E-portfolio as Assessment Tool and Digital Evidence for Students



E-portfolio is an electronic portfolio made of a collection of digital materials (files, graphics, photos, curriculum vitae, multimedia etc.) demonstrating achievements, experiences and evidence of learning by students or professionals. In higher education, E-portfolio is increasingly becoming an important assessment tool that provides great opportunities to students to show-case their progress in their studies by recording their learning experiences and work history. Students can develop quickly and easily their E-portfolios by capturing live evidence through the use of mobile phones, scanning their existing portfolios and publish them into their space in the institutional E-portfolio system for the purposes of learning, assessment, and making transitions, particularly to employment.

Why use E-portfolio in Higher Education?

Electronic Portfolios are used as a personal learning environment that facilitates the construction of a framework to organise a student learning and work experience, achievements as well as a range of life-based learning events for long life learning.

Electronic portfolios are valuable materials when teaching or learning in face-to-face or online environment. In online environment, they provide the tutor with evidence of a spectrum of skills and achievements for students registered in their e-courses. For face-to-face or blended mode of delivery, E-portfolio system can help students to keep their work in a centralised storage system that can allow them to retrieve and edit their piece of work anytime and from anywhere. E-portfolios provide to students mechanisms to keep track of their progression in their courses and the evidence is kept in a centralised and structured manner. Students have full control to share their E-portfolios with other people of their choice.

The instructional Technology Unit at the Polytechnic of Namibia (PON) deployed an E-portfolio system that is embedded into the piloted virtual learning environment Moodle and it supports a range of learning activities such as:

  • Collecting and storing textual materials that can be combined with audio and/or visual resources for evidence purposes and for learning.
  • Facilitate collaboration with others.
  • Communicating personal learning goals, objectives and personal identities to a range of audiences.
  • Encouraging and motivating students to produce quality work so that others can view for sharing purposes.
  • Develop and enhance students writing skills.
  • Facilitating active learning where students can set their own goals.
  • Encouraging and build a culture of feedback for student own work or work done by others.
  • Keep in a centralised place all evidence-based resources produced by the students from day one at PON until the exit. Students can access those resources any time and from anywhere to reflect on particular items or on a collection of evidence created over time.

Dashboard of PON E-portfolio system

The E-portfolio system integrated in Moodle has the following features:

  • Provision of achievement’s evidence
  • Students’ details, goals and or expectations
  • Taking notes of daily learning activities and progress
  • Provision of peer evaluations on individual work
  • Provision of journal entries for students to demonstrate their attainment, engagement, interactions and reflection with the learning
  • Facilitate feedback from lecturers, tutor or trainers

Using the E-portfolio system integrated in Moodle, students can edit or upload their content, structure their content in folders/labels or tags, retrieve and edit any time their content and files. They can also display their content privately by invitation or publicly through dedicated web pages through hyperlinks.

Integrate E-portfolios as Teaching and Learning Activities

When designing E-portfolios assessment for teaching, learning and Assessment, we need to consider the following important factors:

  • Are your students capable to use technology (ICT basic skills) to develop and upload materials for a portfolio?
  • Is there any provision in the curriculum requesting or suggesting students to use portfolio in completing their projects and assignments?
  • Is there a system to upload student works and organise it in e-portfolio structure? Is the software offering monitoring mechanisms for lecturers and tutors involved in the assessment of E-portfolios?
  • Are guidelines available to support students to produce (provide clear information about the kind of work that can be included in portfolios) and organise their e-portfolio?
  • Is there a system in place to encourage and support students to lead the growth of their E-portfolios?
  • Are there rubrics or criteria that help students to understand how their work will be assessed?

The factors mentioned above are essential to expect a successful implementation of E-portfolio in an institution of higher learning such as PON.

How can E-portfolio be used as an assessment tool?

Lecturers and Tutors can use E-portfolio as an assessment tool in their courses. The assessment can be in the form of:

  • Reflection on a concept related to the course
  • Feedback of individual or group work
  • Display final product of a project in the form of digital artifact or snapshot
  • Display contributes in online synchronous and asynchronous discussions and collaboration as specified by the lecturer or tutor.

How can students access the E-portfolio system at PON?

