Why Do Learners Need ePortfolios?

ePortfolio workflow

Forsythe, G. (2011). e-Portfolio. Licensed under Creative Commons (CC 1.0, Public Domain).

What  Is an ePortfolio, And Why Does It Matter?

ePortfolios are, at the most basic level, an electronic repository… a collection of evidence of student learning (Harapnuik, 2015). They are a place where learners can store their work. But they can be so much more than just a longitudinal repository of learner work. According to her article, “The ePortfolio as an educational resource and its impact on job search,” (Ciesielkiewicz, 2015), Monika Ciesielkiewicz identifies the following purposes for developing and maintaining ePortfolios:

  • Evaluation and assessment. This type of ePortfolio (eP) often uses rubrics to demonstrate that the learner has achieved specific outcomes.
  • Presentation. This type of eP showcases academic success and demonstrates competencies,
  • Learning. Learning eP’s help to chronicle the growth of the learner over a period of time, and serve as a tool for reflection.
  • Personal Development. This type of eP is used over sustained periods of time for the individual to reflect on their performance and learning, and is used to help plan for continued growth and development on a professional level.
  • Multiple Owner. This type of eP usually takes the form of a blog or webpage, where multiple users are contributing, editing and sharing to demonstrate their progress toward a goal.
  • Working ePortfolio can be any of the above types of eP, but often has allows many users to access it, providing feedback and suggestions, but not contributing to or modifying the content otherwise.

On a deeper level, ePortfolios allow students to really see how they change over a period of time… to see their progress and improvement. Learners can use their ePortfolio to compare their work as a novice or beginner to their more mature work as they progress, and to truly reflect on their growth through the process. In this sense, ePortfolios, if they are constructed well, can truly enrich learning. In fact, in 2016 the ePortfolio was added to a list of Effective High Impact Practices by the Association of American Colleges and Universities to increase that list from ten practices to eleven. This list includes:

First-Year Seminars and Experiences Diversity/Global Learning
Common Intellectual Experiences Service/Community-Based Learning
Learning Communities Internships
Writing-Intensive Courses Capstone Courses and Projects
Collaborative Assignments and Projects ePortfolios
Undergraduate Research

I really appreciate Shane Sutherland’s definition of the ePortfolio from the CETIS SIG email list thread:

“An ePortfolio is a purposeful aggregation of digital items; ideas, evidence, reflections, feedback, data, etc., which present a selected audience with information about the subject of that ePortfolio.” (Sutherland, 2007.)

Purposeful aggregation of digital items is, to me, a perfect descriptor. Learners need to be intentional in what they are including in their ePortfolios. Certainly for school or program projects, learners will have specific items that will be required. However as the learner matures, their ePortfolio will begin to reflect more of their growth and their autonomy. As the learners are identifying additional artifacts to include in the ePortfolio their voice in the process will become more apparent. The ePortfolio really embodies the student’s journey, and allows them to take ownership of their learning in a truly authentic way. Encouraging the learner to choose their own site design and structure, as well as the artifacts that are included increases their own presence… their voice as they  move through the process.

Outside of School… Why Maintain an ePortfolio?

The ePortfolio is a tool that can be shared with classmates and academic peers to solicit advice and constructive feedback. It can be used to  measure progress toward goals or competencies, and provided to an instructor or evaluator for feedback and constructive criticism, and even for a grade. But will the learner use the ePortfolio outside of the class or program in which it was created? In the Center for Engaged Learning video featuring George Kuh (2016), Kuh states, “Almost 2/3 of students attend more than one institution [of higher education] on their way to the baccalaureate [degree].” Students with a well constructed ePortfolio can share this tool, along with transcripts, to document learning outcomes they attained at previous institution(s) to help ensure appropriate transfer of academic credit. If learners were encouraged to maintain a copy of course syllabi along with carefully selected artifacts to showcase each course they had taken, imagine how much easier it would be for an accepting university to review and recognise courses that might not easily align with their own courses!

In her article, Ciezielkiewicz details how more employers are looking for electronic resources when considering a potential employee. When learners are intentional in what they are collecting, and in the way they are collecting these artifacts, potential employers can discern the level of competency of the individual and his or her level of organizational skill, all while getting a glimpse of the personality of the individual. In fact, according to her research, Ciezielkiewicz indicates that 80% of human resources directors surveyed found the ePortfolio to be a valuable tool in the selection of employees. She goes on to discuss the importance of maintaining an ePortfolio with documentation of continued growth and learning through one’s career, tracking lifelong learning opportunities and chronicling training and professional development activities, certifications received, and other artifacts demonstrating competencies and growth achieved.

Overall, the evidence indicates that maintaining an ePorfolio through one’s education and beyond helps to ensure that the learner remains cognizant of his/her skills and competencies, helps to develop a level of responsibility for one’s own learning needs, and helps to promote autonomy for the learner, while showcasing talent, abilities, skills, and more for potential employers.


American Association of Colleges and Universities. (2016). High impact educational practices. Retrieved from https://www.aacu.org/leap/hips
[Accessed 9-August-2018].

Ciesielkiewicz, M. (2015). The ePortfolio as an educational resource and its impact on job search. Tecnología, Ciencia Y Educación, Vol 2, Iss 2,
Pp 83-99 (2015)
, (2), 83.

Forsythe, G. (2011). e-Portfolio [Image]. Retrieved from https://www.flickr.com/photos/gforsythe/5434073354

Harapnuik, D. (2015). Making meaningful connections in an ePortfolio. Retrieved from http://www.harapnuik.org/?p=5790

Kuh, G. (2016). George Kuh on ePortfolio as high-impact practice [Video]. Retrieved from
https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=30&v=5r9WuHB_Yo0.  [Accessed 9-August-2018]

Moore, J. (2016). ePortfolio as high-impact practice. Retrieved from

Sutherland, S. and Powell, A. (2007). CETIS SIG mailing list discussions [www.jiscmail.ac.uk/archives/cetis-portfolio.html] 9 July 2007.
[Accessed 7-August-2018].



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