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New Learning Tools: ePortfolio Basics

Updated 10/23/2023

Electronic portfolios have been getting a lot of attention lately as they become an even more central part of learning and assessment processes. Defined simply, an ePortfolio is a digitized collection of work that demonstrates learning or accomplishment over time and in various contexts. ePortfolios allow students, faculty, and professionals to archive, display, share, assess, and continuously update their work through an electronic format. Hosted websites, jump drives, CD-ROMs, or videos are all tools that are leveraged in the creation and distribution of ePortfolios.

We’re all familiar with traditional student portfolios that showcase individual projects or achievements, but institutional portfolios are gaining ground as a means for departments and schools to evaluate learning holistically and better tailor curricula. At this level, ePortfolios can help assess the effect of an entire educational experience in order to drive innovation and improvement and measure success. In this post, we’ll cover three of the most common types of ePortfolios and explore the applications and benefits for students and for institutions.

Types of ePortfolios

Developmental ePortfolios. As their name suggests, developmental portfolios showcase the progress of a student’s skills over time. They’re used primarily as a means for students and faculty to interact during the learning process —actively display skills, exchange feedback, reflect, and work through challenges. Rather than being static documents, developmental portfolios are usually regarded as works in progress.

Assessment ePortfolios. Assessment portfolios demonstrate competencies in predetermined areas. These types of portfolios are most commonly used for end-of-course assessments to evaluate student performance based on program standards or specific skill-building goals. Assessment portfolios can also be applied at the institutional level to track and review departmental benchmarks, programmatic success, or project-specific metrics.

Showcase ePortfolios. Showcase portfolios are used to display the terminal skills of a student. Typically created at the end of a degree program to highlight quality work or exemplary skill, showcase portfolios can also serve as a calling card to potential employers. Institutions also leverage showcase ePortfolios as marketing tools to appeal to prospective students or court new faculty. Departments may also use them as part of proposal or grant application material.

Hybrid forms. Few ePortfolios are exclusively developmental, assessment, or showcase. More commonly, they contain elements of two or more types and are considered hybrids. Essentially, what separates an ePortfolio from an elaborate digital resume is some component (however it may be defined or organized) that displays self-reflection, progress over time, or a measurement of success against an objective standard.

Why use an ePortfolio?

Accessibility and flexibility. ePortfolios are unrivaled in their ability to showcase information easily using very little physical space. Students and institutions alike can use an ePortfolio to weave various pieces of information together through hyperlinks, update it instantly, share it quickly, and protect it from loss or destruction permanently.

Assessment and communication. ePortfolios can often provide more dynamic insight into learning than traditional tests or workshop exercises. Applied properly, ePortfolios showcase how a student’s work directly relates to course standards, track how that work evolves over time, and serve as a living document of the applied learning process. For institutions, ePortfolios can be valuable both in providing a broad view of programmatic success to different audiences and in augmenting traditional marketing efforts by conveying large amounts of information in compelling ways.

Technical skills development. Building and maintaining an ePortfolio can help students gain valuable new computer skills and apply existing skills in practical ways. Further, students learn the importance of demonstrating and communicating their knowledge and advocating for themselves in a marketplace of competitors.

As learning and technology continue to merge in new and exciting ways, no doubt ePortfolios will play a central part in how students, faculty, and institutions communicate and innovate. Schools that offer flexible and expanded educational tools not only support multi-dimensional learning experiences but also help students showcase that learning and apply it for practical and professional success.

Enrollment Builders consults on a host of operational and assessment tools for institutions of all sizes. If you’d like to explore how ePortfolios can benefit your school, we can help. To learn more about what we do, call us at 513-518-7824, or request information here.