Electronic portfolio

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“The portfolio concept is not a new concept. Indeed the French teacher, Celestine Freinet, introduced them in the late twenties of the last century in his classes. In the last years there appears to be a rebirth of this concept - mainly driven by technological development.” (Kalz, 2005: 164).

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. (Maybe we should have a separate entry for teacher portfolios ?? DSchneider)


  • 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).
  • A portfolio may be defined as a purposeful collection of student work that tells the story of a student's effort, progress and/or achievement in one or more areas (Wade, 2005).


Here are some quotations that provide definitions of e-Portfolios:

  • “The electronic portfolio (e- portfolio) can be understood as a "a collection of authentic and diverse evidence, drawn from a larger archive representing what a person or organization has learned over time on which the person or organization has reflected, and designed for presentation to one or more audiences for a particular rhetorical purpose" (Educause Learning Initiative 2003). Although research into electronic portfolios has a short history, there are already two development directions for the e-portfolio-concept: "The 'e-portfolio' used for final assessment/ job seeking where the emphasis is on the product(s) and then the 'e-portfolio' used for reflection, deep learning, knowledge growth and social interaction where the emphasis lies on the process" (Tosh/Werdmuller 2004, 2). They call the second kind of e-portfolio a "personal learning landscape".” (Kalz, 2005: 164).
  • 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 argued 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)

Why e-Portfolios ?

This section needs more work

Wade et al. (2005) cite the Quebec Education Programme (QEP):

"The QEP" lists the following as possible advantages of portfolios, they: involve students in their learning (as a tool for reflection); allow students to increase their ability to self-evaluate; teach students to make choices; encourage students to better understand themselves and focus on their strengths; allow students to reflect on their procedures, strategies, and accomplishments so that they can improve and correct them and ultimately succeed; promote feedback during the learning process, particularly during individual conferences; encourage students to reflect on their strengths, needs, errors, interests, challenges, and objectives; encourage interactive processes among students, teachers, and parents; shows student progress because it tracks performance over time; and they are used to assess competencies developed by students."

The same authors identified the following pedagogical value and Potential Benefits of Portfolios:

  • Student Self-regulation:
  • Metacognitive self-regulation:
  • Physical and social environment management:
  • Time management:
  • Effort regulation:
  • Alternative or Authentic Assessment

The emphasis of this kind of portfolio is on the individual learning process, reflection and new plans for learning, i.e. a constructivist perspective According to Kalz (2005:164), Attwell (2005) identifies seven different functions of an e-portfolio for learning:

  1. Recognizing Learning: Learning in a formal environment is usually recognized when pre-specified products are achieved. e-portfolios can be a means to recognize smaller learning achievements.
  2. Recording Learning: E-portfolios can be containers for recording formal assessment through scanned certificates for example. Additionally they can be used to record informal learning activities.
  3. Reflecting on Learning: Reflection is an important part of a learning process. The e-portfolio can be used for private, semi-public or public reflection of this process.
  4. Validating Learning: Validation in e-portfolios can be a self-validation or a validation from other persons. Validation means to "proof" that learning has happened. This validation can have different forms and can appear in different media.
  5. Presenting Learning: The presentation of learning is important in e-portfolios. This presentation can be used for job application or for academic application. Due to the importance of lifelong learning this presentation can change over time.
  6. Planning Learning: The learning process can be planned with the help of the e-portfolio. The learner can view his personal learning history through his e-portfolio and can view his next steps in personal competency development.
  7. Assessing Learning: Assessing means external control and judgment over the learners achievements.

Types of Portfolios

Some authors distinguish 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.

According to (Wade et al, 2000):

Danielson and Abrutyn (1997) identified three main types of portfolios: working, showcase, and assessment. Working (also known as 'process' or 'learning') portfolios contain works in progress, track student learning over time, and may be temporary because students move on to either an assessment or showcase portfolio. Showcase portfolios exhibit the student's best work. They are generally used to demonstrate the level of accomplishment that the student has attained. Students often use showcase portfolios during college applications or for professional employment purposes. Assessment portfolios are structured and standardized with 'the content of the curriculum determining what students select for their portfolios' (p.5).

Stages of Electronic 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

The QESN-R�CIT (2005) identified five stages to the portfolio process for print-based or digital portfolios, (1) collection, (2) selection, (3) reflection, (4) evaluation and (5) celebration.

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)


This section needs more work
  • Any sort of web-technology where students and teachers can write can do to some extent, e.g. a webserver, a blog or a wiki, a C3MS.
  • You also may consider that work produced within an LMS that engages students in on-line production can play the role of an e-Portfolio.
  • ....


  • Attwell, Graham (2005): Recognising Learning: Educational and pedagogic issues in e-Portfolios. [blog-entry] and [PDF preprint] (retrieved 14:43, 22 May 2006 (MEST)).
  • 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]
  • Barret, Helen; Carney Joanne (2005): Conflicting Paradigms and Competing Purposes in Electronic Portfolio Development. Submitted to Educational Assessment, an LEA Journal, for an issue focusing on Assessing Technology Competencies.
  • Batson, T. Electronic Portfolio Boom : What's it all About? Syllabus (2002) [2]
  • Danielson, C., & Abrutyn, L. (1997). An introduction to using portfolios in the classroom. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
  • Educause Learning Initiative (2003): E-Portfolios.
  • 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]
  • Panettieri, Joseph C. (2004). Can ePortfolios Connect? These five smart steps can help you navigate perilous ePortfolio territory., University Business.
  • 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
  • Tosh, David & Werdmuller, Ben (2005): Creation of a Learning Landscape: weblogging and social networking in the context of e-portfolios. PDF

  • Wade, Anne, Abrami Philip C., Sclater, Jennifer (2005): An Electronic Portfolio to Support Learning, Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology, Volume 31(3). [8]
  • Wade, R.C., & Yarbrough, D.B. (1996). Portfolios: A tool for reflective thinking in teacher education.Teaching and Teacher Education: An International Journal of Research and Studies, 12(1), 63.