Proposal for Incorporating an ePortfolio in the ANU Master of Computing

By: Tom Worthington

Version: 0.2 of 25 January 2013 (Latest draft and report also available)


The purpose of this document is to outline, and seek comments on, incorporating ePortfolios in a new Master of Computing degree for the Australian National University (Strazdins, 2012c). This details the rational behind using eportfolios, a survey of their use in other programs, preparation of a proposal for ANU and invites comment  stakeholders. The aim is to use eportfolios to support higher degree programs which are flexible enough to support a combination of coursework and research, as well as meeting quality standards for professional accreditation  (Worthington, 2012b).


This work is being undertaken as part of the ANU course “Enhancing Your Academic Practice” (EDUC8001). It has not been solicited by the ANU, nor is it an official part of the current university program proposal. The views expressed in this document are those of the author and may not be those of the ANU. The ANU is not obliged to accept any of the recommendations in this document. For background see “Learning On-line Tertiary Teaching for Research-Led Education

Learning On-line Tertiary Teaching for Research-Led Education” and “The Application of On-line Professional Pedagogy at a Research-Intensive University: Lessons from Professional Coursework” .

Invitation to Comment

Your comments on this proposal, by 30 January, would be welcome. A second draft will be circulated 4 February. You can comment by e-mail to: Tom.Worthington(a) All, or part of the comments may be used in a later published report. Please indicate if you want your comment to be anonymous.

Proposed ANU Master of Computing Use of an ePortfolio

It is proposed to include an ePortfolio in the requirements for the ANU Master of Computing. This would use an e-portfolio similar to that already used for ANU's undergraduate engineering degrees, combined with the techniques from the Professional Practice Subject of the Australian Computer Society (ACS) Certified Professional Program. Progressive assessment would be used to ensure that students progress with their e-portfolio, applying on-line assessment techniques used in the ANU course “ICT Sustainability” COMP7310 (Worthington, 2012a). Students would be provided with:

  1. 1.New Professional Knowledge Course: All students would be required to complete the new course covering the “Professional Knowledge” sub‐component, ICT Profession Body of Knowledge (Australian Computer Society, 2012). This would be a six credit point course, equivalent to one quarter of one semester's work. The student would start the course at the beginning of their program and be required to complete it before graduation. 

  2. 2.E-Portfolio: Students would be provided with an on-line portfolio tool (such as Mahara) and a template based on the ACS Body of Knowledge. 

  3. 3.Optional Courses and Study Aids: There would be no face-to-face classes for the course. Instead students would be provided with a list of the optional development courses offered by the university. 

  4. 4.Compulsory On-line Tutorials: All students would be required to take part in on-line tutorials, using the university's implementation of Moodle (called “Wattle”). Participation would be enforced through assessment of contributions, with at least a 50% pass rate required. 

Course description

Course Title: Professional Knowledge

Offered By

Research School of Computer Science

Academic Career


Course Subject

Computer Science

Offered in

All terms

Unit Value

6 units

Course Description

The aim of this course is to enable students to develop and document their professional skills and practice. Students will complete an e-Portfolio using a template aligned with the skills required for their program. Students can complete the template using the results of formal courses undertaken where these align with the skills requirements. Students can also include individual assignment exercises undertaken in courses, as well as published papers and other artifacts. The course is designed to meet the requirements of the “Professional Knowledge” sub‐component, ICT Profession Body of Knowledge (Australian Computer Society, 2012).

Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of this course, the student will be able to:

  1. 1.Document their skills using an e-portfolio. 

  2. 2.Demonstrate relevant professionals skills for their professional accreditation: Ethics, Professionalism, Teamwork concepts and issues, Interpersonal communication, Societal issues/Legal issues/Privacy, History and status of discipline 

Indicative Assessment

e-Portfolio (80%); Contributions to on-line forums (20%). A pass in both items of assessment is required to pass the course.


To complete the subject you will need to spend 150 hours reading, communicating with colleagues and tutors and preparing your e-portfolio, over the span of your program.

Other Information

On-campus workshops are available. No attendance is required. All materials and assessment are on-line.


