What is it?
An e-portfolio is an online collection of reflections and digital artefacts (such as documents, images, blogs, resumés, multimedia, hyperlinks and contact information). Learners and staff can use an e-portfolio to demonstrate learning, skills and development and record achievements over time to a selected audience. In addition, an e-portfolio can be used to enhance employability, to present and showcase their accomplishments and expertise to potential employers, facilitate reflection on career aspirations and prepare themselves for job interviews.
A dedicated, and supported, e-portfolio tool at the University of Bath is called Mahara. All staff and students can access the software using their University login details.
How might I use it?
E-portfolios can be a powerful tool which enables learners to reflect on their own learning, highlighting the improvement of skills which students are developing over time. It can also be used to store digital work for collaboration or to gather feedback from peers.
- Louise Oliver, Faculty Placements Manager in the Faculty of Science, has been using e-portfolios within the Placements programme in the Department of Computer Science. The e-portfolio application Mahara is now used as a key component in supporting first year students through building, and reflecting upon, employability skills development within a range of activities.
- Dr Lyn Hanning, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Pharmacy and Pharmacology, is using e-portfolios to facilitate a review of assessment processes and enhance QA processes. Moving away from paper based portfolio submission to a wiki-based e-portfolio, Lyn has mirrored the assessment tasks in the programme but in a far more dynamic and flexible way. Students, in turn, complete practice based activities and upload evidence of these in the form of structured tasks, attendance logs and reflection.
- Chemical Engineering staff are introducing e-portfolios to their transformed curriculum from 2019.
How do staff and students use it effectively?
E-portfolios are owned by the learner and they control what is included for public/private viewing. Learners can share only the content they choose to - for feedback, assessment or review. Effective use is therefore developed in discussion with staff about the purpose of the e-portfolio.
- Staff can develop and share templates to help students start to build their portfolio. Students can take more control as they become accustomed to this way of working.
- Mahara Groups can be set up to provide an online space for students and staff to communicate, share and provide feedback.
- Students can be encouraged to evidence learning activity throughout a programme. They control access to relevant audiences.
- Staff can refer students to publish to the e-portfolio after significant learning tasks, to remind them of what employers would be seeking from a graduate in that subject area.
- Regular review and commentary by staff and/or peers can improve motivation in the development of an e-portfolio.
What are the pros & cons?
- Provides a platform for reflection which allows learners to be aware of their own progress
- Provides a tool for learners to appraise their learning journey over time as well as a method of collaborative feedback
- E-portfolios allow supervisors to have a more comprehensive, dynamic and regularly updated view of how well learners are progressing and can provide formative feedback in a more timely manner
- Encourages peer collaboration and communication
- Artefacts can demonstrate development towards mastery over time
- E-portfolios can be submitted as evidence for summative, as well formative, assessment
- Digital skills can be developed in the production of artefacts as well as the e-portfolio iteself
- Provides opportunities for students to be creative in how they present their work
- The e-portfolio can be taken with them beyond education into employment and used for life-long learning
- Learners are able to create the best possible impression to a possible employee
- Allows learners to target the information they present to each individual employer depending on their specific selection criteria very easily and in an engaging way, by being able to gather content or artefacts over time, which shows a learning and/or career journey
- There is a learning curve in learning how to use any new software tool, and how to effectively present work
- The number of tools available in an e-portfolio means that initially it is helpful to have templates set up to help scaffold learner development
- Students need to plan steps to take the e-portfolio with them by downloading and storing offline, until they find a new system to store their work
- There is a limit to storage space so some digital artefacts (e.g. long videos) may not be easily stored
An alternative to Mahara is to use OneNote Class Notebooks as an e-portfolio. To review the pros and cons, and help you choose which tool fits your context, you can see a comparison of the two.
A case study is currently being developed. If you wish to view examples of e-portfolios used at other HE institutions you can view a series of videos created by JISC.
Dublin City University have pulled together a range of examples of e-portfolio based assesment used in a variety of course settings.
Laurillard D., 2005. Harnessing Technology: Transforming learning and children’s services. Department for Education and Skills. [Online]. Available from: https://telearn.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-00190344/document
Hartnell-Young, E., Harrison, C., Crook, C., Joyes, G., Davies, L. & Fisher, T., 2007. The Impact of e-portfolios on Learning. Coventry, UK: British Educational Communications and Technology Agency (Becta). [Online]. Available from: https://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20130611165352/http://archive.excellencegateway.org.uk/page.aspx?o=ferl.aclearn.resource.id35143