This is a post by Fei-Wen Pirovolikos, an Adjunct Lecturer at Queens College.
What is ePortfolio?
ePortfolio is an electronic portfolio. Just as a resume is all about an individual, an ePortfolio is an ensemble of one’s writing, images, video, research data, and other types of artifacts, all threaded together in one online space. There are many ePortfolio platforms available, including Digication, Epsilen, and Mahara, to name a few designed for educational purposes.
ePortfolio for reflection and showcasing
ePortfolios are great spaces for students to reflect about academic learning, to record academic writing, and to present select pieces to build a portfolio that tells a multidimensional story about their academic development or achievements. Other applications of ePortfolio include posting research projects (in the sciences or the humanities), presentations, publications, certifications, blogs, wikis, columns, extracurricular activities, community work, and service learning experiences. In this way, ePortfolios are versatile tools for showcasing work and demonstrating expertise.
ePortfolios place students at the center of the portfolio creation process, since they create the structure and the content of the portfolio themselves. Students can also continue developing their ePortfolios upon graduation, using them to document growth in their chosen career. (After all, the portfolios are supposed to be about the individuals!) Also, given their online format and their connection to a variety of social media, ePortfolios are a good way to connect with professionals of similar expertise or interests. Many ePortfolio systems have “access key” or other similar locking mechanisms that allow the ePortfolio owner to decide when to share what artifacts with whom.
How are ePortfolios different from course management or assessment systems?
Nowadays many educational technology companies are developing products that have the capability to do just about everything. For example, some ePortfolio platforms can also host courses and perform assessment, some course management systems come with an ePortfolio module, and some assessment systems are linked to courses and an ePortfolio module. This reminds us of the “all-in-one” copier/fax/scanner machines from the 1990s, which were appealing for their multifunctionality, but were flawed in that typically they were great at only one (or sometimes none!) of the functions.
Likewise, in the early 2010s, we’re witnessing a fad of “all-in-one” online platforms that are said to do everything—but inevitably have weaknesses along with their strengths. A system based on course management may or may not permit students continuous access to previous assignments or collaborative work they had contributed to the class. An assessment-based system is often geared toward data reporting by a program and again students may or may not be able to continue to use their previously uploaded work to showcase to the public past achievements. And an ePortfolio system may not be the most efficient way to deliver course content and collect certain types of coursework from students.
How to get started
So how do you, as a faculty member, get started with ePortfolios? Before you even decide which platform to use, ask yourself:
- Am I looking for a way for my students to assemble work demonstrating their progress in a course or showcasing their abilities (or “best work”) at the end of a course?
- Or am I instead interested in collecting data for an institutional report of some sort?
There are other critical aspects to consider ahead as well:
- Is it important for students to keep access to the ePortfolio indefinitely?
- Will students be required to pay a fee to maintain an account?
- Are there requirements for my program, department, or division?
- Where do I send students to get help?
- How do I get help?
- Is the platform user-friendly? Will it drain my students (and me!) so much that their learning (and my teaching) might be compromised?
Where do I find help?
In higher education, possible places to find ePortfolio information and help on campus include: the Center for Teaching and Learning, IT Department, and Divisional/Departmental office. If you are a member of Queens College, please do not hesitate to contact the Center for Teaching and Learning to inquire about faculty seminars, workshops, events, and more. We have an ePortfolio team to provide faculty one-on-one consultation and student mentors to visit classrooms to talk to students.
“The future is electronic”
So, what is ePortfolio? Tyler Rivenbark at CTL tells it in a jingle: