPress more like a social network (the CUNY Academic Commons shows this in action). There’s a rather good showcase site a as well if you want to see what sort of thing’s the students are doing.


JISC InfoKit on ePortfolios

One of the sites mentioned on the web page I linked to in my last post is the JISC InfoKit on ePortoflios. It’s worth mentioning separately.

The infoKit has been put together by JISC InfoNet, a JISC Advance service (like Netskills) based at the University of Northumbria. It is intended as a comprehensive resource for institutions looking to implement and get the most out of ePortfolios. It covers a wide range of topics including:

  • Defining what ePortfolios are and possible purposes
  • Common misconceptions
  • Different perspectives (learner, practitioner, employer, professional body and institution)
  • Strategies for choosing, implementing and embedding ePortfolios

It also provides a useful companion to the JISC guide on Effective Practice with ePortfolios: Supporting 21st Century Learning

While you’re there, have a look at some of the other infoKits.


Updated Resources from the JISC Netskills Workshops

Since 2009, JISC Netskills has run a series of events round the UK titled “How can ePortfolios Support 21st Century Learning”. These are day-long workshops that shared what JISC has been doing to support institutions that were implementing eportfolios and showcasing some of the work being done in colleges and universities round the country.

The resources for these events are available online at the JISC Netskills website. These include the slides form  Lisa Gray from JISC’s keynote presentation, the guest presentations and summaries of the workshop discussions as well as links to other useful documents and sites.

The latest event ran in London on the 10th November and the resources from this event are online now.

While there are no dates confirmed for future Netskills ePortfolio events I’ll make sure that it’s announced on this blog as well so keep your eyes open!

The Amplifier’s Social Media Policy


I think it pays to be clear about what this blog and its associated media are for and how we’re going to use it. Here’s the initial policy, although I imagine I’ll update this occassionally.


Who’s posting

The owner of this blog, Twitter account etc is Chris Thomson, Consultant Trainer with JISC Netskills. There may be guest posts and the authors of these will be clearly marked along with their contact details. Tweets may be written by others within Netskills.


I’m writing in the first person even though I represent an organisation. I just find it easier to read stuff that’s written like that.

I should emphasise that the tweets and this blog are not about me, it’s more a conduit for useful information. If you care that much, my personal twitter is @electricchalk and my blog is at but these are mine and don’t represent the views of JISC or Netskills.

I’ll keep the tone informal.


I’ll be delighted if you quote stuff written in this blog. Please give credit where it’s due and don’t nick stuff.

I respect other people’s intellectual property. Images that I use will be credited and used appropriately according to their licensing as best I can. If the licensing arrangements are unclear I’ll do my very best to contact the creator before using anything. I’ll adhere to any reasonable requests to take down embedded and uploaded media.


Please comment on things you find interesting in the blog or reply to the Twitter feed. Your participation is very welcome.

I will moderate comments, mainly to screen for spam. Constructive criticism is welcome here. Trolling is not.

Twitter Follows 

The Twitter stream from EP Amplifier is for the education community. I will follow back if your bio or previous tweets suggest you are interested. Again, this is to avoid spammers, not to create an exclusive club. I like giving the benefit of the doubt.

I will follow commercial organisations but please don’t spam my timeline or I’ll unfollow you.

I will recommend other Twitter users to follow using the #followfriday or #ff hastags if I think other ePortfolio users might like to follow you.


It may be valuable to tweet stuff about software, hardware providers or event coordinators from time to time if it’s of interest to the ePortfolio community but I must make it clear; these blog posts and tweets should NOT be taken as endorsement of a product or company by JISC or Netskills. The ePortfolio Amplifier is absolutely eportfolio platform-neutral.


If you want to contact me about the blog, the best thing to do would be to comment (say if you don’t want the comment published) or DM ep_amplifier in Twitter if we’re following each other. Netskills’ contact details can be found on our site.

Image: “Web” by John “K” on Flickr – By-NC-ND 


ePortfolios turned up to 11!

Thanks for visiting the ePortfolio Amplifier.

JISC Netskills has started this blog and the associated Twitter account as a way of spreading information about implementing and using ePortfolios in education. The blog has a UK focus, but not exclusively. It’s likely most of the posts will be about higher and further education but I’ll also be sharing stuff about schools and work-based learning.

There’s a Twitter account too: @ep_amplifier

There’s also a Diigo bookmarking list available. It’s not got much in it but hopefully it will turn into a useful library over time. Feel free to follow it.

Other forms of social media will come along in the future.

image: London on the Move by D1v1D on Flickr – By-ND-NC