e³-Portfolio – Supporting and Assessing Project-based
Learning in Higher Education via E-Portfolios
Philip Meyer, Thomas Sporer, Johannes Metscher
Institute for Media and Educational Technology
Universitätsstr. 2, 86135 Augsburg, Germany
Abstract. e³-portfolio is a software tool which supports learning and working in
student project groups. Besides features for collaboration via social media, the
software offers an electronic portfolio system. The e-portfolio helps to integrate
informal project-based learning into the formal curriculum of higher education.
This paper gives an overview of how the software tool is designed and relates
the design to the underlying didactic concept.
Keywords: Project-based learning, e-portfolio, e-collaboration, e-assessment
Practical experiences and key competencies are becoming increasingly important for
students in today’s working life. One way to attain those competencies is to take part
in self-organized project groups at the periphery of their university. Here students
learn to solve problems and become part of a community of practice . At the
University of Augsburg students can get such extra-curricular learning activities
accredited through the study programme "Problem Solving Competencies" . This
study programme builds on the reflection of the student’s experiences via e-portfolios
and focuses the assessment on the articulation of the competencies that the students
acquire . The organisation of that study programme is facilitated by the software
tool outlined below.
2. Description of the Software Tool
The technological basis of the software tool is the open-source platform and content
management system Drupal (www.drupal.org). The various features of Drupal are
utilised to foster collaboration of the users. The tool is structured into three parts:
Students organise their project groups in the community area. They create their -
journals and project reports via the portfolio area. Further it structures the assessment
process of the student’s learning achievements and their accreditation in the
assessment area .
When visiting the website (www.begleitstudium-problemloesekompetenz.de), a
welcome page informs the users about the aims of the study programme (e.g. press
releases, reference to the project blog, interviews with participants). The three main
areas, however, can only be accessed to their full extend after registration.. In the
following sections these areas are described – in their functionality for unregistered
and already registered users.
2.1 Community Area
For unregistered users the community area gives an overview of the project groups
that take part in the study programme (e.g. campus magazine or campus radio). Each
project has a public space where they can present themselves, the project ideas (e.g.
via video interviews with the project leaders) and descriptions of the activities
participants can take on. Project groups can adapt this public area to their "corporate
design" to ensure the identity of the project is maintained. News about the project can
also be published to inform others about the initiative. After registration the internal
community area provides access to all the groups of which the user is a member or
owner. Registered users can create new project groups or join existing groups by
Fig. 1. Overview of the features in the community area
Additionally the community area features various tools for project and knowledge
management. There is a community blog where discussions within the group can take
place and by which the group can organize their collaboration by announcing
important dates and deadlines. Moreover there is a wiki for each group which offers
the functionality to share knowledge between the group members. And there is a
document repository which allows to publish meeting protocols and to share files.
2.1 Portfolio Area
In its unregistered view the portfolio area shows exemplary profiles from participants
of the study programme. In short video interviews participants describe what
motivated them to attend the project group and what is special about being part of
their project. Aside you can view some personal information about the participants
and browse through their learning journals. After registration the participants can
write their project diary in form of a blog in the portfolio area. Here students
periodically reflect on the experiences they make during their project activities. The
reflection process is scaffolded by some guiding questions like “What happened since
the last entry in my project diary?” or “What are my thoughts and feelings as to the
current situation in the project?”. At the end of each semester students can create a
project report. This report summarises the salient events during the participation in
the project and presents them in form of a learning history.
Fig. 2. Overview of the features in the portfolio area
The portfolio area also helps the students to keep track of all their diary entries and
project reports. Here they can collect all these items and prepare them for submission
to the assessment area.
2.1 Assessment Area
In its public view the assessment area is rather unspectacular. It shows a description
of what this area is supposed to offer, namely a space for registered users to submit
project diaries and reports and to get feedback for their learning and working
achievements. The registered view of the assessment area thus enables the
organisation of all the achievements that have been performed in the context of the
study programme and their accreditation in the formal curriculum.
Fig. 3. Overview of the features in the assessment area
After the participant has completed all building blocks of the study programme, she
can obtain the certificate "Problem Solving Competencies". If the student wants to
have the credit points that were gained during the project work accredited in the
formal studies, the project report has to be handed in via the assessment area and
becomes graded by the coordinator of the co-curricular study programme.
3 Underlying didactical concept
The platform was designed to support a didactical concept which focuses on the
integration of informal learning activities into the formal university curriculum .
The three main areas described above therefore differ in the degree of formalisation of
the learning setting (see Fig. 4). The community area is very close to the practice of
the project group as an informal learning community. Students discuss, collaborate
and share their experiences, but this all happens on an informal level with a low
degree of formalisation. In the portfolio area the students begin to formalise their
experiences by writing them down in a personal diary. But this still happens close to
the context of what is actually going on in the project practice and the involvement of
theoretical assumptions is marginal. Finally, in the assessment area, the students
decide which of the texts and artifacts they created during the project work are worth
being submitted to the programme coordinators. The students choose entries, where
the reference to the goals of their formal studies is obvious. They also make
assumptions in their project report on how their project participation and their formal
studies relate to one another. In figure 4 the portfolio-based assessment strategy is
summarised: The students collect their working achievements and diary entries in the
working portfolio. At the end of the semester they combine these artifacts to a
coherent learning history in the story portfolio. Via the test portfolio they finally
argue what competencies they acquired in a project report and show how their
experiences relate to their formal studies.
Fig. 4. Areas of e³-portfolio and blended assessment strategy
4 Conclusion and Future Work
This article described the features of a software tool which is currently being used at
the University of Augsburg. The software tool supports the collaboration of student’s
project groups and it offers a way to integrate informal learning activities into the
formal curriculum of higher education via a blended assessment strategy based on e-
portfolios. Recently, evaluation studies have shown that students want more
interconnectedness between the different areas of the software tool. Especially in
regard to the portfolio and the assessment area the current state of implementation
lacks the functionality to give feedback on the content provided by the participants.
Due to the collaborative nature of the community area there is already a lot of
interactive functionality present. However, we are planning to introduce even more
features in the community area that can support group collaboration.
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