Improving support for lifelong learning in universities through enhanced eportfolio systems : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Information Technology at Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand
Lifelong learning is seen as a self-directed pursuit of knowledge or skills that occur
throughout one's life. While this concept is not new, the importance of lifelong learning
skills, in addition to academic and subject knowledge, has been increasingly emphasised
in the workplace and public policy over the last decade. Higher education institutions,
universities in particular, recognise the importance of lifelong learning and de ne their
own strategies to promote it. Such strategies include the development of institutional
graduate pro les which represent the core learning outcomes, skills and qualities, that
students should acquire during their university education.
The problem identi ed and addressed in the current research is the lack of comprehensive
technical support solutions for lifelong learning in universities. Currently, only
basic level support is available in form of ePortfolio systems or incorporation of Web 2.0
tools into university settings. However, the shortcomings of these systems and tools,
are hindering their full adoption, and as such the necessary support for lifelong learning
is not available.
Through a literature review process followed by stakeholder interviews, this thesis analyses
the needs for supporting lifelong learning in universities. According to this analysis,
better support is required for re
ection, communication and collaboration, development
and showcasing of lifelong learning skills, and tracking of learning progress. These identi
ed needs are then translated into requirements that are used to create a prototype
system that extends a current ePortfolio system, Mahara, with new features, to provide
institutional support for lifelong learning.
A number of studies, involving both lecturers and students, are conducted to evaluate
whether the prototype will bring strong improvements towards providing comprehensive
support for lifelong learning in universities. The results indicate that the new features
can be successfully adopted by students to help development and understanding of
lifelong learning skills, address institutional graduate attributes, track learning progress,
as well as manage and share this knowledge with others. In addition to these studentfocused
results, lecturers responded positively to incorporating the prototype into their
teaching. Lecturers see the opportunities for employing the new features to provide
students with the guidance through their lifelong learning journey at the university.
Additional research in various elds needs to be conducted towards full support of
lifelong learning in universities. This research provides a foundation for comprehensive
technical support. It draws attention to the in
uence that technology has on teaching
and learning, encourages cooperation between stakeholders, and shows the importance
of listening to the learner's voice.