Wednesday, February 24, 2010

5.3.3: Trusted links for data - and the lifelong ePortfolio

Article: Kirkham, T., Winfield, S., Smallwood, A., Coolin, K., Wood, S., & Searchwell, L. (2009). Introducing live ePortoflios to support self organised learning [Full text PDF]. Educational Technology & Society 12(3), 107-114.

Kirkham et al (2009) give background on how ePortfolio systems might link with third party data providers once trusted links are established. The benefits of this are many:
  1. External data relevant to the user can be verified.
  2. User ePortfolios are updated dynamically by the agency storing the data.
  3. The ePortfolio becomes a real focal point for the user's abilities and certifications.
The case study provided reports on the TAS3 (Trusted Architecture for Securely Shared Services) project which, provided it is on track, will be complete by end 2011 (it is likely that it will be based on SAML 2.0). The project seeks to create a set of compliance standards that will permit agencies to share data in mutually trusted ways.

Why is this exciting?

Well, it is one thing to say that you have a Masters degree from the Open University on your ePortfolio and quite another to be able to portal your offical grades (as verified by the University's own student management system) into your ePortfolio view. Once a trusted architecture is available (and adopted), the vision of a verifiable ePortfolio for life is that much closer to fulfilment. Employers will be able to have the claims of an applicant's CV verified from the ePortfolio itself. Students will be able to see their latest grades and timetables from within their own ePortfolios. Employees can have their professional development activities automatically added to their ePortfolio from their institution's record-system.

Of course it is one thing to develop a trusted architecture, quite another for it to become a standard across the agencies whose data would add value to an ePortfolio. But the work of TAS3 is a vital opening step. Once we have an architecture, hopefully agency commitment will follow.

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