At its core the project aims to provide for a postgraduate program which is more flexible than a traditional coursework offering, but also meets internal academic, government quality standards and professional vocational accreditation requirements The fundamental issue it aims to address is if the techniques proven in professional and vocational development programs will meet the Australian quality standards for higher education.

Scope of the project

The project covers only the design of an e-portfolio addition to the proposed new New Master of Computing degree for the Australian National University (Strazdins, 2012c). Two other qualifications were proposed along with the Masters: the general approach is likely to also be applicable to the Graduate Certificate in Computing (2012a) and Graduate Diploma in Computing (Strazdins, 2012b). All three will be need to meet the requirements of the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF). However, only the Master will be submitted for professional accreditation with the Australian Computer Society (ACS) and so only that qualification was considered for this project.

An interesting option would be to design the three programs so that a student could start with the certificate and then, if they wish, progress through a diploma to the masters. This approach is taken with the ANU Graduate Studies Select program. This should prove popular with mature age students, without recent study experience. As a student of education, I found the prospect of starting with a certificate, with the option of a Masters later, to be attractive. However, this was outside the scope of this project.


Due to the limited time, the process is limited to the preparation of a draft document, which has been circulated for comment, comments will be collated and changes made. There are no plans for  workshops, nor formal analysis of data. In the longer term it is hoped that the project will be a model for other higher degree programs at ANU and more widely.

Current Situation

The ANU Research School of Computer Science currently offers a one year “Master of Computing”. This is normally be undertaken following a four year undergraduate degree in a computing with honors.

Proposed Changes

A change to a two year Master of Computing is proposed to satisfy AQF requirements. Also this is designed to appeal to international students, who do not favor a “Graduate Diploma”. The new program in effect incorporates the old one, as students who have a 4 year computing degree or a 3 year computing degree plus experience can be awarded one year (50%) of status. This project aims to add to the proposal training in literacy and the completion of an e-portfolio to satisfy professional accreditation requirements of the ACS, alongside the technical courses. Students would be supplied with a template setting out professional skills and be required to complete this by the end of their program. In addition the e-portfolio can be used by those students wishing to obtain credit for prior work to document their skills.


The AQF is in part designed to align with the Bologna Process (or "Bologna Accords") standardization of higher education qualifications. This has been adopted by most European countries, plus some of Asia. Australian higher education qualifications come under the Bologna Accords through signing of the Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications concerning Higher Education in the European Region (the "Lisbon Recognition Convention") in 2002.


The Bologna process has a three level model of degrees and the amount of full time study required for them is generally:

  1. 1.Undergraduate: three years 

  2. 2.Masters: two years 

  3. 3.Doctoral: three years. 

The AQF allows for shorter Masters Coursework programs where the student has a Bachelor Degree in the same discipline: 1.5 years following Bachelor Degree, or 1 year with Honors.

There is therefore an incentive for the student to not undertake Honors., as it would extend their their studies by six months.

Quinlan and Berndtson (2012) describe the background to the Bologna process and point out that it is smaller Western European countries (Scotland, Flemish Belgium, Denmark, Ireland) which have embraced it most enthusiastically, not its instigators (France and Germany). Also they point out this is still a work in progress.

Quinlan and Berndtson (2012) cite the European Commission's nine objectives for higher education reform (EC, 2008):

  1. 1.Break down the barriers around universities in Europe  

  2. 2.Ensure real autonomy and accountability for universities  

  3. 3.Provide incentives for structured partnerships with the business community  

  4. 4.Provide the right mix of skills and competencies for the labor market  

  5. 5.Reduce the funding gap and make funding work more effectively in education and research  

  6. 6.Enhance interdisciplinary and transdisciplinarity  

  7. 7.Activate knowledge through interaction with society  

  8. 8.Reward excellence at the highest level  

  9. 9.Make the European higher education area and the European research area more visible and  attractive in the world  

While expressed in therms of Europe, the objectives are equally applicable for an Australian university with potential students in Asia.

The new program has a conventional course structure, drawing on existing computer science and other ANU courses.

Some difficulties with the proposal are:

  1. 1.Professional accreditation with the Australian Computer Society (ACS): In particular, this requires every student has graduate outcomes of communication skills and professional ethics. These topics are not covered in any particular course and so some way is required to ensure that the student meets these requirements. 

