Independent Educational Portfolios – Accredible

The second educational portfolio product birthed during the MOOC era is Accredible and you can take a look at a half-finished Accredible portfolio of the work I’ve done for my Degree of Freedom project here.

As I mentioned yesterday, a traditional educational portfolio is made up of work samples (called artifacts), with space allowing students to provide commentary (called reflections) on each artifact they choose to include to illustrate the work they have accomplished.

Within education, portfolios have been used for specific courses, to track student progress across several classes over the stretch of a year or multiple years.  Such systems have also caught on in the employment field although, as one commenter mentioned yesterday, they tend to be looked at most closely in creative industries where organized work samples play more of a role in job selection than does educational background.

Accredible follows this traditional model by providing users the ability to create “slates” that can represent a single course (traditional or online) or skill.  And each slate is organized to allow students to submit “Evidence” (a combination of artifacts and reflections) to demonstrate that they have completed a specific course or demonstrated a particular skill.

The reason my own portfolio is only half done (despite having dedicated most of yesterday to putting it together) is that amassing evidence and organizing it in a way that tells a story is time-consuming work.  Artifacts such as MOOC grades or class work don’t all reside in one place or exist in one format.   And given this variation (and the need to arrange material in a consistent and compelling way), the work of finding and organizing material can suck up both time and creative energy.

But once you know what you want to do (and what material you have to work with) Accredible makes it easy to automate your portfolio and make changes as your strategy evolves over the course of pulling everything together.

Like Degreed, Accredible is aware of most of the courses delivered through the major MOOC providers, so once you specify the course you’ve completed the system automatically fills in the blanks (and also provides those nice little graphics that illustrate each course slate).

The system is also extremely flexible with regard to creating groups and organizing slates within each group.  Currently, I’m using grouping features to separate my formal education, One Year Degree and generic skills (with meaningful slates only populating my One Year Degree group as of now), but I could just as easily create groups that represent my distribution and major-requirement classes (group naming and arrangement decisions being left to the user).

I should also note that social sharing is wired throughout the product, allowing you to share  your portfolio or individual slates via services such as Twitter and Facebook.

Accredible also features a set of thermometers that will gauge the caliber of each of your slates as well as your overall credibility.  This seems to be keyed off the amount of evidence you provide and whether or not you have gotten external endorsements for the classes and skills you’re claiming.  And while I found this to be more relevant and less judgmental than the numeric point system I discussed yesterday, this feature does mean that a third party (Accredible) has taken it on itself to pass public judgment on your presentations.

Beyond this, my criticisms of the system are few and small (it would be nice, for instance, if the preview they gave to specific evidence displayed the top of a document vs. the middle).  But this is small beer compared to the real challenges facing someone trying to create a meaningful portfolio which mostly come down to how to create compelling presentations for someone not likely to download every piece of evidence you provide.

For instance, while there is a temptation to stuff each slate with as much evidence as one can muster (including static material such as extended excerpts from a course syllabus or an instructor’s bio), a portfolio should primarily focus on a student’s own work with generic course information just used to demonstrate the depth and robustness of a class.

With regard to structure and arrangement, a portfolio must fulfill a goal and tell a story – ideally in a consistent manner so that readers will know where to find things as they move from course to course (or – in in Accredible’s case – slate to slate).

In my case, I need a portfolio to settle any argument over whether or not I completed the work associated with the 30+ courses that will ultimately make up my One Year BA.  So each of my slates includes material designed to demonstrate that I’ve completed a class successfully from start to finish.

For most MOOCs, this means a PDF of a certificate of completion and a screenshot or download of course grades, along with judiciously selected work samples (such as submitted writing assignments) where applicable.

I have the advantage of having written reviews for most of the courses I’ve taken.  And while these were originally created for the weekly Degree of Freedom newsletter (and have already served double duty by appearing in MOOC News and Reviews), including them in my Accredible portfolio provides additional (and non-typical) evidence demonstrating that I have taken and understood material in a course enough to reflect on what I’ve learned.  And while everyone may not have an excuse to comprehensively review each course they complete, I recommend people at least create some kind of artifact (such as a paragraph-long review or one of the short videos Accredible allows you to shoot an insert in a few quick steps) that will demonstrate a student’s unique experience taking a course.

And once this material is in place, it’s helpful to arrange it consistently from slate to slate (another step that’s easy to do within Accredible’s drag-and-drop interface).

In the world of e-portfolios, ease of use and flexibility are more important than lots of fancy features (although having seen a lot of portfolio products in my day, I struggled to find a needed feature the Accredible system lacked).

