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Digital Education team blog


Ideas and reflections from UCL's Digital Education team


Archive for the 'MyPortfolio' Category

Communicating and collaborating

Domi C Sinclair11 July 2016

Whether it is a tutor wanting to communicate with their students, or students wanting to connect with one another for support or group work, the ability to communicate and collaborate with others effectively is critical to university life. Thankfully there is a plethora of ways this can be done, using both external tools or those hosted by UCL.

One such internal tools is called MyPortfolio. It is an online portfolio tool, that also facilitates connections and collaboration via profile pages and group spaces. One of the really great things about MyPortfolio is that it also allows you to easily embed a wide range of external content, so the limits of what you can do with it are your imagination.

Why not check out our MyPortfolio YouTube playlist to find out more.

Understanding the essence(s) of portfolio-based learning

Domi C Sinclair15 June 2016

Last week saw the first ever joint AAEEBL and CRA conference, hosted in Edinburgh between 6th – 8th June 2016 whioch was titled, ‘Understanding the essence(s) of portfolio-based learning’. For those who don’t  know AAEEBL is a US based global portfolio organisation, it stands for the Association for Authentic, Experiential and Evidence Based Learning. CRA is a very similar UK based organisation, with it’s name standing for the Centre for Recording Achievement. So, as you can imagine this was a portfolio conference.

There were 3 key themes that emerged from the conference. These themes kept popping up in presentations and discussion :

Process not product
Cultural shift/ change

Let’s look briefly at these themes below, but if you would like a more detailed look them please see the AAEEBL/ CRA Conference 2016 on my personal blog.

The first theme,  scaffolding, refers to the importance of having structure around portfolio activities. This predominately broke down into conversations about templates and frameworks for guiding staff and students without restricting them. Templates can be useful for giving students a little bit of direction without restricting their creative freedom (depending on the content and detail of the template). They are also useful because, anecdotally, students can find it overwhelming to simply be given a blank space to do with as they please. A template gives students a starting place. In relation to frameworks this was mostly a discussion about their usefulness for staff, to help give them some scaffolding from which to build a portfolio activity into their module or course, either as a single assessment or as an on-going activity to support learning via reflective practice. It was thought that this framework should be fairly high level, meaning it was not too prescriptive and not software dependant.

This actually leads quite nicely into the next theme, process not product. There was a strong emphasis on focusing on the process and pedagogy of portfolios and not the product (either meaning the final output or the technological product used to facilitate them). It is easy to become distracted by debating whether you are using the best online portfolio system. At the moment UCL use MyPortfolio, which is based on the Mahara platform. As good practice we will be reviewing the use of this platform in the near future, however whether we use Mahara, WordPress or Office 365 the process of running a successful portfolio is the same and the buttons are not as important as strong pedagogy.

The final theme is perhaps the one that has the biggest impact for portfolio, especially online portfolio adoption at institutions, and that is the need for a cultural shift/ change. This is perhaps best summarised by an analogy that was used by Trent Batson (President/CEO of AAEEBL) at the conference. He was talking about the American automobile and how it took 35 years to become fully part of US culture. First they invented the automobile and it opened up a lot of possibilities, such as people being able to commute more easily for work. But even after this it still took time to build all the roads, parking spaces and petrol stations needed. The idea was proven but it took a lot longer for the infrastructure to become part of daily culture. It is fairly easy to see how this relates to portfolios. There are a number of case studies out there to prove their potential, however the infrastructure to support them is not fully part of the culture of universities. Portfolios tend to expose the learning process which can be an intimidating prospect for both students and staff a like. However, portfolios can offer a very useful reflective space where you can use journals to do written reflections, and also reflect whilst curating examples of work you have produced that you are going to include in your portfolio. Reflection gives us the ability to stop and think about our thinking, and to understand how we can do better moving forward.

Feature Focus!

