by David dos Santos
Electronic portfolios or ePortfolios have become an indispensable tool to facilitate student learning and assessment. An ePortfolio is an electronic multimedia collection of evidence as digital artifacts that illustrate one’s learning journey over time. Portfolios may represent a learning journey in a course, academic program, or professional career. ePortfolios are descended from the traditional paper and folder portfolios common in higher education writing courses and teacher education courses. Not surprisingly, these types of courses became the early adopters of the ePortfolio and have long modelled some best practices for using the ePortfolio to the fullest extent. ePortfolios are a valuable asset in any academic course from compositional writing to mathematics.
ePortfolios take on many different shapes and forms and should be thought of as a dynamic never ending process. Even upon graduation or completion of a course it has not reached its endpoint. It simply reaches a transformative stage from a learning tool to a professional tool. There are several best practices to keep in mind when implementing ePortfolios in your course.
The initial challenge is to properly choose relevant reflective artifacts from your course or program. A classic example of this is a “first draft” of a research paper or journal entry. The ePortfolio will then document the learning process of a second and final draft. The digital nature of the ePortfolio introduces new modalities of communication through the possibility of multimedia artifacts. For example, a traditional written assignment could start as a video blog or vlog. In addition to the traditional teacher reflection, ePortfolios add a genuine layer of authentic audience through peer readers. The portfolio author should be encouraged to share with other students, teachers, friends, and academic community while keeping in mind that the portfolio will eventually be viewed by employers and other on a professional basis.
The flexible structure and non-linear possibilities for viewing an ePortfolio aim to encourage students to view their learning in the same way. For example, students can demonstrate learning outcomes by linking to earlier artifacts from the current course or even previous courses and discussing self reflected changes and improvements. The learner will develop an evidence supported profile of accomplishment. An example of this could be the development of a lesson plan in a teacher education course through several semesters.
Ultimately, students will adapt their ePortfolios for use beyond their academic careers and use their showcased work as examples of lifelong learning. This is often the case with artists and digital designers. The ePortfolio can be used to showcase their talent along with their technical competency in ways that a resume and job application cannot.
In addition to pedagogical challenges, there are often technical challenges to implementing an ePortfolio in your course. Anyone who is familiar with social media should find it to be a soft learning curve. The Office of Educational Technology offers various online documentation and weekly ePortfolio workshops for students. Along with our pre-built ePortfolio platform from Digication, you should have ePortfolios up and running in no time!