Leslie Davis, Memorial University of Newfoundland
2 Definitions and background
Over the last two decades, teacher education programs had been developing paper-based portfolios, storing artifacts in cumbersome binders (Penny & Kinslow, 2006). With the recent emergence of technology, electronic portfolios have made the distribution of student work more convenient than traditional portfolios (Hung, 2012). EPortfolios, have been developed as an extension to what is now referred to as e-learning (Balaban, Mu & Divjak, 2013). Educational institutions, as well as potential employers, may realize the full potential of ePortfolios, as information systems, to enable students to become lifelong learners (Balaban et al., 2013). “Individuals create and capture representations of themselves and their professional identity over time for documentation and presentation” (Bolliger & Shepherd, 2010, p. 298).
As an ICT platform, ePortfolios may be utilized through Web 2.0 tools (weblogs, wikis) and specialized software (commercial, open source, learning or content management systems) (Christen & Hofmann, 2008). Pedagogically, ePortfolios depend on student-centred learning, an approach that engages students and motivates them to think meaningfully and strategically (Abrami, Wade, Pillay, Aslan, Bures & Bentley, 2008). Evaluation in the constructivist approach to learning necessitates an authentic assessment, such as a portfolio, that demonstrates “student competency in various domains of learning” (Baturay and Daloglu, 2010, p. 413).
In a study with student teachers, Chuang (2008) outlined the affordances of using weblog-based ePortfolios, from allowing straightforward online publishing, archiving, hyperlinking and categorizing of selected artifacts to blog connectedness. Students exhibiting higher order thinking skills “utilized comments, trackback, and news aggregator features of blogs both to manage their WBEP and to extract information and knowledge from them” (p. 220). Chuang (2008) also noted that multimedia added variety of self-expression to the participants’ ePortfolio, with several users expressing appreciation for faculty and peer feedback on posted teaching presentations. An ePortfolio showcase with a digital video attracts more peer comments, without affecting the quality of the feedback (Cheng & Chau, 2009). As well, the visual-auditory showcase of artifacts, and video in particular, taps into the cognitive learning process and benefits a variety of learning styles (Cheng & Chau, 2009). Online students also utilize embedded instructions, tutorials and exemplars to clearly understand what to do, brainstorm ideas, and troubleshoot technical issues (Shepherd & Bolliger, 2011).
According to Milman (2005), creating ePortfolios fostered self-confidence in preservice teachers’ technology skills, which, in turn, encouraged peer interaction. Cambridge (2008) found that the eFolio Minnesota project allowed the users who were initially enrolled as student, educator, or worker, to eventually shift roles, suggesting that the system is “promoting lifewide and lifelong learning” (p. 1235). This survey also found that since the software helped participants to create, edit, and organize information, the technology encouraged experimentation rather than lengthy planning.
In another study, on the KEEP Social Learning Suite, research by Zhang, Olfman, and Firpo (2010) illustrated that the ePortfolio system supported both personal and social constructivism through editing capabilities and options for public viewing, commenting, and collaborating. When posts can be automatically archived, the “internalization of knowledge” permits users to reflect on their initial writing as well as on comments by faculty and peers (Chuang, 2008, p. 221). This authoritativeness affordance allows dialogues with others to develop a collaborative energy. Barbera (2009) found that the ability to share and review netfolio entries among online doctoral candidates encouraged further revision and higher quality documents. In a study by Hung (2012) with language teachers, participants reported that ePorfolios helped build a community of practice, where they could interact in a virtual classroom. As well, ePortfolios enable students to receive substantial and timely support from their peers (Shepherd & Bolliger, 2011). Finally, ePortfolios allow for greater communication with parents (Wade, Abrami, & Sclater, 2005). Rather than conducting typical parent-teacher interviews, student-led conferences can provide parents an opportunity to see their child’s work as exhibited through both product and process (Wade et al., 2005).
Hung (2012) found that an ePortfolio could not sustain regular satisfaction with technical features due to uploading, formatting, or accessibility issues. When Tosh (2005) examined certain pilot ePortfolio projects, he observed another technical issue that revolved around user flexibility: “top-down, institutional-driven approaches” to ePortfolios and the use of generic templates was recognized as too constraining for many students. “If ePortfolio systems are not robust and readily available, engagement will be patchy, at best” (Peacock, Gordon, Murray, Morss & Dunlop, 2010, p.846).
Not all users of ePortfolios feel that the process provides “new insight into their learning or had a positive impact” (Lin, 2008, p. 198). In a study with preservice teachers, Lin (2008) observed that some participants were critical of the ePortfolio course requirement since it occupied too much time and was not viewed as having much merit or benefit for the future. By surveying ePortfolios in higher education, Chatham-Carpenter, Seawel, & Raschig (2010), noted how respondents had to motivate students to initiate and maintain ePortfolios when facing increasing workloads and study pressures. In addition, these institutions felt compelled to encourage students to use ePortfolios for the purpose of reflection rather than simply satisfying a subject requirement (Chatham-Carpenter et al., 2010). Some students dislike the goal formation and reflection process in the ePortfolio if they have to clarify objectives about a programme or field of study they are unfamiliar with; students may end up feeling that the task was just “busy work” (Bollinger & Shepherd, 2010, p. 305). Additionally, Chuang (2010) observed that the technology did not assist low-achievers in developing or maintaining content focus, higher-order thinking skills, or interaction: low level web-based ePortfolios focused mostly on presentation and product rather than on reflective practice.