Domi C Sinclair8 March 2016

There’s a wide web out there, with lots of possibilities to be achieved by utilising the plethora of creative and helpful online tools. MyPortfolio is a great resource to pull all of this external content together, in one easily viewable and shareable space. To compliment the external tools, there is also a lot you can do with internal tools such as journals and files. Once you are happy with your page(s) you can even choose a Creative Commons License to help make your content more easily shareable, and help create a bigger impact with your work.

To see a demonstration of some of possibilities of what you can embed and create with MyPortfolio check out our Feature Focus! MyPortfolio collection.

Explore. Play. Learn.

Watch us!

Domi C Sinclair2 March 2016

As you may or may not know there is a lot of information on Digital Education and our services in the UCL wiki pages, including Moodle Resource Centre, Lecturecast Resource Centre or the MyPortfolio Resource Centre.

However, there are some resources you might not know about, such as the UCL Student E-Learning Services – which provides useful guidance for students on how to do things such as submit work and interact with Lecturecast recordings.

We also have a couple of pages that we use to update you, that you might want to ‘watch’. By watching a page on the UCL wiki you will get updates when it is changed. Think of it like subscribing to the page for updates. Just log into the wiki and then navigate to the page you want to watch. There you will find a ‘watch’ button in the top right, alongside the page title.

Digital Education pages to watch:

New Feature – We use this page to post about changes to Moodle whenever we carry out an upgrade. A lot of the time these changes are behind the scenes, so we don’t detail these. Instead we link to the official Moodle release notes for anyone who is particularly interested in the exact details. If there is anything notable that has changed this will be listed on the page. You will also notice that there are sub-pages dedicated to each of our summer upgrades. As these tend to be larger upgrades, with more changes we have dedicated spaces to detail all of these changes. ‘Watch’ the New Features page to get notifications when we update the page after a Moodle upgrade.

Turnitin: Service Status and Known Issues – This page is a great resource for anyone who uses Turnitin. The Turnitin: Service Status and Known Issues page can be used to monitor the state of Turnitin, and is the best place to check if you suspect there might be a problem with the system. There is an embedded version of Turnitin’s own service status Twitter feed, which is where they will post of any outages. The Twitter feed is somewhere Digital Education have to check ourselves as well, so it’s good to check. There is also a table of Known Issues, which we are currently working with Turnitin to resolve. This includes details of any workarounds that can be used whilst the problem is fixed. Additionally you will find a Turnitin Quirks table, this is a list of features in Turnitin that are working as intended but perhaps not as desired by some users. We would also recommend you ‘watch this page’ (see steps above) to be among the first to know if there are any problems with the Turnitin system.

Mahara Hui UK 2015

Domi C Sinclair12 November 2015

Earlier this week I attended the Mahara Hui UK 2015 which took place down in Southampton between the 9th and 10th November 2015. Mahara Hui UK is the title of the official UK Mahara conference – Mahara being the software that is used for MyPortfolio at UCL. To honour Mahara’s New Zealand roots the conference is referred to as a ‘Hui’, which is a Maori term for a social gathering or assembly. The conference is held annually in different locations around the UK and features a variety of talks and workshops on all aspects of Mahara.
There is also a lot of Twitter activity during the conference and you can review post with the hash-tag #maharauk15 to see what people were tweeting.
As with most conferences, there were some key themes that seemed to emerge and repeat over the 2 days of the conference. The key themes were learner control and learning versus studying. Let me explain these in more detail. The first subject, of learner control, seems like a natural topic of conversation for an online portfolio tool, and it has a few strands. Firstly there is the tension and apprehension that can occur for both tutors and students in allowing them (the learner) to have complete control over their content and use of the MyPortfolio system. This can often mean increased freedom of expression, and a change in dynamic to give the student ownership of their work. This tension seems to occur more for first year undergraduate students, and can be an important part of the transition from the FE mindset to a HE one. The second strand of this discussion of learner control is more what can happen when you move past the apprehension and successfully hand over the reins. Once this dynamic shift occurs we can start to explore the benefits of huetagogy (self directed learning). As well as having immediate benefits this approach can help set students up to be successful life learners – particularly useful if they decide to continue a passion for academia/ knowledge as a researcher.
As for the second main theme, learning versus studying, this also comes back to the concept of huetagogy in many ways. It is about allowing students to undertake tasks and activities (which could be assessed) that encourage them to learn, perhaps through practical application, rather than simply studying by memorising the necessary information to pass tests. Learning involves engagement with the subject matter and is likely to be perceived as more fun and enjoyable – as well as installing retained knowledge into the learners mind. Online portfolio tools, such as MyPortfolio can be really useful in facilitating this, either by being the vessel on which the learning occurs, or by acting as a portfolio to collect and curate examples and evidence of learning – which may include videos of practical techniques being performed correctly, in lab selfies or copies of artefacts produced. Curation was another important topic. It is important to teach students how to curate work, so that the portfolio does not become a scrapbook of ‘everything’ but is a thoughtfully selected collection of examples of work/ evidence that has value and demonstrates the best of the students abilities.
There were many examples of use of Mahara (MyPortfolio), a number of which seemed to focus on transferring a traditional paper portfolio, which may be bulky and heavy to carry around, into the electronic system. Two examples of this that were presented were from Colin Bright, a lecturer in Social Work at Southampton Solent University and Jaye Ryan, a lecturer on a nursing course at Birmingham City University.
Finally, another benefit of the conference was the ability to hear about new features in both the latest version of Mahara (MyPortfolio) version 15.10 (which UCL will be upgrading to later this month) and the next version, planned for April 2016 – version 16.04.
New features for Mahara 15.10 include:
  • Responsive design – so that it works on all devices
  • An edit button on each group homepage – so that it is no longer necessary to go into the pages section and edit from there
  • Group journals – rather than journals being unique to individual portfolios
  • Next and previous buttons in collections
  • A drop down menu for collections, which replaces the tab navigation

More developments are planned for version 16.04, although at the moment nothing is confirmed and these are just idea. Some of the ideas include:

  • The ability to have a single page in multiple collections
  • Combining the page & collection interface (to make it simpler to use)
  • A revamp of  navigation – this would aim to make it simpler to find different functions/ sections
  • The inclusion of CSS for HTML export – this would mean that exported pages/ collections would retain their theme and look the same as they do online
  • Quicker editing of pages

There is also a planned revamp of the mobile app MaharaDroid to make it work on multiple platforms including Android, iOS and Windows phones. This is planned for release in April 2016 and will see a rename of the product (to match the multiple platform capabilities).

Compared: MyPortfolio and Campus Pack

Domi C Sinclair9 November 2015

Update July 2017: Please note that the ability to add new instances of Campus Pack tools in UCL Moodle has been removed as part of the this year’s Moodle upgrade. The page below is for reference, and staff should see our Campus Pack Guidance page for more information on possible alternative tools that offer similar functionality.

Having a lot of tools to use can be a mixed blessing. On one hand it is great to have such a selection to choose from, whereas on the other it can be confusing and overwhelming. In E-Learning Environments (ELE) we aim to help you navigate the myriad of tools and find the one that’s right for you. In this post we will be looking at MyPortfolio, Campus Pack and Moodle. If you haven’t heard of some of these tools before, then don’t worry I will start by introducing them so you can get a better idea. You will see that although they have some similar functionality they can serve different purposes.


MyPortfolio is our online portfolio platform at UCL, it is based off of Mahara open-source software. Originally this was billed as an employability tool, due to it’s CV builder function, however it has evolved and can do a lot more than just online CVs. At it’s core MyPortfolio is an individually owned space, that gives students a place to work and control their own content. This can be done privately and then shared at various different levels, from public, to groups or just a single user. MyPortfolio is available to everyone with a UCL username and password, and can be used independently or as part of studies and assessment.

