E-Portfolios, in general, are online collections of data that can showcase student learning, achievement, or development. The collection of artifacts is designed as a way for the student to highlight th
Image of ePortfolio as seen by John Dalziel
Image of ePortfolio as seen by John Dalziel
eir professional or academic achievement, and the artifacts can include a variety of sources such as linked files, media sources, blog entries, photos, etc. Students can attach a reflection for each artifact explaining their rationale for including it, allowing each artifact to "pack more punch!" E-Portfolio programs allow their users to grant access to others, in order to showcase their work to prospective employers or their teachers. There are three main types of ePortfolios: representational (showcase), developmental (working), and reflective (learning).

Representational (Showcase)
A representational eportfolio is utilized to showcase the work someone has done. It can include many types of products, but is primarily a means to present long term achievements. These portfolio's might be used in a job interview, for an end of year capstone demonstration, or an artist's work.

Here are some examples of representational portfolios: http://www.ed.uiuc.edu/courses/ci335/eport_examples/index.html

Developmental (Working)
A developmental portfolio might commonly be used in education to show how a student is meeting a standard or meeting certain outcomes. This type of portfolio could be used at the end of a class or semester to show the work a student has done and how their achievement has grown and the understanding has expanded. This is a great tool for assessment that teachers can use with their students.

Reflective (Learning)
A reflective portfolio usually contains a person's reflections on a topic or are designed to show personal reflection over the course of a project. Reflective materials can be included in any type of eportfolio, but they would be the primarily material in a reflective eportfolio.

Why use an e-portfolio? Watch this video:

Benefits of Eportfolios

According to Dr. Helen C. Barrett at UAA, a national expert on eportfolios, "electronic portfolios are much more than innovative resumes or scrapbooks". According to Barrett, eportfolios show "reflection, evolution of thought, and professional development".
(Preparing Tomorrow's Teachers to Use Technology, 2002)

We've reached a critical mass. As we reach electronic saturation, new norms of work are emerging. Arising out of this critical mass is a vision of how educational institutions can benefit, which is with the eportfolio.We seem to be beginning a new wave of technology development in education. There is a push to free student work from paper and to make it
  • organized,
  • searchable, and
  • transportable

This opens enormous possibilities for re-thinking whole curricula and allows for
  • the evaluation of faculty,
  • assessment of programs,
  • certification of student work, and
  • how accreditation works(Batson, 2002)

The following outlines the benefits for eportfolio user groups.

  • increased learning effectiveness
  • model professionalism
  • enhance information technology skills
  • gain academic credit for learning beyond the classroom
  • reflections on artifacts as well as how they match goals and standards
  • help students make connections among their formal and informal learning experiences
  • prompt learners to articulate their learning goals from different perspectives
  • allow individuals to display learning in ways overlooked or undervalued by other assessment means

  • leverage student motivation
  • align objectives and evaluation strategies
  • allow for more fruitful advising
  • enable the efficient management of student deliverables in distance courses
  • enhance relationships among eportfolio creators and mentors

  • respond to calls for greater accountability and outcomes-based accreditation
  • transportability of credits
  • increase transparency for evaluation and benchm

General Uses for eP​ortfolios


ePortfolios allow students to put together an organized presentation of their material. This in turn allows teachers to comment on their work, enable to student to review teacher comments and suggestions. The student collects and combines all of this information over a semester or an academic year and eventually an academic career. In turn, when the student graduates and applies for a job, the eportfolio provides an employer with relevant information about the potential employee. ePortfolios are an excellent tool when attempting to do authentic assessment because the are often project related and usually the materials put into an ePortfolio are authentic tasks.