  2. 2.Levels of academic communication: An ongoing problem with postgraduate university courses is students meeting the requirement for academic writing. The problem is most acute with international students who have English as a second language, but is also a problem with domestic students who have undertaken technical undergraduate degrees which do not require formal academic writing. This is not covered in any course within the currently proposed Masters of Computing. It is not clear if requiring ANU College for international students would be sufficient, especially as this would not address problems with domestic students. The ANU Information Literacy Program offers a one semester equivalent “Course Award in Graduate Research Information”, made up of workshops and on-line. modules. However, this course is not currently assessed and is offered in face to face workshops, which would cause logistical difficulties. 

Current of e-Portfolios Universities and Professional Bodies

E-Portfolio for Assessment

The Australian Government funded an extensive study into the current and potential uses of e-Portfolios in Australian universities (Hallam and others, 2008). A high level of interest in the potential and some early adoption was found. Since that time there has been limited implementation of e-Portfolios. The report identified six uses for e-Portfolios: Assessment, Presentation, Learning, Personal development, Multiple-owner, Working. The assessment portfolio is of interest for this report. The e-portfolio might also be used to apply for a job ( Presentation), as part of reflection and deeper understanding in a program (Learning),  for career planning (Personal development), to show the work of a group (Multiple-owner) and provide an archive of the students work (Working). However, it is the individual student's meeting the course requirements and the institution meeting accreditation requirements of external bodies, which is of interest here.

Assessing with e-Portfolios at UNSW

The University of NSW (UNSW) provides a useful set of guidelines on "Assessing with ePortfolios" (3 May 2012). ePortfolios are suggested to "support students in planning their personal, educational and career development", "present evidence of achieving program outcomes through artifacts that demonstrate transferable skills"and "in capstone courses and programs that require professional accreditation". UNSW provide a useful list of issues to consider with ePortfolios and further readings. UNSW have installed the Mahara e-portfolio tool (as used by ACS and USQ).

UNE Using an e-Portfolio to Demonstrate Graduate Attributes

The University of New England UNE) "Guidelines for implementation of the Graduate
Attributes Policy and Quality Management processes" (June 2009), include the option of presentation of evidence via a personal ePortfolio. UNE reference UNSW's "Assessing with ePortfolios" and offer students the Mahara e-Portfolio tool.



ANU Software Engineering Internship Requires E-Portfolio

Of most relevance to incorporating an e-portfolio in a new ANU computing graduate degree, is that e-portfolios are already used in undergraduate computing programs. Professional accreditation by Engineering Australia requires the student to undertake at least 60 days work experience.  This is  was accommodated in the ANU Bachelor of Software Engineering with Engineering internships, which were for credit. The course Software Engineering Internship (COMP3820) replaced one semester of full time study for the student. Assessment for the course requires students to reflect on their work experience in an Internship Journal (e-Portfolio).  The students are intended to be able to demonstrate learning and professional development through mapped to the Engineers Australia technical competencies. The e-Portfolio makes up 20% of the total assessment for the course, which is equivalent to 80% of a standard one semester course.


The aim of this course is to use the internship experience to enable students to develop their software engineering skills and practice. Students will be placed in industry, working full-time and assessed for academic credit. The internships will be aligned with the aims of the software engineering program. Students will experience a real-life engineering workplace and understand how their software engineering and professional skills and knowledge can be utilized in industry. They will also be able to demonstrate functioning software engineering knowledge, both new and existing, and identify areas of further development for
Software Engineering Internship (COMP3820),Shayne Flint,  ANU  Research School of Computer Science, 2012

Professional Bodies

The Certified Member Association for Learning Technology Program, the Professional Practice Subject of the Australian Computer Society (ACS) Certified Professional Program and ACS Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) Application process all use some form of portfolio.

Professional Practice Subject of the Certified Professional Program requires four components:

  1. 1.Skill self assessment: the student assesses their own current skills against the Skills for the Information Age (SFIA) framework. Students are required to have reached SFIA Level 4 (generic skills:
    autonomy, influence, complexity and business skills) before commencing the activity.  

