What is an e-Portfolio?

e-Portfolios provide an online space for the storage, organisation, presentation and dissemination of digital artefacts.  There are a broad variety of definitions for e-Portfolio's which stems from, their malleable nature and diverse range of applications.  Among them, one which speaks to both their structure and their owner-centric design is shown below:

"ePortfolios can be produced using simple tools (such as presentation software or blogs) but more typically using specialist ePortfolio applications that contain a level of structure (pedagogy and learning outcomes/skills) with a high level of customisation for specific contexts and support for multiple purposes.

ePortfolio applications allow the owner to share specific parts or views of their portfolio online and support feedback and dialogue. Ideally, ePortfolios are interoperable (for example with learning environments, recruitment services or for the migration of portfolio data to support continuity in life-long learning)."

Cotterill SJ. What is an ePortfolio? ePortfolios 2007, Maastricht

What is effective use?

Knowing how to make use of an e-portfolio depends on having a good understanding of the context that you are trying to apply it too.  They are often used in bespoke ways, to support the achievement of a learning outcome

"Reflection is the heart and soul of a portfolio"

Some keys ways in which you can facilitate the reflective process, within the design of your e-portfolio are:

  • Advice on reflection – Understanding the process and engaging with it in meaningful ways takes a concerted effort over a significant period of time.  The use of prompt questions, derived from some models of reflection could be used or repurposed to guide students in their thinking.
  • 'What?'  'So what?'  'Now what?' Model - The student looks back on an event and writes about the recent experience providing a description and context, the current/immediate level of impact on their learning and development, and finally plans for further development in the light of this experience.
  • e-Portfolio Templates – By providing students with a framework within which to construct their thoughts you can help to ensure that reflective practices take place.  In some cases, this involves making a transition from a paper-based document to the upload of a scanned document or the completion of an electronic form.  The type of future audience (e.g. assessor, prospective employer) should steer the decisions made about how to design the template.  Alternatively, you can provide a blank space within an e-portfolio system for students to arrange/display their collected thoughts and outputs.