ePortfolios - Overview

What is an ePortfolio?

An ePortfolio (electronic portfolio) is an electronic collection of evidence that shows your learning journey over time. Portfolios can relate to specific academic fields or your lifelong learning. Evidence may include writing samples, photos, videos, research projects, observations by mentors and peers, and/or reflective thinking. The key aspect of an eportfolio is your reflection on the evidence, such as why it was chosen and what you learned from the process of developing your eportfolio. (Adapted from Philippa Butler’s “Review of the Literature on Portfolios and Eportfolios” (2006), page 2.)

An ePortfolio is not a specific software package, but more a combination of process (a series of activities) and product (the end result of the ePortfolio process). Presentation portfolios can be created using a variety of tools, both computer desktop tools and online (Barrett, 2000; Barrett, 2004-2008). Most commercial ePortfolio tools are focused on the product (right-hand) side of the diagram below, although some open source tools contain some of the Web 2.0-type tools that enhance the process (left-hand) side of the diagram, such as blogs, social networking, and RSS feeds.

The real value of an e-portfolio is in the reflection and learning that is documented therein, not just the collection of work. In fact, here are two of my favorite quotes from a book and a resource created by JISC in the UK:

" The overarching purpose of portfolios is to create a sense of personal ownership over one's accomplishments, because ownership engenders feelings of pride, responsibility, and dedication." (p.10) - Paris & Ayres.(1994) .

" The e-portfolio is the central .and common point for the student experience. It is a reflection of the student as a person undergoing continuous personal development, .not just a store of evidence.".. (Geoff Rebbeck, e-Learning Coordinator, Thanet College, quoted in JISC, 2008)

What is a blog? What is a wiki? How are these tools used in ePortfolios?

A web log, or blog, is an online journal that encourages communication of ideas, and individual entries are usually displayed in reverse-chronological order.Blogs were one of the first Web.2.0 tools, built on an architecture of interaction, allowing subscribing through RSS feeds, and feedback in the form of comments on specific entries. Blogs provide an ideal tool to construct learning journals, as discussed by Crichton and Kopp (2008) from the University of Calgary. Their research suggests:

... that eJournals help to make ePortfolios more authentic and relevant to the students’ lives. Focusing on reflection and inquiry, [their] study explored the use of social software as a tool to build and sustain a community of practice, recognizing that teacher education lives in a community well beyond the university experience. (p. 2)

According to Wikipedia, "A wiki is a collection of Web pages designed to enable anyone with access to contribute or modify content, using a simplified markup language. Wikis are often used to create collaborative websites and to power community websites. The collaborative encyclopedia Wikipedia is one of the best-known wikis." (The first developer of wiki software named it after the WikiWiki Shuttle in the Honolulu airport, because wiki meant quick in Hawaiian.) A wiki tool, such as Google Sites, can be used to construct hyperlinked web pages, organized thematically.

Before I discuss the diagram below, I want to share an excerpt from my blog, written while at the National Educational Computing Conference in June 2008:

I just had a wonderful conversation with a high school English teacher, who used my website for resources on working with her 11th grade students on electronic portfolios (she showed me some examples). She started her students with a blog, but many of them went far beyond the blog and created their own presentation portfolios using one of the Web 2.0 tools. She herself had to use one of the commercial e-portfolio/assessment management systems in her graduate program, and she said, "It took all the thinking out of it. They gave me the standards and told me which artifacts to put into each one! It wasn't as effective as what my students did!"

This story points out the challenges we have in the implementation of ePortfolios in education: the tension between what I call the "two different faces" of ePortfolios. I am promoting the concept of two portfolios: the Working Portfolio, which WSU calls the "workspace" or some schools have called the [digital] shoebox; and any number of Presentation Portfolios (depending on purpose and audience) which WSU calls the "showcase" and schools call "showtime!" In order to build more formal presentations, we need the digital archive or the storage of work samples (collection) to draw upon (selection) for inclusion in these presentations.