  2. 2.Career plan: the student has to identify three areas to develop over the following five years, with  a plan for development,  

  3. 3.Professional profile: the student prepares a professional profile in preparation for career advancement,  

  4. 4.Reflective journal: the student records a weekly reflections on what they have learned, their skills, and workplace experience.  

The guidelines allow for 1 to 3 hours per week for up to 52 weeks for the preparation of the Professional Practice.

The ACS "Key Areas of Knowledge" document provides a list of topics for applicants for membership to address in an application for RPL:

ACS Key Areas of Knowledge

  1. 1.Technology Resources (TR)  

  2. 2.Technology Building (TB)  

  3. 3.Services Management (SM)  

  4. 4.Outcomes Management (OM)  

As these are the topics an applicant for RPL is required to address, it should be possible to use these same topics in an e-portfolio to support membership for students in university programs. However, these topics do not appear to match those which have been used traditionally to define the ICT "Body of Knowledge" (known as the "BoK"). In particular there is no mention of professional skills in communication and ethics. So I should check the latest ACS BoK.

The ACS "
ICT Profession Body of Knowledge" (ACS Professional Standards Board, July 2012), follows the '... approach to educational program design that focuses on the development of professionals rather than taking a strict bottom‐up “curriculum‐driven” approach'.  The BoK cites several international standards and frameworks for defining ICT courses and skills requirements, including the International Professional Practice Partnership (IP3), the the Seoul Accord graduate attributes and the Skills Framework for the Information Age (SFIA). It should be noted that the ACS has been closely involved in the development of these international programs. The BoK states: "It might be expected that a graduate from a degree program would be ready to assume Level 4 responsibilities in their area of specialisation". 

The "CORE Block" of the Core Body of Knowledge has six sub‐components:

  1. 1.ICT Problem Solving (PS)  

  2. 2.Professional Knowledge (PK)  

  3. 3.Technology Building (TB)  

  4. 4.Technology Resources (TR)  

  5. 5.Services Management (SM)  

  6. 6.Outcomes Management (OM).  

The last four of these (TB, TR, SM and OM) are also in the ACS "Key Areas of Knowledge" for RPL (but with TR before TB). It is not clear why "ICT Problem Solving" (PS) and Professional Knowledge (PK) are not included in the RPL process. Perhaps these are covered implicitly by the requirement for the applicant to provide case studies of their work. These two areas are the ones which are lest able to be covered in a traditional course based program and were the e-portfolio is most likely to be of use.

ICT Problem Solving

ICT Problem Solving (PS) covers modeling, abstraction and design. There are many different forms of modeling used in ICT, engineering and related disciplines which could be applied. It is likely that a student undertaking an ICT program will have covered this topic adequately somewhere, but may need to identify where they did and provide evidence of specific work.

Professional Knowledge

Professional Knowledge (PK) covers:

  1. 1.Ethics  

  2. 2.Professionalism  

  3. 3.Teamwork concepts and issues  

  4. 4.Interpersonal communication  

  5. 5.Societal issues/Legal issues/Privacy  

  6. 6.History and status of discipline   

These are the topic which cause most difficulty in a traditional course based university program, as they do not fit within traditional technical categories. Teamwork is likely to be covered in a software engineering course, but less so in computer science. Ethics and other issues may be covered by one or two lectures and an assignment at best. The difficulty for university course designers is where to fit these topics.

Mapping of International Curriculum to ACS CBOK  

The ACS BoK includes an appendix
Mapping of International Curriculum to ACS CBOK. This has a table indicating what BoK sub-components correspond to parts of the standard curricular of ACM, IEEE and IEEE CS. Notably ICT Problem Solving (PS) does not appear in the mapping. Professional Knowledge maps to the other curricular.

ACM/IEEE-CS Report on Masters Degree Programs in Europe and the United States

Of relevance to any new Australian Computing Masters is the "Report of the Joint ACM and IEEE-CS Committee on Masters Degree Programs in Europe and the United States" by Lillian N. Cassel, Arnold Pears, Michael Casperson Art Pyster, Gordon Davies and Heikki Topi (2012). This report looks at the European standardization of Masters programs under the Bologna model and the different US approach

The report categorises the types of Masters as:

  1. 1.Research: Students are assumed to be going to continue on to a PHD.   

  2. 2.Continuation/Integrated: Students undertake an undergraduate degree, then a Masters.  