For the new Moodle implementation, the design of the integration of the E-portfolio is Single Sign ON (SSO) approach. The integrated E-portfolio system is external software to Moodle; howerver once a student logs in the virtual learning environment, they will be able to access the E-portfolio system without manually providing their credentials. The SSO feature installed on Moodle will automatically register a student in the E-portfolio database. In Moodle E-learning platform, a link to open the E-portfolio platform is provided to students.

Link in Moodle to open E-portfolio Platform

Only lecturers will be able to provide the access to E-portfolio through their courses. This is to avoid any disruption or distraction during online activities other than E-portfolio.

E-portfolio can be a valuable tool for students to exhibit their talents and this can be very beneficial when looking for employment for example. The system in implementation at Polytechnic of Namibia has features to display CVs/resume; notes taking to reflect the learning processes; write articles through journal entries. The system also has a social networking capabilities that can enable the institution to create a community of learning (COL) or community of practice (COP) and keep students connected with one other for learning purposes; especially distant students . In the next article, we will discuss possible impact of social networking in teaching and learning.

M-learning Research – Infrastructure


In western countries, the use of mobile technology in education is growing and researchers are working on various projects to find ways to enhance teaching and learning using such approach. One of the aspects of their researches is to measure the impact of the use of mobile devices on student performance, attainment to tasks, collaboration, enthusiasm to learn, motivation, etc. Most of institutions of learning in western countries can afford the latest electronic gadgets, such as tablet PCs, smartphones, etc. to access institutional learning management systems. Unfortunately such gadgets are still very expensive in developing countries; some of them are even more expensive than ordinary computers or laptops. The gap in the access or use of the latest information and communications technologies ( computers, mobile phones, digital networks, even interactive television) is as wide as ever, between developed and developing countries and the consequences are being felt in all the poorer parts of the world.

Planning to use such devices will not be sustainable because of the cost involved; we need to wait until prices drop down (how long are we going to wait? 2 or 3, 5 or 10 years?). The problem is that we cannot wait for prices to drop down in order to use technology in our communities and schools. The best way is to use available and affordable devices and use them for learning purposes.

The system implemented in this M-learning research project is complex but very user friendly, especially for users who never attended online training before. The system being implemented performs adaptation based on the device and user profiles. The system therefore works on both PC and mobile platforms. In this research, I monitor the underlying multidimensional adaptation framework, which had been used to develop the prototype mobile learning system. The prototype implementation uses Extensible Markup Language (XML), Extensible Stylesheet Language (XSL), Document Object Model (DOM) and PHP5 for dynamic interaction. The database used is Mysql 5.5, a very powerful open source.

How is it working?

First of all the user needs a cellphone that can connect to the Internet. Our approach is to use web-based application and not native application, which cannot serve much in the model we are busy researching. By native application, I mean an application that is developed taking in consideration the type of phone and the operating system used on that phone. For example if you develop an application for Android operating system, such application will not work on another type of operating system such as OS 7 for Blackberry. Most of native applications are platform-dependant. Our approach is to use a web-based application that is not platform-dependant; where any type of cellphone can access teaching and learning resources on condition that it can connect to the Internet. The question here is “how sustainable is the use of  a system that requires connection over the Internet and using a mobile phone?” Is it not expensive to manage? Is it cost effective?

M-learning Model

At the outset, it was very critical during the design stage of this project to decide the business model for M-learning to adopt (an open web standards such as HTML, CSS, and javascript, or a native application for the devices I want to target) As I said previously, I was more in favor of M-learning that is platform-independant. Therefore, I was not sure about the cost involved when accessing different wireless networks offered by the major vendors in the country. I did a preliminary study on “how cost effective” is to access online content through a mobile phone. I realised that using a phone, with proper browser-configuration, it is really cheap enough to connect and browse the Net. Just to give you an idea, MTC is charging 50 cents for downloading 1 Mb of data. For your information, 1 Mb = 1024 Kb. I realised that the average of data downloaded on the phone when opening a webpage is around 10 kb. To finish 1024 Kb (50 cents), you need to open more than 100 pages (movies and other multimedia files not included). For this project, the first course we developed has around 100 pages. Of course, we are using another approach for students to access multimedia resources (this will be explained in future articles).

