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ePortfolios are not a new concept.  In various guises, digital presentations of skills and competences, online records of achievement and action plans with opportunities for reflection have been in use in education for nearly a decade. Tools and systems built for these purposes are now numerous.

Various definitions exist of term ePortfolio. There is an emerging consensus that the term encompasses both product and process: 

‘An ePortfolio is a purposeful aggregation of digital items - ideas, evidence, reflections, feedback etc. which 'presents' a selected audience with evidence of a person's learning and/or ability'

Andy Powell of eFoundations referred to Graham Attwell's podcast on e-portfolio development and wrote that ePortfolios have the following characteristics, in no particular order:

  • plan
    Graham refers to "personal development planning portfolios" in his podcast and it seems to me that this is one of the most important aspects of what an e-portfolio can enable.  Being able to assess where one is in a learning journey and, more importantly, being able to plan for what needs to come next is a critical learning skill and an e-portfolio is one of the tools that supports that process.

  • ponder
    Such planning comes in part from being able to reflect on the learning that has already taken place.  I must admit that this P-word is probably the most contrived out of the five but it is no less important for that.  This reflective activity appears to fall within what Graham refers to as a "personal learning portfolio".

  • promote
    There is a sense in which an e-portfolio becomes a self-promotion tool, functioning more or less like a curriculum vitae would do, either as part of getting a job, or during transition between different phases of education.  (Note: the P-word present, as in Graham's "presentation portfolio" would be an alternative here but for some reason I think that promote works better).

  • prove
    Being able to prove that learning has taken place is an important function of the e-portfolio, either as evidence to support the assessment process (c.f. Graham's "assessment portfolio") or as part of the promote function (c.f. Graham's "presentation portfolio").

  • preserve
    Finally, there is a life-long aspect to e-portfolios which, while it may not fall under a traditional interpretation of "digital preservation", it seems to me is a long enough period to give us significant headaches about how we manage digital material for that length of time, especially given that we are talking about personally managed information by and large.  An e-portfolio, and the systems around it, should help us to maintain a life-log record of our learning and, as I say, that is a non-trivial functional requirement to meet currently.

The VCU Blackboard learning management system has an embedded ePortfolio tool in the Content Management System.

  • Blackboard keeps it simple
  • Has a template to guide creation of ePortfolio (However, organizing content and developing your ePortfolio as you want is preferred)
  • Is associated with VCU usernames and class links
  • Has technical support via VCU Technology Services
  • Can be shared: Share with specific individuals, a class or Organization (School/Department would need to setup a special ongoing class or Organization to track students over a 4 year period) or provide a link for those outside VCU to access an ePortfolio. Blackboard ePortfolios may also be saved to a CD for distribution. Note: an exported ePortfolio with links to URLs will require online access.
  • Example of a Blackboard Portfolio which Bud Deihl created.

Educause has a series of articles that explore eportfolios:

Google Docs
ePortfolio Mash Up with GoogleApps

Barett, Hellen C., How to create an electronic portfolio with GoogleDocs--Document (see also, Extensive Research... below)

Extensive Research on Various Tools and Approaches
Dr. Hellen C. Barett has been exploring the creation of ePortfolios since 2004. She continues to research various tools and approaches and shares her research at http://www.electronicportfolios.org/myportfolio/versions.html and on her blog, etc.

Other Information and Resource Links re: ePortfolios


Michele Martin, The Bamboo Project -
A Tool for Organizational and Individual Development http://nonprofitcongress.wordpress.com/2008/03/13/eportfolios-a-tool-for-organizational-and-individual-development/
Expanding Your Del.icio.us Portfolio

Developing Student Electronic Portfolios, prepared by David Brear

ePortfolio as Story

Virginia Commonwealth University  |  Center for Teaching Excellence
Last updated: 09/22/2009
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