Some of the key functionality it contains are journals, ability to upload files and embed external content.

MyPortfolio is great for allowing students to create their own portfolio of content, whilst working with the flexible layout and using images to create their own design. Within MyPortfolio it is possible to create a ‘Collection’ which forms a mini website, with tab or side bar based navigation. In the past students have relished the opportunity to let their creativity flow and created impressive pages which really utilise the flexibility MyPortfolio affords.

Groups are another popular feature, allowing students to collaborate on pages and communicate using a forum. If there is any nervousness about creating shared work, then it is possible to create pages in a personal portfolio space and then share a copy with the group – ensuring the student retains an original as evidence of work.

Most pages and collections in MyPortfolio can be exported as either HTML or LEAP2A (which is a specialised portfolio format), so that they can be stored or transferred to other hosting locations. It is also possible for students to maintain access to MyPortfolio if they ensure after graduation that they continue to update their password as required.

You can access MyPortfolio directly through the web address https://myportfolio.ucl.ac.uk


Most people will be familiar with Moodle, this is UCL’s virtual learning environment (or VLE) it is our core online learning tool. If you are still unfamiliar with Moodle then you can learn more, and get to grips with the basics by taking our Getting Started with Moodle online course.

Although Moodle does have the ability to run blogs, it is not as good as the MyPortfolio journals, or the Campus Pack blogs (which we will talk about in the next section). Another feature you can find in both Campus Pack and Moodle is the wiki. This offers a collaborative space for students to work together to create a document or shared resource. It offers some tracking capabilities, so that you can track changes and see what each students has contributed. The UCL Moodle Resource Centre has more information about the Moodle blogs and wiki.

As well as the above, it is possible for external services to be embedded or linked into Moodle via LTI  (Learning Tools Interoperability) using the External tools feature. You can read more about this in the UCL Moodle Resource Centre wiki.

Campus Pack

Campus Pack is a set of tools that work through Moodle. This makes them useful as they can be used from within a Moodle course, rather than having to go to a separate website. You can find all of the Campus Pack tools under the ‘add a resource or activity’ menu in Moodle.

There are a series of tools available through the Campus Pack integration with Moodle and these include; wiki, blog, journal, podcast and LTI. The wiki tool is a nice collaborative space where students can work together as a class or in groups to create content. It has nice tracking features so that you can see who has done what work and when, which may be useful when grading group work. Unlike MyPortfolio, where blogs and journals are basically the same tool (the journal) in Campus Pack there is a distinction. Blogs are designed to be more open and shared, they can be set up on a course, individual or group basis. Journals within Campus Pack are intended as private reflective spaces, where only tutors can see what students have written.

The podcast tool is the most unique within Campus Pack as it’s functionality is not replicated elsewhere. The podcast tool will allow you to record audio directly in to Moodle, rather than having to record on an external device/ program and upload it. This makes it very quick and easy to create and share sound files with a course.

Finally the LTI tools allows you to embed external content that is LTI compliant. As mentioned above this functionality is also available in Moodle via the External tools function, and is probably easier to use this.

You can find out more about Campus Pack on the UCL Moodle Resource Centre wiki.

Additionally you can learn more about Campus Pack through Unit 3 of UCL Arena Digital titled, “How can we involve students with Campus Pack blogs, wikis and podcasts?” This unit has just finished but remains open for access. Participants can watch video tutorials, see (and still take part in) a Campus Pack wiki activity, read (and contribute to) a Campus Pack blog, and see a recording of a webinar where Tim Neumann (Campus Pack expert) discusses ways of using the tools for collaboration and assessment with UCL colleagues.

As well as the tools mentioned above, which as looked after by the E-Learning Environments team UCL also offer a number of other spaces such as the UCL wiki and UCL Personal Web Service.

If you are interested in any of the above services and think that you could utilise them in your teaching and learning please contact the ISD Service Desk for more information.