To connect to the M-learning platform, the participants in the project need valid usernames and passwords as shown below (sorry for the bad quality of the images):

Home page of M-learning

Credentials Request

Once the login is successful, the user can access the course and start working. The system offers a variety of features that facilitate communication and collaboration among students, under the supervision of the course tutor. The system offers tools for assessment and feedback mechanisms that can support and ease the tasks of the tutor.

In the next article, we will examine how to access online content and participate in various online activities offered by the online course.

Research on Mobile Learning Using Mobile Phones



Today we are witnessing rapid development and innovation in the area of technology. Most sectors, such as chain production, business, military, health, etc. are greatly taking advantage of available technologies to solve problems they are facing in their areas. Unfortunately, in the education sector, we are not doing well like others to take advantage of tremendous opportunities offered by new technologies to enhance and improve performance in the education systems. The disturbing part is that technology is available and at our disposal in some cases but we are challenged to use it for the benefit of our students.

At the Instructional Technology Unit, we initiated a research project where learning and teaching take place using only mobile phones. I hope that you agree with me that this doesn’t sound as new approach because in all local and international conferences and workshops, educators always debate/praise the potentials of mobile technology in learning and teaching. Researchers all over the world are convinced and believe that mobile phones constitute a great opportunity for developing countries; especially in African countries. One of the reasons advanced is that this type of technology is widely available almost in all countries and is much more affordable than other forms of new technologies. Currently, the challenge is to measure the impact of such technology in teaching and learning, which gives light to our research project ; “find out at which extend mobile phones can facilitate teaching and learning”. My main aim is to measure the impact of such tools in our own context and environment.

Mobile technologies are the next generation of technology-mediated teaching and learning tools. They not only connect people in information-driven societies effectively, but they also offer the opportunity for a spontaneous, personal, informal, and situated learning (Yuhsun E. S. &  Dennis M., 2007, p. 2). As mobile devices are becoming increasingly ubiquitous and with an estimation of one billion devices expected to have mobile broadband Internet connections, the impact of mobile communication cannot be underestimated (David J. Gagnon, Volume 33, Number 3, 2010). In Namibia, mobile devices have access to a broadband, which makes Internet connectivity available and affordable. The penetration of mobile phones in Namibia is a great phenomenon. We have currently 3 major mobile phone providers namely Telecom of Namibia, MTC and LEO. For example, MTC alone claims having 1.7 million subscribers (The namibian, 20/03/2011, p.7), approximately 77% for an estimated population of 2.2 million. The remaining is shared between Telecom of Namibia and LEO; this is amazing. The question here is the following: How can we take advantage of such widely available tool and achieve one of the stipulated objectives of vision 2030; that is “build a knowledge-based society”? How can we transform such tool (mobile phone) into a useful teaching and learning tool; and not only being seen as a communication and entertainment tool?

This research will try to shape a model where technology is the main tool utilised to provide instructions and conduct assessment in a variety of forms. The resulted model will then be another topic of research where the model will be adjusted and adopted for schools from primary, secondary and tertiary levels. The model will be adjusted and adopted for Vocational education and training as well.

In this article, I am going to describe briefly the research project initiated by the Instructional Technology Unit, in collaboration with Mr. Gebhard Eshumba, Environmental Education Youth-Officer at the Multi-Purpose Centre in Usakos and distance-student from the Polytechnic of Namibia.

Research Interest

The interest of this research project is based on how mobile technology or technology in general can permit students to get access to quality educational resources and importantly to engage into virtual classroom discussion, assessment and collaboration (synchronously or asynchronously).

In this study, I am focusing on mobile technology, in particular mobile phones because of their widespread across the country and their affordability.

Another interest in my research is to find out how the system I implemented can adapt itself to different medium used to access learning materials. It is very important to keep in mind that mobile phones have a small screen, which is not well adapted to display all kind of learning objects uploaded on M-learning platform for students to access and use. I want to find out if the transformation of the content into other forms compatible with ordinary cellphones can allow learning to take place in remote and disadvantaged areas.

Emerging from e-learning, mobile learning is definitively becoming a significant next wave of learning environments and this constitutes an area to explore in developing countries. Therefore mobile technology in education is an evolving research area and many issues have not yet been exhaustively covered. My role as educational technologist is to research and promote this mode of delivery in teaching and learning; at the end of the day to inspire other local researchers to invest their time and contribute to the development of mobile technology integration in education.

Why Mobile Phone?

