What is an eAssessment Portfolio?

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.

And which are ‘fit for purpose’? The ‘purpose’ in this instance, is of course competency based qualifications and in particular, apprenticeships. And having reduced the choice of ‘ePortfolios‘ by discounting those designed for professional development or reflection. We are still left with a dozen or so brands or types to choose from which even though they purport to be ePortfolios, they are not all as ‘effective’ as one another. So in this second of a series of articles, I will try to simplify the process a little further and refer to the next phase of ePortfolio selection as: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. (cue music).

The Good: Are very, very good and improving exponentially as the developers respond to the needs of the sector, the pace of technological evolution and now, significant changes to the qualification structure. For the consumer, they are as near to future proof as any of us are likely to find and spotting them is made more easy as they stand out from the herd, especially if you ask the right questions. For example – Is their system being used (effectively) by similar organisations, as in hundreds and therefore already proven to be ‘fit for purpose’ and likely to share their experiences.

The ‘good’ or advanced eAssessment Portfolios will incorporate features you may not have even thought of in a digital sense as they are designed to make the task of implementing change less of a challenge. Such as being user friendly, easy to navigate, capable of operating on or offline with all devices and will integrate with the most widely used management systems. They will provide online and face to face support, especially with training and although there is much, much more to consider, these factors alone will go a long way to address issues such as staff development, learner engagement, enhanced communication in or out of a learning centre – with or without access to the internet etc.

Straight away you can reduce the effect of the primary challenges to an organisation such as reported in a survey for using technology published by C & G in March 2015, which found:

“the biggest drawback of using an e-portfolio comes from the fact it is reliant on the internet or network access (83%).” It also found that “Half of respondents (51%) also recognised time for training to be another key drawback.”

But then so did Becta in 2009 and hardly news to me or to the hundreds of learning providers that have clearly overcome such barriers, mainly by using ‘good’ systems. But if management aren’t provided with up to date information, they are unlikely to be in a position to deal with arguments based on ignorance of the subject, unfounded personal opinion, or outdated advice and guidance. Which leads me nicely to:

good-1123013_640The Bad: In my experience, the ‘bad’ covers a wide assortment of software offered as ePortfolios that are nothing like ‘the good’ other than the title, such as a management system with an ‘extra feature’ plugged in which a sales person makes the case for having one system to do ‘everything’ rather than ‘lots of different ones’. As though that can’t be achieved in other ways including changing the management system for a better one. Bad might also be something the company techy has been developing for the past eighteen-to-whatever months, which only the die-hard aficionados find ‘great’. But isn’t being used across departments and therefore adds to the administrative burden rather than the promised benefit. Likewise, a brand that hasn’t kept pace with technological change, or capable of growing with the demand. So although a system may look like an ePortfolio, walk and quack like one, it is likely to be an expensive waste of time by placing extra work on staff development and providing a misleading evaluation if being used as a pilot. So why do it?

The Ugly: Are even more easy to spot, as they too will lack the benefits of ‘the good’ and I make no apology for the term ‘ugly’ as in online design terms, they’re unappealing, not particularly user friendly and therefore much harder for the assessor, verifier, trainer, let alone the learner, to grasp. Even though the users will be familiar with the terminology used, it being a digital version of a paper based portfolio, they are not likely to be grabbed by something resembling an Excel spreadsheet on a bad day. All of which adds to the challenge of training staff, so why do it?

There are of course others, including some hybrid systems that work perfectly well in the context of what is required, but that would depend on the organisation and the skill set behind it. There are also systems developed or acquired by awarding bodies to cater for a specific sector, most of which are very good, especially if they relate to their own qualifications which may add value when combining specific course content with tracking and progression, such as with the IMI (Institute of Motor Industies) ePortfolio. But if its not ‘ideal’ for a different sector within the organisations provision, don’t use it, use another brand in parallel which is ‘fit for purpose’. The world won’t come to an end.

At which point it would be very easy for me to name which eAssessment Portfolios to consider and why and when consulted I always recommend a few to have demonstrated to the strategy team, but after a decade of doing exactly that, I have found  that regardless of how persuasive an argument put forward. All too often the proposition to transform ‘the business’ will be shot down in flames with a few words from individuals who’s opinion, however lacking in substance is taken as finite. Putting up so called barriers such as: ‘Too dear, haven’t the money, haven’t the time, can’t get the internet, staff don’t like it, learners won’t like it’ all of which are quite pathetic but then I am unlikely to be in the room when so called arguments are made. Unless I am asked.

The point I hope to make is that despite what the recent surveys suggest, we already know what the more advanced ePortfolios can offer an organisation, but only if you choose wisely. Oh and by the way, whether the choice is from The Good, The Bad or The Ugly, one way or another they all cost about the same, so why do it?

In the next of this series of articles I will write about ‘the barriers’, which should be interesting. Meanwhile should you care to comment, please do. If you have a specific question or concern, please use our contact page.

All the “ePortfolios for apprentices” series of articles:

ePortfolios for apprentices: A guide for providers and employers
What is an eAssessment Portfolio? – The Good, the Bad & the Ugly
What are the barriers and how to ‘get over it’? Part one
What are the barriers and how to ‘get over it’? Part two
What are the benefits and who wouldn’t want them anyway?
What are the challenges and how others have found a way
Making a business case – to get it past finance
What next? – will depend on the Q & A

Colin Gallacher
Learning Technology Consultant


© 2016 incentive-8.info. All Rights Reserved.


  1. Excellent article, as ever, and so close to the mark. Some of the biggest barriers I’ve faced have been the purseholders also having a ‘vested interest’ in the vendor and having a much more senior role in the business, their word appeared to count more than the research, intensive reviews and output.

  2. Pretty extreme and clearly not in the best interests of the organisation or learners, but shouldn’t there be governance over the ‘purse holders’. In the real world there’s a legal term for it. Meanwhile, to get over any other individual with a vested interest, they could try our Technical Review, which unlike self-assessment ‘tools’, includes interviewing all stakeholders, not just the purse holder. Many thanks

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