E-portfolios are an electronic version of the traditional portfolio that was a collection of items on paper, created by a person to represent his or her learning progress or best work. E-portfolios are digital collections that are typically available through the Internet with access anytime and anywhere.
E-portfolios can be used with students as both learning and assessment tools. They can be created and used by either individual students to show personal growth or groups of students for team projects and peer learning.
As a form of active learning, e-portfolios encourage both the application of prior learning and reflection on the application of new knowledge. Often these thoughts are shared with others, creating an idea exchange process which includes feedback and revision.
As an assessment tool, e-portfolios contain a collection of student created artifacts that provide evidence of accomplishments and demonstrate a level of mastery gained for the content being covered in the course. This collection can include original written text, graphics, videos, presentations, audio, or other multimedia elements. E-portfolios can be intentionally set up to be open to the public or closed to specific viewers and/or editors, controlling both who can see the work as well as who can contribute to the works included in the collection.
How to Use E-portfolios
The following are some of the ways this teaching approach is used to engage students:
- Providing feedback—In private e-portfolios available for viewing by a select few, feedback can be provided by the student, peers, mentors, internship supervisors, coaches, and instructional staff. In public e-portfolios, further feedback can be sought and provided by credentialing authorities as well as members of professional organizations.
- Creating reflections on the process of learning. By writing reflections, students generate a chronological record sharing their thoughts about their own learning journey.
- Enabling review and evaluation of student work by instructors.
- Providing a mechanism to track and synthesize a student’s progress throughout an academic program.
- Creating a repository for work students want to showcase for external audiences.
- Cataloging best work for use in recognition or evaluation of prior knowledge and/or prior learning.
Impact on Learning
Using portfolios in instruction can impact learning through:
- Improving course success rates
- Enabling project-based learning
- Providing an alternative form of assessment
- Creating a catalog of evidence showing mastery of course content
Rubrics: Rubrics are useful for providing evaluation expectations and should be provided for use as a guide in creating the e-portfolio as well as assisting in generating meaningful feedback.
Exemplars: Provide students with examples of e-portfolios successfully created for the course requirements by previous students.
Meaningful feedback: Essential to the process of creating a successful e-portfolio, meaningful feedback provides students with the information necessary to improve the elements included in their showcase of evidence showing growth or mastery in the course.’
ePortfolios and Canvas
In Canvas, students and instructors can use the ePortfolio tool to electronically collect different types of learning artifacts. Artifacts might include essays, photos from global learning experiences, scanned images, teacher comments, PowerPoint presentations, Web sites, video projects, audio recordings, etc. The Canvas ePortfolio tool makes it easy to upload files and provides built in password-protection. You can even request confidential feedback on each portfolio section where only the portfolio author can read the comments. Instructors can create a custom portfolio template for the class or they can ask students to design their own portfolio. More information on the Canvas ePortfolio tool is available from the Canvas Community at: https://community.canvaslms.com/docs/DOC-3281.
Portfolios at Penn State: Penn State provides portfolio services for the University community. You can find best practices for faculty and students, along with support information and even a gallery of sample e-portfolios to review.
Other popular free services that are typically easy to use to create e-portfolios and easy to find online tutorials for support include:
- Google Sites can help you create innovative e-portfolios.
- WordPress is often considered a blogging platform, but it can also easily be used for creating an e-portfolio.
- Edublogs is highly customizable, with an emphasis on collaboration, making the platform a good choice for ongoing and often-updated portfolios and assessments.
Additionally, e-portfolio capabilities or modules are becoming a popular resource to that is integrated into the learning management system.
Things to Consider
For successful implementation of e-portfolios, you should consider the following strategies:
- Give careful consideration to the specific purpose that using e-portfolios will serve and clearly communicate that purpose to your students to improve their success in using an e-portfolio for your course. For example, is the purpose of the e-portfolio for learning or for evaluation?
- Accept the idea that creating an e-portfolio can be time-consuming and plan for students to spend time during the course to complete the e-portfolio requirements.
- Identify the intended audience for whom the e-portfolio will be intended, and clearly communicate this audience to your students.
- From the beginning, provide clear instruction on how the e-portfolio will be evaluated, including the requirements for the number of elements to be included, deadlines to be met, and criteria that will be used for evaluation through use of a rubric or other documentation.
Donston-Miller, Deb. “7 Ways to Create e-Portfolios.” InformationWeek (2013). http://www.informationweek.com/software/7-ways-to-create-e-portfolios/d/d-id/1110673.
“E-Portfolios Explained.” University of Waterloo, Center for Teaching Excellence. https://uwaterloo.ca/centre-for-teaching-excellence/teaching-resources/teaching-tips/educational-technologies/all/eportfolios.
Lorenzo, George and John Ittelson. “An Overview of E-portfolios.” Educause Learning Initiative Paper 1. http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI3001.pdf.
“Portfolios at Penn State.” Penn State. http://portfolio.psu.edu/.