As I said before, I am trying to find out how to capitalise on cheap and available devices to enhance teaching and learning. Mobile phones are ubiquitous in Namibia and it makes sense to me to find ways to take advantage of such tool to facilitate learning processes for students and potential students.

Phones used in this research project

It is obvious that what an ordinary mobile phone can do, a laptop or a tablet PC such as iPad can do it and much better. My main concern is the affordability of the devices to be used in learning and at the end of the day we have to consider sustainability issues. My research is more focused on pro-poor approach; find out how people in rural areas that cannot afford expensive gadgets can also benefit of the Information and Communication Technology. You agree with me that students at the Polytechnic of Namibia, especially those doing distance studies may have more access to mobile phones than PCs (just an assumption to be proved). For me, it is relevant to research the potentials of devices that the majority of user can access, afford and use.

Research question

The main research question, which I am going to solve in this research project, is the following: How can mobile phones be adapted and adopted to provide access to teaching, learning and assessment resources to enhance learning processes of the students? I will try to look at different teaching strategies used in M-learning environment to make sure that learning is taking place and find ways to integrate more effectively emerging mobile technology features into teaching and learning. Various forms of assessment will be used to ensure participants’ involvement in various activities. Participants will be requested to create E-portfolios for evidence purposes of their achievements.

Target Group in this Research

It was very difficult for me to decide which target group to choose for this research project. Based on my research interest and research question, I wanted students who can get access exclusively to mobile phones and use them to access learning materials, being assessed, communicate with peers and tutors, search information via the Internet, etc. I took this choice to measure the impact of mobile phones in teaching & learning and to avoid that the outcomes of this research being biased. I want to avoid the kind of doubts and questions, such as “how do you know that your students used only mobile phones? What mechanisms did you put in place to make sure that your students will use only mobile phones? How can you prove that other devices than cellphones where not used? ”, etc. During the concept design of this research project, I wanted to use Polytechnic of Namibia students but I realised that these students have access to PCs, laptops, smartphones, iPad, etc. In such environment, it is impossible to ensure that students taking specific course in this project will use only cellphones. I tried to consider using learners at Primary or secondary levels. The problem is that cellphones are currently prohibited in schools. In such condition, the concept was not going to be welcomed otherwise I should have been involved in very long negotiations and this could be time consuming; unfortunately school leaders and I don’t have much time.  The best choice was to consider out-of-school youth; those who failed Grades 10 and 12 and far away from Windhoek. My preference was to conduct this research project in a remote and rural area but financial constraints made this not possible for the moment. At the end, I managed to find a suitable target group for this project: “Out-of-School Youth from Usakos and Karibib” and age-range between 18 – 33 years old.

Participants in the M-learning research project, a representative from Head Office of the Ministry of Youth, myself and one trainer from the Multi-Purpose Youth Centre in Usakos.

Mr. S. Banthu, representative of the Ministry of Youth came to encourage and support the youth to participate and evaluate the research project.

Mr. Gebhard Eshumba, the tutor and Environmental Youth Officer from Multi-Purpose Youth Centre – Usakos. He is also distance-student from Polytechnic of Namibia.

Maurice Nkusi, from Instructional Technology Unit – Polytechnic of Namibia

Based on the target group identified, the topic research is as stated below:

Topic research

The topic of my research is timely and very important; the aim is to find innovative processes to address youth out-of-school dilemma concerning provision of skills development.  I want to build a model where mobile phones should contribute to provide instructions in teaching and learning, taking in consideration contemporary methodologies and pedagogies. My research topic is to find out how mobile technologies can enable skills development among the youth in the category of NEET (Not in Employment, Education or Training). One of the objectives of this research is to develop a model, which permits youth to get access to quality training materials without attending classes or workshops in order to cut cost related to transport, accommodation, meals, etc. Such cost hinders the implementation of skills development programmes for out-of-school youth. Participants in this project will remain at their homes and will attend virtual classes using mobile devices. Using such technology, a bigger number of youth can be trained in a shorter period of time where applicable. Doing so, I will be able to measure the impact of mobile phones in teaching and learning.

In this project, we have started the ball rolling and we are entering the third week. Participants are busy with the first course (Mushroom Cultivation) and they are very active and eager to learn. They are punctual in submission of their online assignments and participate actively in online discussions.