Finally, in a study by Kabilan & Khan (2012), preservice teacher participants in a TESOL programme in Malaysia questioned the reliability of the ePortfolios since material could easily be copied and pasted from the Internet and, therefore, simply plagiarized. Even with an added password security feature, to encourage openness with sensitive topics, most preservice teachers in Chuang’s study (2010) were concerned about their weblog-based ePortfolios being seen by their practicum school personnel and administration. “Therefore, the global affordance of the blog itself became a constraint…” (p. 224).
6 Works Cited
Abrami, P.C., Wade, C.A., Pillay, V., Aslan, O., Bures, E.M. & Bentley, C. (2008). Encouraging self-regulated learning through electronic portfolios. Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology, 34(3). Retrieved from http://cjlt.csj.ualberta.ca/index.php/cjlt/article/view/507/238
Balaban, I., Mu, E. & Divjak, B. (2012). Development of an electronic portfolio system success model: An information systems approach. Computers & Education, 60(2013), 396-411.
Barbera, E. (2009). Mutual feedback in e-portfolio assessment: An approach to the netfolio system. British Journal of Educational Technology, 40(2), 342–357.
Baturay, M.H. & Daloglu, A. (2010). E-portfolio assessment in an online English language course. Computer Assisted Language Learning, 23(5), 413-428.
Bolliger, D.U. &Shepherd, C.E. (2010). Student perceptions of ePortfolio integration in online courses. Distance Education, 31(3), 295-314.
Cambridge, D. (2008). Audience, integrity, and the living document: eFolio Minnesota and lifelong and lifewide learning with ePortfolios. Computers & Education, 51(3), 1227-1246.
Chatham-Carpenter, A., Seawel, L., & Raschig, J. (2010). Avoiding the pitfalls: Current practices and recommendations for eportfolios in higher education. Journal of Educational Technology Systems, 38(4), 437-456.
Cheng, G. & Chau, J. (2009). Digital video for fostering self‐reflection in an ePortfolio environment. Learning, Media and Technology, 34(4), 337-350.
Chuang, H-H. (2010). Weblog-based electronic portfolios for student teachers in Taiwan. Educational Technology Research and Development, 58(2), 211-227.
Christen, A. & Hofmann, M. (2008). Implementation of e-portfolio in the first academic year at the University of Teacher Education St. Gallen. International Journal of Emerging Technologies in Learning (iJET), 3(1), 6-10.
Hung, S-T. A. (2012). A washback study on e-portfolio assessment in an English as a Foreign Language teacher preparation program. Computer Assisted Language Learning, 25(1), 21-36. doi: 10.1080/09588221.2010.551756
Kabilan, M.K. & Khan, M.A. (2012). Assessing pre-service English language teachers’ learning using e-portfolios: Benefits, challenges and competencies gained. Computers & Education, 58(4), 1007-1020.
Lin, Q. (2008). Preservice teachers’ learning experiences of constructing e-portfolios online. Internet and Higher Education, 11(3-4), 194-200.
Milman, N. B. (2005). Web-based digital teaching portfolios: Fostering reflection and technology competence in preservice teacher education students. Journal of Technology and Teacher Education, 13(3), 373–396.
Peacock, S., Gordon, L., Murray, S., Morss, K. & Dunlop, G. (2010). Tutor response to implementing an ePortfolio to support learning and personal development in further and higher education institutions in Scotland. British Journal of Educational Technology, 41(5), 827-851.
Penny, C. & Kinslow, J. (2006). Faculty perceptions of electronic portfolios in a teacher education program. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 6(4), 418-435.
Shepherd, C.E. & Bolliger, D.U. (2011). The effects of electronic portfolio tools on online students’ perceived support and cognitive load. Internet and Higher Education, 14. 142-149.
Tosh, D., Light, T.P., Fleming, K. & Haywood, J. (2005) Engagement with electronic portfolios: Challenges from the student perspective. Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology, 31(3). Retrieved from http://www.cjlt.ca/index.php/cjlt/article/view/97/91
Wade, A., Abrami, P. C. & Sclater, J. (2005). An electronic portfolio to support learning. Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology, 31(3). Retrieved from http://www.cjlt.ca/index.php/cjlt/article/view/94/88
Zhang, X., Olfman, L. & Firpo, D. (2010). Supporting Social Constructivist Learning through the KEEP SLS ePortfolio System. International Journal on E-Learning, 9(3), 411-426.