ZML Didaktik / Innovative Learning Scenarios

Why open portfolios?

Posted on: April 30, 2018

In the Content Strategy program my students create a portfolio, write approximately once a month a post and share it openly in the web. Provoked by discussions with my students, especially with the COS17 students, I want to make my intentions why reflect openly clearer.

The field of Content Strategy is a new one and at the moment people everywhere in the world are developing it further – some of them are these students of the Content Strategy master program at Graz.


Many experts of the field of Content Strategy joined the program as teachers. When we started 2014 German was the main language in the program; English was used in the courses of English speaking teachers. So far English has been used more and more – and the number of students with other mother tongues than German increases. Nevertheless the original curriculum was written in German.

How do I unterstand Portfolio?

The German word Portfolio has a broader meaning than the English word. There are portfolios of development (with respect to work), reflection (with respect to learning) and presentation (Rogers, 1999). In English speaking countries portfolio mostly means a portfolio of presentations.

In my course Open Space and Portfolio the students can define the focus of their portfolios by themselves. They can mix reflection posts with technical tips and tricks, and summaries of what they have learned in class with posts about how to combine work and study. The grading criteria include the different aspects.

Based on the activities of connectivism the students aggregate, remix, repurpose and feed forward what they have learned and reflected (Downes 2012, S. 495). By openly sharing their thoughts the students make their reflection on/in practice visible – for their colleagues, their teachers and other people interested in the field (Schön, 1983, 1987). In this reflection and exchange they become members of the Content Strategy community and they actively contribute to the development of Content Strategy.

Why open Portfolios?

The students mostly agree that reflection is an important part of the learning process.

But not all of them want to share their portfolio openly in the web. They worry about the quality of the content – and don’t realize that their ideas, problems, questions are valuable for the learning process in their cohort and the other cohorts – and that their post sometimes contribute to the further development of Content Strategy as well.

They wonder about the audience of their portfolio – that there wouldn’t be much exchange with others. That the portfolio would not attract clients. But: it is not the objective of the portfolio to be a marketing tool for the student or the Content Strategy program nor that every post of every student is discussed by a lot of people. However, after 4 years of living with open portfolios I can say that there are discussions of some posts, there are people liking and sharing the posts. Of course it is not possible that all students read all posts of their colleagues. Nevertheless students appreciate useful posts, within and outside of the cohort.

Safe learning environment

In my opinion students should feel safe in their learning environment and should be challenged to leave this protected room. I’m aware that writing and reflecting openly in the web is a challenge – and it is my experience that this challenge mostly leads to a post of a high quality. Of a higher quality than a text shared in a protected group room or sent to the teacher individually.

Let’s negotiate!

To summarize: Open portfolio posts

  • contribute to the knowledge base of Content Strategy,
  • mostly have a high quality,
  • are partly discussed and shared.

I’m open to negotiate the interaction of closed and open rooms for reflection.


Rogers, Gloria, & Williams, Julia (1999). Building a better portfolio. ASEE Prism, 8(5), 30-32.

Schön, Donald, A. (1983). The reflective practitioner: How professionals think in action. Basic Books.

Schön, Donald A. (1987). Educating the reflective practitioner: Toward a new design for teaching and learning in the professions. Jossey-Bass.

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