As noted over the last couple of days, different products serve different purposes.  And while I will likely continue to use LinkedIn as my automated CV (supplemented in a non-cluttery way with information related to independent education) and may use Degreed to monitor and motivate my ongoing learning, when it comes time to show the world that I’ve done what I claim with this Degree of Freedom project, the evidence I present will be in a completed Accredible portfolio.

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One Response to Independent Educational Portfolios – Accredible

  1. David Scott Lewis October 3, 2013 at 4:42 pm #

    For showcasing MOOCs/SPOCs, …, Accredible wins.

    Nevertheless, how the Slate Caliber is calculated needs a lot of improvement.

    Endorsements should NEVER be necessary. This is cultural. My students are from China (and we’re all in China, except for two Chinese nationals in Singapore and England) and getting endorsements just doesn’t work here. Sure, they could get endorsements from fellow students, but is this really valuable? I’d give extra points to endorsements, but would NEVER make them mandatory.

    Statement of Accomplishment, Statement of Accomplishment with Distinction, Signature Track: “Regular” Statements (and their equivalent with edX, Udacity, and such) should be worth 10 points. And there shouldn’t be any debate about this. Requiring students to have screen captures of quizzes and notes makes for an unnecessarily cluttered Slate. And Signature Track (with or without “Distinction”) should be worth 17 points, after all, a Signature Track is somewhat verified. And a proctored exam, such as what my students have done with Udacity’s courses for credit at San Jose State University should be worth the full 20 points. Again, no endorsements should be necessary. Accredible may wish to include a photo ID requirement (my guess is that they’re planning to charge for this, which is fine — as a one-time event), but it shouldn’t be necessary since it is already required for Signature Track and proctored exams. Remember, a full 20 points simply means that the evidence is credible: It does NOT indicate the quality of the work performed. And it should be at the discretion of the students to include their actual grades; this should be optional. Reason: Coursera & Co. (edX, …) don’t state that a student’s specific “grade”/score will be listed on his/her certificate; hence, it shouldn’t be required as a piece of evidence for a Slate.

    Finally, levels. As we all know, over 5,000,000 have taken at least one MOOC, about 1,000 have completed more than 10 MOOCs, about 100 have completed more than 20 MOOCs, and roughly 5% are high school students. And the countries with the largest pluralities: The United States, the United Kingdom, and India. Well, do the math and this means that I might very well have the only high school students in China on their way to completing over 20 MOOCs by the time their college admissions applications are due. Okay, good for me (and good for my students). So, what’s my point? Well, with over 20 MOOCs and lots of other activities, they’ll need different levels to emphasize activities by importance. Maybe this is First Level, Second Level, Third Level. Maybe this is Level 1, Level 2, Level 3. Maybe this is Top Priority, Secondary Activities, Miscellaneous Activities. Maybe this is Featured Slates, Supporting Slates, Additional Slates. I’m not sure what to call this … and I’m not convinced Accredible needs a specific name for this (although some sort of consistency would probably — although not necessarily — be a good thing) … but it’s absolutely necessary. Think about it: My students will have at least 20 slates just for MOOCs! Add activities and slates by so-called “expertise” and they might be looking at 30+ slates each! Well, this is crazy. There has to be a way for individuals to group their Slates by what they perceive as relative importance. In fact, Accredible may want two separate categories: One to feature individual courses, another to demonstrate expertise. For example, “Let me prove I know something about international criminal law.” This, of course, is an “expertise” slate, which simply might point to individual slates. But the individual slates may be segmented by importance. They could even be segmented within an “expertise” slate, since I see an “expertise” slate merely pointing to other (individual) slates. Frankly, this worries me: My students will have way too much clutter.

    Further, videos. Videos should be worth 3 points, maybe even 4 or 5 points. And there should be a place to include links and reports to (and/or from) third-party services, e.g., interviewing services Let’s face it, a third-party interview might be as valuable as EVERYTHING in one’s Accredible portfolio. (They supplement each other very nicely.) One last thing: Slates should be PRIVATE by default, NOT public.

    My Accredible comments for today.

    BTW, one of my students, Kun Pang (the student in Singapore), has completed about 25 MOOCs and is taking another 25 or so that he should complete by 31 December. He’s quite amazing! He was also one of the 500 (out of 10,000/20,000.50,000) accepted into the Harvard Kennedy School of Government graduate level course, “HKS_211.1x Central Challenges of American National Security, Strategy, and the Press.” (So was I, as was one of my students in Qingdao, Xinhe Zhang; she’s looking good for north of 20 by year-end; she has also taken some of the more difficult Stanford MOOCs.)

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