  3. 3.Conversion: Students enter the masters having an undergraduate degree in another discipline.  

  4. 4.Professional/Industrial: Students study and work at the same time.  

The Continuation/Integrated and Conversion categories match most closely what is proposed for ANU.

The report discusses "
Professional Practice", which matches closely the ACS "Professional Knowledge". The ACS "Code of Professional Conduct and Professional Practice" is cited in the report. Also the "problem solving"and communication skills. Unfortunately the requirements for Professional Knowledge and Problem Solving are not detailed. Also the report ends without any recommendations on how US style masters can be harmonized with Europe, which is the issue Australia is now facing.

Computer Science Curricula 2013

Computer Science Curricula 2013 (ACM/IEEE CS, Strawman Draft, February 2012) includes a section on "Social and Professional Practice" (SP, also referred to as "Social and Professional Issues" in some parts of the report) which matches closely the ACS "Professional Knowledge". This is covered over nine pages in in far more detail than the previously discussed reports. The joint committee which produced the curricula is due to produce an updated draft for comment in February 2013 and the final report in "Summer 2013".

Social and Professional Practice (SP) is allocated 11 Core-Tier 1 hours and 5 Core-Tier 2 hours of the curriculum (no change from 2001  and 2008 versions of the curriculum). In this context "hours" refers to the time required to present the material in a traditional lecture format, not counting other student work. Tier 1 are introductory and Tier 2 advanced courses. The total hours are 305 (163 Tier 1 and 142 Tier 2). So Social and Professional Practice represents 6.7% of the Tier 1 total hours and 3.5% of Tier 2, making 5.2% of the total program hours. Assuming an undergraduate program consists of 4 courses per semester, 2 semesters per year for 3 years (24 in total), then SP makes up 125% of a course.

Comments on the report are being collected using . This allows anyone to sign up to enter a comment, with contributors able to "earn" higher level access. This is part of the "Ensemble" NSF NSDL Pathways project on computing education. However, little use seems to have been made of the system for this report. I have submitted this comment:

The CS2013 Ironman draft refers to the Knowledge Area "SP" mostly as "Social and Professional Practice" but in a few places as "Social and Professional Issues".
I suggest using "Practice" rather than "Issues" throughout. Change:
Chapter 1, Page 7, Line 89,
Chapter 5, Page 33, Line 136

Social and Professional Practice (SP)

Social and Professional Practice (SP) is made up of ten topics:

SP. Social and Professional Practice





Core-Tier1 hours

Core-Tier2 hours

Includes Electives

SP/Social Context




SP/Analytical Tools




SP/Professional Ethics




SP/Intellectual Property




SP/Privacy and Civil Liberties




SP/Professional Communication












SP/Economies of Computing




SP/Security Policies, Laws and Computer Crimes





Curiously, "Professional Communication", makes up only one hour of the curriculum. This only about 0.3% of the total course, which appears inadequate, gen the importance of communication to any professional and the problems computer scientists have had communicating.

SP/ Professional Communication
[1 Core-Tier1 hour]


Learning Outcomes:

  1. 1.Write clear, concise, and accurate technical documents following well-defined standards for format and for including appropriate tables, figures, and references. [Application]  

  2. 2.Evaluate written technical documentation to detect problems of various kinds. [Evaluation]  

  3. 3.Develop and deliver a good quality formal presentation. [Evaluation]  

  4. 4.Plan interactions (e.g. virtual, face-to-face, shared documents) with others in which they are able to get their point across, and are also able to listen carefully and appreciate the points of others, even when they  

  5. 5.disagree, and are able to convey to others that they have heard. [Application]  

  6. 6.Describe the strengths and weaknesses of various forms of communication (e.g. virtual, face-to-face, shared  

  7. 7.documents) [Knowledge]  

  8. 8.Examine appropriate measures used to communicate with stakeholders involved in a project. [Application]  

  9. 9.Compare and contrast various collaboration tools. [Evaluation]  


  1. 1.Discuss ways to influence performance and results in cross-cultural teams. [Knowledge]  

  2. 2.Examine the tradeoffs and common sources of risk in software projects regarding technology, structure/process, quality, people, market and financial. [Application]  



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