The higher education academy provides the following tips when using ePortfolios for student assessment:
1. Keep it simple. When writing introductions, assessment tasks or help sheets, use short simple sentences.
2. Make sure learning outcomes, learning tasks, resources and assessment tasks are appropriate and aligned as much as
3. Consider individual differences in experience and access to technology.
4. Consider diversity issues. Used appropriately, technology can enhance access.
5. While ideas about learning styles may be contentiouswhere possible write in non sensory specific language, e.g.
experience rather than see, hear or feel.
6. Plan, prepare and pilot your ideas. Ask people to work through tasks not just read them.
7. Provide a range of help and support services, if possible including people from outside the teaching team.
8. Think about how the use of an eportfolio fits with institutional rules and structures, e.g. rules about submission of assignments, anonymous marking etc.
9. Consider how the use of an e-portfolio fits with other parts of the course, e.g. use reflective tasks around placements.
10. Give formative and summative feedback.Many writers have commented that students particularly value formative feedback.
11. Consider the emotional aspects of learning; make tasks enjoyable, relevant and interesting to students.

Presentation of work (artists, capstone projects, etc.):
In the digital age, ePortfolio's are outstanding tools for presenting work. Just as an artist might have had a hard copy portfolio in the past, many artists and other creative people (or anyone who creates anything) can store their life's work - or a segment of it - on an ePortfolio. Here is an example of a very simple ePortfolio for a graphic designer: http://lizyjoy.com/

Students who have done major projects, or who want to show the culimination of a career's work often use ePortfolio's to present. The video below has a slick presentation of a fashion design student's ePortfolio:

Employment (interview materials):
For a potential employee the ePortfolio demonstrates meaningful evidence of the person's skills and professional development. The employer will have a better tool with which to assess the potential employee's communication skills, organizational skills, creativity, and initiative.

Eportfolios can include a wide range of information:
  • Personal information
  • Education history
  • Recognition – awards and certificates
  • Reflective comments
  • Previous employer comments
  • Goals, plans
  • Personal values and interests
  • Presentations, papers
  • Personal activities – volunteer work, professional development

    * Everything that is included in an ePortfolio should have a purpose; i.e. demonstrate a skill, an attribute, and learning acquired from experience.

Many aspiring teachers create e-portfolios that they can show to future employers. These can include course materials they have designed, student work, philosophies of teaching and other materials. Having them all in one place - and digital - is very convenient.

Examples of Materials Contained in ePortfolios

An ePortfolio can hold any digital material. Common things that can be included in ePortflios include:
  • Artwork
  • Written work/major papers
  • Slideshows and pictures
  • Videos
  • Resumes
  • Coursework Completed
  • Links to related websites

As mentioned above, personal explanations of the material presented help the reader understand the "why" as well as the "what" about the work included. For example, an artist might include the inspiration for a photograph, painting or sculpture. A writer could include the backdrop information for an article that they wrote. An architect can reveal the thought process and planning that went into the design of a building.

A navigation bar with the major headings of information contained in the ePortfolio allows the user to navigate easily through the pages and locate the information they are seeking quickly.

ePortfolio Internet Sites

There are many ePortfolio sites available to students. Below are a few options to choose from:

This website offers many useful features, including 24 hour IT assistance, and has fairly reasonable pricing options.

This ePortfolio website offers free membership to the students and educators that create accounts through their website. This website also offers other resources, such as a rubric builder.

Some universities have their own ePortfolio websites, such as this site that is offered by the University of Minnesota. Typically, access to these sites are limited to current students, staff, and alumni of the university.

Challenges with ePortfolios

  • One challenge associated with using ePortfolios is the need for access to a computer and the internet. This is becoming less of a concern as time goes by, but it is still a problem for many.
  • Another problem is ePortfolio's are slightly different at all sites, and learning to use multiple software systems can be difficult. This can also hinder the ability to access the ePortfolio off-site via the internet.
  • If a student is creating a long term portfolio, consistency of offering is a problem. The student will need to have access to the same portfolio both before and after graduation, and perhaps long into the future. If it is going to be graded faculty will also need acess.
  • Ensuring the validity and reliability of an e-portfolio can be difficult because of the subjectivity in evaluating them. A rubric must be established prior to assigning the lesson so the standards and expectations are understood.