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The electronic portfolio domain: a suggested set of interrelated technical definitions

Simon Grant, 2006-10-17

The general portfolio concept involves a person or other body collecting or noting information or objects in some way related to themselves so that they can potentially refer to or reuse them at a later time.

The definitions that follow were originally conceived to clarify portfolio concepts in the areas of learning, education, personal and professional development. In these areas, the noted information would natually relate to the individual's skills, attitudes, competence, knowledge, or other personal abilities, attributes, characteristics, qualities, etc. related to education or development. However, these definitions can be applied to good effect much more widely.

The focal person for the purposes of defining these terms is the individual human (or the collective or corporate entity) related to whom (or which) information or objects are noted or collected.

A context may here be defined loosely as an area of life, group of people, purpose, or other situation, relating to the relevance of the information or objects. A focal person may choose to adopt or present a specific identity or persona within the scope of such a context. Information and objects may be noted without a prior awareness or clarification of the context in which they may be used, or useful. In this case the "default" context may be thought of as the whole of the existence of the focal person. For portfolio purposes, contexts should be defined by the focal person, not by any external authority, and will therefore be subject to change as the understanding of the focal person changes.

A portfolio item may be defined as any of:

  1. a unit of information relevant to the focal person structured so that it can be integrated with other portfolio items which share context;
  2. a unit of information that enables a related object to be integrated with other portfolio items which share context;
  3. a related object that may contribute to evidence of something about or related to the focal person, what they have done (or created, or said, or written), what has happened to them, or what they possess;

that satisfies all these conditions:

  1. it must be meaningfully related to the focal person;
  2. it must be valued by the focal person, or in some cases by an agent on behalf of the focal person;
  3. the focal person must have relevant rights over it.

(Relevant rights here must include at least the right to see the item and to correct errors. To be useful for selective presentation to others, the focal person should have effective control of access to the item.)

An e-portfolio item may be defined as a portfolio item that is held electronically.

(E-)portfolio information may be defined as any set of (e-)portfolio items, whether or not related, and whether or not identified with a relevant context.

An e-portfolio view may be defined as e-portfolio information relevant to a particular context, or intended to be accessible by a particular other person or body.

A portfolio presentation may be defined as a particular composition of coherent portfolio items, with a deliberately defined context, audience and rhetorical purpose.

An e-portfolio presentation is a portfolio presentation that is managed and presented electronically, composed of e-portfolio items.

An e-portfolio repository may be defined as a system that stores e-portfolio information.

An e-portfolio management system or service may be defined as one which uses information and communication technologies to give the focal people (or in some cases their agents) the ability to use and manage the e-portfolio items related to them. This may include the ability to record, construct, compose, store, retrieve, view, edit or arrange e-portfolio items, and to control or manage their presentation to and sharing with others, whether as e-portfolio presentations or otherwise. An e-portfolio management system may cover the management of items that are not portfolio items; may use one or more e-portfolio repositories; and may be used for any number of e-portfolio views and presentations.

An e-portfolio related service may be defined as one which generates, uses or modifies e-portfolio items but does not provide an e-portfolio management service.

An e-portfolio enabled service may be defined as an e-portfolio related service that interacts with an e-portfolio management system or service, or e-portfolio repository, as part of its primary operation.

For the terms e-portfolio system, service, and tool, no definition is offered here because they seem to have a rather wider and less exact meaning. Any of these terms might be useful if a general term is wanted which does not commit the user of the term to a particular definite interpretation.

For further explanation and discussion, please see Clear e-portfolio definitions: a prerequisite for effective interoperability, a longer paper prepared for the ePortfolio 2005 conference, proceedings published by EIfEL.

page maintained by and © Simon Grant, edition 2006-10-17