In the next articles in these series of M-learning research project, I will talk about the methodologies being used in this research project. Some of the aspects to consider will be:

  • Mobile platform for the project
  • Accessing learning materials
  • Participation in collaboration activities
  • Participation in online assessment
  • Online support
  • Monitoring of users participation and analysis of their behaviour online
  • Tele-teaching methods and opportunities for virtual teaching and learning (synchronous approach)
  • Project as evidence-based approach and e-portfolio using Facebook

ICT Recognised as a Driven Tool to Enhance Education System in Namibia


The National Conference on Education started on 27th June 2011 and is entering its third day today Wednesday 29th June 2011. The Centre for Teaching and Learning (CTL) of the Polytechnic of Namibia presented yesterday on “Provision and Use of ICTs in Improvement of Teaching and Learning”. This topic is under the theme “ICT Development and Utilisation”. The presenters were Dr. Michael Tjivikua and Mr. Maurice Nkusi from CTL. The presentation was focused on the facts of ICT integration in education, requirement for successful implementation, challenges in the implementation and recommendations.

ICT Integration is not well understood by most educators. During the presentation, we provided some examples of ICT integration tools and explained in which circumstances such tools can be used in lesson delivery and taking in account prescribed educational theories such as Bloom’s taxonomy, Gagne’s Nine Events, Keller’s ARCS Model, Experiential Learning, etc.

Safari Hotel in Windhoek

The audience acknowledged the critical importance of ICT integration in education across the curriculum and recommended that this approach be implemented in schools in Namibia.

Mobile technology was also mentioned in many occasions during the discussions conducted by a panel of experts from various public and private organisations.

Maurice Nkusi

Is Mobile Learning a Good Approach?


Schools, colleges and universities are in the process of improving accessibility of their learning resources throughout, both in the physical as well as the virtual environment. Technology is common ground to easily distribute content in electronic format to students without worrying about geographical locations. Access to quality learning resources remains a big issue in developing countries, especially in Africa.

The penetration of mobile phones in urban and rural areas is a great development in Africa in this 21st century. Educationalists are trying to take advantage of this situation to try to break the digital divide and try to catch up with the big gap between rural and urban areas. Various organisations are trying to find out if mobile technologies can help to reduce poverty in Africa and other parts of the World. 

Mobile technologies, including mobile phones are the answer when Internet connectivity using  computers is an issue or when there is not enough computers to access learning or teaching resources via Internet. Mobile telephony coverage is more than 60% in most African countries and special effort is made by African governments to reach people in the rural areas using such technologies for social, educational and economic development.

Due to unbalanced ratio between students and computers at polytechnic, questions that we can ask ourselves are: “how can mobile phones be utilised to access E-learning platforms already available in the institution? is mobile learning a good approach? With the new platforms in the institution, one can access the E-learning platforms and take part in online discussions and collaboration wherever and whenever needed. The only requirement is that the device used needs to be configured to access the Internet. We need to explore this option while waiting the completion of the improvement of the students-computers ratio.

In future articles, we will see how mobile phones can be used to access E-learning platforms such as Chisimba or Moodle. We will explore different opportunities where mobile phones can be used to accomplish some tasks within a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE).

The questions asked previously are for each and everyone at Polytechnic of Namibia, whether you are a student or a lecturer. You are invited to provide your views .

Maurice Nkusi

Head of Instructional Technology

Online Demonstration as E-learning Tool



Most of the time, students are challenged to use new implementation tools (software or mechanic/electronic devices or other) to develop solutions to given problems. Today’s post emphasises on online multimedia demonstration as an E-learning strategy to present content aligned to a process or system and especially to show the “what to do” and “how to do”.

Why Use Demonstration in Teaching and Learning?

We basically use demonstration as method of instruction when teaching skill-type courses, to cover all steps involved in achieving a given task. This can be observed in sessions involving practical activities in laboratories (computer or science laboratories). Demonstrations are generally used during the content presentation stage of teaching. Presenting only factual background knowledge in classroom can not produce good result as expected. We must present other kinds of background knowledge by actual demonstrations conducted in laboratories to develop skills.

