E-Portfolios as an E-Assessment Method in MOOCs. Insights from the Open Virtual Mobility Project.

Author Ilona Buchem,

Coordinator of the Open Virtual Mobility Erasmus+ Strategic Partnership. Professor for Media and Communication at Beuth University of Applied Sciences Berlin, Germany.

Several concepts, tools and technologies have been used in online courses to assess learning outcomes. Assessment in Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) has focused on supporting learning and achievement, and has included assessment aimed at course completion, tracking learner behaviour and predicting learning outcomes as well as certification of specific skills and knowledge gained from a MOOC (Chauhan, 2014). MOOCs usually apply automated forms of e-assessment, mostly based on multiple choice questions. Alternative forms of assessment such as peer assessment are mostly found in MOOCs, such as cMOOCs, which aim to enhance the interaction between learners (Sánchez-Vera & Prendes-Espinosa, 2015). In fact, peer-assessment has been seen as a remedy for the broadcasting mode of MOOCs, especially xMOOCs (Suen, 2014). However, there are only a few examples for e-portfolios being used as an e-assessment method in MOOCs. For example, Chen (2017) describes the integration of e-portfolios to support formative assessment with MOOCs in context of English for Special Purposes (ESP). One of the key potentials of using e-portfolios in MOOCs is the support of formative assessment, documentation of learner progress, provision of peer-assessment and enhancement of learner autonomy (Chen, 2017).

In the European strategic partnership Open Virtual Mobility, funded under the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Commission for the period of 2017 to 2020, we have been working on integrating e-portfolio methods and tools into MOOC design and meaningfully combining e-portfolio with other forms of e-assessment.

The strategic partnership Open Virtual Mobility, is dedicated to creating accessible opportunities for achievement of virtual mobility skills of teachers and students in higher education. The aim is to ensure higher uptake of virtual mobility by supporting higher education institutions, educators and students in acquiring, assessing and recognising their key competencies needed to successfully design, implement and/or participate in virtual mobility.

The OpenVM project addresses the need of enhancing awareness about virtual mobility and creating accessible opportunities for developing skills needed for participation in virtual mobility. These aims are based on practical observations of the nine partner organisations in higher education participating in the project, which show that the possibilities and the competencies, needed for virtual mobility still remain unknown to many educators and students in higher education in Europe.

What is virtual mobility?
The European Commission defines virtual mobility in the following manner:
 “a set of activities supported by Information and Communication Technologies, including e-learning, that realize or facilitate international, collaborative experiences in a context of teaching, training or learning.” (European Commission, Erasmus + Programme Guide, 2019, p. 327).

One of the key outcomes of the Open Virtual Mobility project is the Open Virtual Mobility Learning Hub (OpenVM Learning Hub),<1> which is an online learning environment for the development, assessment and recognition of virtual mobility skills in higher education.

The OpenVM Learning Hub hosts a set of eight mini-MOOCs, each dedicated to one of the eight competency areas needed for successful engagement in virtual mobility. These competency areas have been identified in the OpenVM project through the Group Concept Mapping Study<2>, which resulted in clustering of competencies into main groups with sub-competencies. All OpenVM MOOCs are designed as mini-MOOCs. Mini-MOOCs are smaller, shorter, and cover less content and fewer skills than traditional MOOCs. The series of eight mini-MOOCs aims to facilitate just-in-time and on-the-go learning.

Which competency areas and mini-MOOCs are supported by the Open Virtual Mobility Learning Hub?
Learners in the Open Virtual Mobility Learning Hub can develop competencies in the following eight competency areas:
(1)  Media and digital literacy
(2)  Active self-regulated learning skills
(3)  Autonomy-driven learning
(4)  Networked learning
(5)  Intercultural skills and attitude
(6)  Interactive and collaborative learning in an authentic international environment
(7)  Open-mindedness
(8)  Open virtual mobility knowledge

In each mini-MOOC the learner can study at one of three levels: Foundations, Intermediate and Advanced.

With each mini-MOOC broken down into three levels, learning pathways can be designed by individual learners depending on their initial and intended competency levels. All mini-MOOCs contain different forms of e-assessment depending on learning objectives and competency levels.

Learners in all OpenVM mini-MOOCs have a number of opportunities to assess their virtual mobility competencies, including automatic self-assessments and human-supported evidence-based assessments. The e-assessment of virtual mobility skills also includes diagnostic, formative and summative assessments.

To assess the initial level of a given skill, each mini-MOOC starts with a pre-assessment of competencies in a given competency area. Based on the results of the pre-assessment, one of the three levels is proposed to the learner, who can decide to follow a recommended pathway.

In this way learners can study in a flexible, modular manner in accordance with their own interests, needs and preferences.

Summative assessment in OpenVM mini-MOOCs is combined with the OpenVM Badges<3>, i.e.  digital credentials based on the Open Badge standard, which are issued as part of the project summative e-assessments.

E-portfolio assessment combined with peer-reviews performed by learners in a given MOOC is available only at the Advanced Level in a given mini-MOOC. In this way learners progress in the complexity of e-assessment along with the progression in competency development.

The OpenVM Learning Hub is open for everyone to participate in the available MOOCs, all offered in English. We look forward to welcoming you in the OpenVM Learning Hub!

If you want to explore more about this project, please contact with the author of this article, Ilona Buchem:

The EPICA Initiative is seeking to find synergies with other European projects that are working on the same topics, and through a collaborative dissemination we expect the outputs of both projects to enrich each other in the future.



Chauhan, A. (2014). Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCS): Emerging Trends in Assessment and Accreditation. Digital Education Review, (25), 7-18.

Chen, J. (2017). An e-Portfolio-based Model for the Application and Sharing of

College English ESP MOOCs. Higher Education Studies, 7(2). Retrieved from

European Commission (2019). Erasmus+ Programm Guide. Retrieved from

Sánchez-Vera, M. del M., & Prendes-Espinosa, M. P. (2015). Beyond objective testing and peer assessment: alternative ways of assessment in MOOCs. RUSC. Universities and Knowledge Society Journal, 12(1), 119.

Suen, H. (2014). Peer assessment for Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning. 15. 312 - 327. 10.19173/irrodl.v15i3.1680.