A digital portfolio: where to start?

Ichthus College wanted to collate valuable information on and about its students in a digital portfolio. This led to an extensive search by the school, involving the entire school board and culminating in a European tender. So just how did they make the choice?

Why a digital portfolio system?

Ichthus College provides practical education for young people who are unable to attain a diploma within the vmbo (technical vocation education) stream. According to teacher Gerben de Groot, they ran up against the issue of where the information should be stored. “This included the division between what pertains to the student (such as registrations and personal data) and what is discussed with the student (such as coaching interviews, professional and trade skills and certificates). Opting for a digital portfolio system as a solution, the search was then set in motion.”

Making skills and competences transparent

“At the end of the day, our dream is that a sports club trainer, an internship mentor or an employer, in the event of a part-time job, can also be included in the system. This will make it possible for the skills and competences acquired by the students outside the school to be also taken into account,” reasons teacher Bart Lukassen. “It’s important for students that working with a digital portfolio offers added value. When they start their first job, it’ll be an advantage for them to be able to show what they’ve already done and what they’ve learned.”

Thorough approach

In defining the requirements that had to be met by a digital portfolio system, an overview with the key points was made. “We started by establishing what we wanted and then looked for a system that would fit the bill,” insists Gerben. “The search proved very time consuming, sometimes to the annoyance of a few of our colleagues. However, in retrospect we’re glad we opted to take such a thorough approach. It’s not easy to find a system that suits everybody, but continuous consultation generates a clear picture of what’s most important to everyone, so you can differentiate between the must haves and the nice to haves.”

Ease of use

A key requirement for Ichthus College was ease of use. The system had to be clear, with straightforward use of language, not too many clicks, and it had to be maintenance friendly. “There are systems out there offering fantastic metadata options, but all that data has to be fed in too. What’s more, we wanted a system that could be used everywhere, both inside and outside the school,” says Bart. “And, ultimately, we want to be able to deploy the portfolio system in a way that transcends every level. Given that a continuous learning path is so important to us, we want to build on something that will mesh seamlessly in future.”

Candidates

In addition to teachers, the ICT coordinator and management were all involved within the school in choosing the right portolio system. Other schools that fall under the same education board were also approached to see whether they too might want to use the portfolio. To decide on a suitable supplier, a European tender had to be set out. Ten candidates registered and these were assessed and ranked on the basis of a scoring table of requirements. Three candidates were eventually shortlisted to present their propositions and finally we chose Peppels.

More substance

Both Gerben and Bart considered the collaboration between the various parties to be important. “Seeking one another out, that’s what saved us. It made the journey longer, but on the plus side it gave it more substance.” Furthermore, participation in the Leerling 2020 project (Student 2020) also helped the focus while undergoing a change process. “First of all, start with what you can handle, like the portfolio, and don’t immediately turn the whole school upside down.”

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