Demonstration can be a tough task

The introduction of technology in teaching can make the production and delivery of demonstrations in classrooms easier. Online demonstrations, for example video tutorials can be used in the initial presentation phase of the teaching and learning process to capture students’ attention and interest. These online demonstrations are able to show processes and systems which are not obvious to students. Actually online demonstrations can facilitate students’ understanding of the theory aspects of the content and the big advantage is that students can view and review the demonstrations at their own pace, to cement the understanding and the retention.

Technology can do miracle

As an illustration for this article, I developed a sample (fictitious) course to show how online demonstration can be of great help for students in the area of Information Technology or Engineering, especially for the under-prepared students or student at risk; this can be used in other fields of studies as well. The aim of this online demonstration is to show that such E-learning strategy can add value to the teaching and learning process. In this course, I simulated a practical session the way it’s done in a computer laboratory where a teacher is demonstrating how to develop a web application using an implementation tool named “Microsoft Visual Web Develop”. The tool is made of flash video; click the link below to play the movie:

Click here to start the course on web application

CTL will organise trainings on developing such E-learning tools.

What do we need to design online demonstration?

The design process of online demonstrations involves the following aspects to be considered:

  • Shed light on the functions and scope of the demonstration
  • ensure logic progression of the demonstration
  • build up a storyboard of the demonstration
  • identify implementation tools to produce the demonstration
  • perform testing and evaluation of the demonstration
  • identify and prepare learning activities in line with the demonstration

In the next article, I will emphasise on the development of e-courses using PowerPoint software. You will see that PowerPoint has the capabilities to embed all developed E-learning tools into one unit, which forms the e-course. Such e-course can then be integrated into a Learning Management System; I tried it and it works perfectly.

Maurice Nkusi


Audio Podcast as Teaching and Learning Tool



In the last article, we emphasised on the applicability of videos in teaching and learning, as well as the video podcasts. In today’s article, we are going to focus on audio podcast as a teaching and learning tool.

Podcasting is an Internet-based technology that provides audio files to be downloaded automatically to a computer or mobile MP3 device for listening at anytime.

Why Using Podcasts as a Learning Tool?

The use of audio files by teachers can provide a great range of teaching and learning opportunities and can increase existing content delivery strategies. Audio files can be downloaded and played by students from their computers, on mobile phones, on portable MP3 player, etc.

Podcast resources permit students to access content in a familiar format when access to other online learning content is difficult or unavailable; for example during lunch or travelling or when there are no means to access the online content from home.

Audio files can allow students to access learning content in a relaxed environment that suits them.

Listening lectures while relaxing

Students can use their technology-based entertainment gadgets, such as iPods, MP3 players, mobile phones, etc. to access and engage with content provided through podcasting. Podcast materials provide great opportunities for students to enhance their performance.

Podcast’s Implications in Teaching and Learning

When teaching, a teacher can record the entire session using a recording device, such as mobile phone (if the feature is available), iPod or a radio recorder. At the end of the lesson, the teacher can use open source audio software such as Audacity (click here to download) to edit the audio file and convert it into MP3. Audacity is very efficient and easy to use for recording or editing recorded materials. The final product, which is an MP3 audio sound, can be uploaded to the Learning Management System, such as KEWL.NexGen for students to download and play. Students will use those podcasts to review previous lessons and they will definitively get some essential points they did miss during the lectures. The production of such audio material is easy and is not time consuming when using Audacity software.

Waveform visualising the audio

During CTL trainings, participants will learn how to produce audio files using Audacity and upload the files into the virtual learning environment, such as KEWL or any other podcast service such as Podomatic (free service). Click on the link below to play the podcast I produced using Audacity and published on the Podomatic podcast service. By clicking on the provided link, the system will open my podcast page. Play the episode I created as illustration for this article; note that the course named RDB is just a fictitious course.

Click here to access my podcast web-page

As you noticed, there is an option to download the audio file in order to play the podcast off-line; this is an important feature especially for students without Internet access at home or during peak-traffic of the institution’s network.

The big advantage of podcasts is that the recording and hosting software is free and the production does not require anyone to be a sound engineer. Good recording results can be obtained with very basic knowledge. Some institutions of higher learning host their own podcasts produced in-house and I believe that Polytechnic can do the same if it’s ascertained to be necessary.

I want to suggest that you download the summary of the e-book about the “7 things you should know about…Podcasting” or the full version of “ELI Discovery Tool: Guide to Podcasting”. It holds useful information about podcasting in teaching and learning.

Maurice Nkusi



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