HCSIT 2007 / ePortfolio 2007 – Ontologies, employability and e-portfolios

The last two days I was at Maastricht for the Human Capital & Social Innovation Summit (HCSIT 07), which encompasses among other events also the ePortfolio conference. I was invited by Luk Vervenne and the VUB STARLAB to present our competency-oriented approach together with Tobias Ley from the Know-Center, Graz and Clementina Marinoni in an OOA session. The track was aimed at bringing together researchers on the topic of competencies with a special focus on semantics and the potential influence on the HR-XML standardization. It was a promising insight that the different approaches are actually complementary, and discussions revealed that there is a high degree of mutual agreement so that we may in the future actually come to a shared framework. In the OOA session, there was attempt for online conceptual modeling, but time was way too short for such an approach so that the result was not convincing. A wrap-up is of the session is available.

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It was interesting to see that there is interest for semantic technologies from various sides, e.g., it is increasingly acknowledged that complex standards may need for their own coherence, but especially for interaction with other standards a conceptual layer on top. This is clearly inspired by model-driven ideas from software engineering. Despite this interest and remarkable awareness of ontological approaches, there is still a lot of doubt because semantic technologies still lack their applications. Probably, we need to continue to work on pragmatic and useful solutions instead of complex and powerful ones, just to show that it works and delivers a benefit.

E-Portfolios are a promising concept – for various purposed. However, I am not sure whether the single label portfolio actually denotes a shared concept and whether it is beneficial to consider all types of portfolios as instances of a single concept. For me, still, a reflective work portfolio a student at school/university actually uses as a way to organize learning is very different from a portfolio used for student assessment or for applying to a potential employer. Mixing different purposes may prevent effective usage. So for me, transfering portfolios from one system to another has no priority, but rather making it easy to transfer individual items makes sense. And this probably best in the context of a personal learning environment – and not restricted to transfer between portfolios, but also exchange with other systems so that maturing processes across individuals can take place. Anyway, I see a huge potential of bringing the e-portfolio community and the workplace learning/knowledge management community together – it can open up the perspective to holistic concepts.

The keynotes on the second day were very interesting. I was especially surprised about how quickly the Dutch government introduces innovative employability solutions, compared to the cumbersome German procedures and discussions. Especially the policy that you have to give a data about you only once to the government would be healthy. Some may have privacy concerns, but I think that much more annoying and dangerous is collecting data again and again, each time with the possibilty that a new error is introduced.

When I listened to Thomas Sporer’s talk on an eportfolio-based approach to university education, it came again to my mind how old-fashioned our university education system currently is: it does not help students in building competencies in setting goals on their own, working with uncertainty, social interaction within a project context, presentation competencies etc. Let’s hope that things will change with approaches like that one so that students become really employable at the end of their studies.

Finally, the conference was a good place for meeting interesting people with various backgrounds.

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