What is an ePortfolio?

In its simplest form, an eportfolio is a digital collection of artifacts that represent an individual. A student may have an eportfolio that includes items such as assignments, essays, journals and learning plans, whereas a professional may include his resume along with items that showcase his career and achievements.

ePortfolios can be used for four things according to Clark (2007) Retrieved from http://youtu.be/0pwhjWWe740:

  1. Learning – an eportfolio gives students the opportunity to reflect on their learning. An online blog is a good way to encourage reflection on learning. This blog can become part of the eportfolio. Students can use it as an account of what they have learned and also as a place to reflect on the learning that has occurred, how they did that learning and what the next stages might be. Comments from peers and teachers enhance this reflection. In regards to learning, students learn when they “construct knowledge” in the form of a “product” or project. The project may be an essay, power point presentation, simulation, skill demonstrations, audio or video clip or other… and can be included in the eportfolio. From a teaching/learning perspective, I think this is the most important aspect of an eportfolio.
  2. Transition – this could refer to transitioning from education to work setting or transitioning from one educational setting to another or from one program to another. An eportfolio would allow a potential employer to see the quality of a student’s work, skills learned and their ability to reflect on their own practice. It also allows one institution to assess a student’s prior learning, facilitating transfer between institutions.
  3. Assessment – any number of assignments for assessment can be included in the eportfolio or the portfolio itself could be assessed. It is important that we keep in mind our true purpose of assessment. Helen Barrett was quoted in an article from the University of Waterloo as saying “There’s a major tension right now between student-centered and institution-centered ePortfolios.” Student-centered ePortfolios, she added, are driven by “assessment for learning,” while institution-centered ePortfolios are driven by “assessment of learning.”  In a 2007 article in Campus Technology, Trent Batson also suggested that the “learning idea” of ePortfolios was being “hijacked by the need for accountability.”
  4. Presentation –  this could take the form of a student  or professional presentation, but it could also be used as part of, or in place of, a traditional resume.

Others suggest that eportfolios may be useful for personal development. I like the idea of students having a record of all that they have learned. I think that this will give them an opportuntity to look back and say, “Wow! Look at what I have accomplished”. They can also use their eportfolio to identify areas they may need, or want, to explore further.

There is most defintely a place in my teaching for eportfolios, however, at this time, I think that the technology may be a stumbling block for many of my students. I see the eportfolio as the way of the future, however, and I’m sure it is only a matter of time before it is the norm rather than the exception. Currently, our students do put together a professional portfolio as they make their way through our program. They start with content such as their resumes, reference letters, transcripts, certificates and diplomas. As they proceed through the program, they are encouraged to add instructor and personal evaluations, learning plans and work that they are particularly proud of. It would be a relatively simple matter to turn this into an eportfolio given the resources and technical skill required to do so.

From a more academic standpoint, the eportfolio could be used as either an assignment in itself or as a way to submit and catalogue assignments created throughout a program. In one of the courses I am currently teaching, we will be recording students as they work through a simulated patient care scenario. After participating, students view their recording and write a written reflection on their performance. Both the recording and the reflection would be ideal to include in an eportfolio. From a teaching persepctive, I think that the “reflection on learning” is the most important part of the eportfolio. As a teacher, I don’t want to know just what the student did right or wrong, but rather, was the student able to see what they did well and what they could have improved upon? And having noted the areas for improvement, were they able to identify how they could improve in the future?

As academic institutions adopt the use of the eportfolio, employers may ask to see these portfolios as part of the interview or candidate selection process.

In my own professional life, I can also see the benefit of having an eportfolio. This would give me the opportunity to show case my work – when applying for a new position, applying for grants or applying for a PhD program. When I start to think about what I would include in my eportfolio, it reminds me of all I have accomplished in my career. When I get around to creating an eportfolio, I think it will include a number of different sections. The first section may be a collection of scanned documents – degrees, diplomas and certificates, as well as a copy of my resume. The second section may be examples of my academic work, including my MSc thesis, my capstone project, articles I have written and assignments that I am particularly proud of. The third section would be related to teaching and would include artifacts such as lesson plans, learning activities, videos of my teaching and examples of assessments or exams I have created. As a registered nurse, I am required to keep track of the continuing education I have engaged in, so I would make this the fourth section of my eportfolio and the final section would be dedicated to an ongoing learning plan. This is another requirement of the College of Registered Nurses of BC and it fits well within the structure and purpose of the eportfolio. The learning plan requires both reflection on one’s practice as well as making a plan to address any areas that may need improvement, or areas that the individual would like to pursue in greater depth.

References

Clark, A. (2007). Retrieved from http://youtu.be/0pwhjWWe740:

What Are ePortfolios? Retrieved October 25, 2013 from http://uwaterloo.ca/centre-for-teaching-excellence/resources/integrative-learning/eportfolios-what-why-and-how

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