Electronic portfolio

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In the realm of education we can distinguish between "teaching portfolios", "learning portfolios" and "course portfolios". In this article we focus on "learning portfolios" or environments that include these.

Here some quotations that provide definitions:

  • Two main purposes of the ePortfolio include: promotion of student centred learning and reflection; career planning and CV building (Tosh).
  • From Sorensen et al.: "This course uses virtual portfolios as a means of meeting needs for online structure for both learners and tutors. Our experience suggests that the virtual portfolio enhances "awareness", at both the level of learning and instruction (Gutwin et al. 1995) by managing overview of individual/collaborative learning expectation and progress, interactions with peers and instructors, reflection and self-awareness, and feedback and evaluation throughout the learning process. We also suggest that the implementation of portfolios into virtual collaborative learning environments may promote genuine collaboration (Salomon 1995). More specifically, from the instructional perspective, the virtual portfolio also provides structure for the more specific instructional tasks as overview of tutoring, overview of grading, access to past comments, suggestions and recommendations given in the tutoring process, and access to past student submissions with related recommendations.
  • Learning in a virtual or digital context demands new tools and new methods. I have discussed the potentials of using digital portfolios. I have agued that digital portfolios have several employments: They are a tool for assessing a student's work and progression; for structuring learning and teaching; for enhancing communication and collaboration; for sharing experiences and resources, and finally for supporting the construction of a community of practice. (Tolsby, 2001)
  • A portfolio is a purposeful collection of student work that exhibits the student's efforts, progress, and achievements in one or more areas. The collection must include student participation in selecting contents, the criteria for selection; the criteria for judging merit, and evidence of student self-reflection. (Northwest Evaluation Association cited by Barret, 2000).

Types of Portfolios

Some authors distinguis between "electronic portfolios", "digital portfolios" and "webfolios". I.e. electronic portfolios contain both computer-readable and analog formats, digital portfolios are computer readable, and webfolios are accessible over the web.

Stages of Electronig Portfolio Development

Helen C. Barrett (2000) presents typology of different stages related to multimedia development and which may be adapted to other contexts.

Portfolio Development Stages of Electronic Portfolio Development Multimedia Development
Purpose & Audience 1. Defining the Portfolio Context & Goals Decide, Assess
Collect, Interject 2. The Working Portfolio Design, Plan
Select, Reflect, Direct 3. The Reflective Portfolio Develop
Inspect, Perfect, Connect 4. The Connected Portfolio Implement, Evaluate
Respect (Celebrate) 5. The Presentation Portfolio Present, Publish

History of web-based e-portfolios

Web-based portfolios go back to the mid-nineties, basically a webfolio meant student work presented on-line plus some sort of CMC to organise a course and also student-student communication. E.g. Takle, on the global change website defines the purpose and the benefits of a portfolio:

  • Purpose of the portfolio: A portfolio is defined as a "representative and judicious collection of your work." Your portfolio for this course has two fundamental purposes:
    1. providing a documentation of your work, and
    2. serving as the basis for evaluating your work against given standards.
  • Benefits of the portfolio
    1. The portfolio provides you the benefits of criteria to be used in judging your work.
    2. The portfolio provides you the benefits of direct evidence of your work.
    3. The portfolio provides you the benefits of a chance for self-analysis and reflection.
    4. A form of "electronic publishing."

See Sorensen et al. for an academic discussion of this website and from which we quote 2 important statements from the conclusion:

"The paper suggests that although the virtual portfolio in some ways seems to imply more attention and work from the tutor, it represents a strong tool for enhancing what we use to consider as important characteristics of collaborative learning: awareness and genuine collaboration. Through constituting a personal entrance to the learning scene, it enhances overview of learning expectations, learning content, learning goals, learning methods and individual/collaborative activities. Thus, if carefully designed, it facilitates instruction and constitutes a fruitful overview and basis for reflection on - and succeeding improvement of - instructional techniques and methods." (Sorensen et al., Conclusion)
"We may sum up the general strength of a virtual portfolio as concentrated in a significant ability to create a harmonious tapestry of past, present and future learning activities. The use of a virtual portfolio offers both learner and instructor a general overview and navigational orientation. By acting as a mirror during this evolution of past, present, and future learning, virtual portfolio enhances reflective activity and adds depth to learning in virtual contexts." (Sorensen et al., Conclusion).

Assessment of an electronic porfolio

Douglas et al. (2004) claim that webfolios "may have the most significant effect on education since the introduction of formal schooling. When fully matured and implemented by capable professional educators throughout every discipline in an educational institution, webfolios promise a viable alternative to current, high-stakes testing, which focuses education on test-taking rather than teaching and learning. The promise webfolios hold - a richer educational experience for all - will not be realized, however, unless educators embrace webfolio concepts and apply them at their highest level of maturation."

The authors consider eight physical and theoretical qualities inherent in portfolio/webfolio processes and applications to determine five levels of maturation:

  • Level 1 Scrapbook
  • Level 2 Curriculum Vitae
  • Level 3 Curriculum Collaboration Between Student and Faculty
  • Level 4 Mentoring Leading to Mastery
  • Level 5 Authentic Evidence as the Authoritative Evidence for Assessment, Evaluation, and Reporting
The levels of maturation for portfolios/webfolios provide a conceptual framework for understanding webfolios and help readers position themselves in a particular level of webfolio development. The levels also provide conceptual guidance for taking the next step on the path to full implementation of webfolios in teaching and learning. (Douglas, 2004)


  • Barrett, Helen C. (2000), Create Your Own Electronic Portfolio Using Off-the-Shelf Software to Showcase Your Own or Student Work, Published in Learning & Leading with Technology, April, 2000 [1]
  • Batson, T. Electronic Portfolio Boom : What's it all About? Syllabus (2002) [2]
  • Love Douglas, Gerry McKean, and Paul Gathercoal, (2004). Portfolios to Webfolios and Beyond: Levels of Maturation, Educause Quarterly 27 (2). [3]
  • ePortConsortium (2003), Electronic Portfolio White Paper, [4]
  • Sorensen, E.K, Takle, E.S., Taber, M.R. and Fils.D., CSCL: Structuring the Past, Present and Future Through Virtual Portfolios, [5].
  • Tolsby, H. (1001). Digital Portfolios: a Tool for Learning, Self-Reflection, Sharing and Collaboration, [6]
  • Tolsby, H. & Sorensen, E.K. Designing Virtual Portfolios for Communities of Practice, [7]
  • Tosh David and Ben Werdmuller, ePortfolios and weblogs: one vision for ePortfolio development