Instructor Resources

Why ePortfolios?

Use of electronic portfolios in higher education is more than two decades old, but adoption across the country has accelerated dramatically since 2010. Built on long experience with paper portfolios in such disciplines as art and journalism, ePortfolios may initially have seemed like a way of performing the same tasks online. However, adopters quickly began to see that ePortfolios were not simply a technology, but rather a constructive practice that fostered many proven pedagogies. A growing body of research shows that ePortfolio practice can help students own and connect their learning experiences and support meaningful outcomes assessment for curriculum improvement.

I've come to think that this [reflection] is not only an incredibly impactful form of assignment for students to do, but it's also a way that instructors can be assured that the way that they've designed their class, the way that they've been trying to help students learn, is working or not working. I think it is the place where learning is captured.

IUPUI faculty member, 2012

The catchphrase "collect, select, reflect" includes important elements of ePortfolio development, but is incomplete without a fourth component: compose. ePortfolio projects in which students construct their own websites—and the number of such projects is increasing at IUPUI—foster student creativity and add new layers of reflection as capabilities of the digital environment. Students can choose from multiple media, build in visual and audio elements, and use hyperlinks and menus to explain and to demonstrate what they have learned. With good guidance, this process can help students discover connections among concepts and learning experiences, enabling them to see their learning as integrated and purposeful. Composing an ePortfolio website helps students learn to communicate in multiple modalities, responsibly manage their online identities, and develop as learners and emerging professionals.

I didn't realize I had achieved so much, and the ePortfolio let me be proud of myself.

Tierra, 2016

The value of ePortfolios for assessment has been recognized since their earliest beginnings. A fundamental strength is their capacity to support authentic assessment, which is assessment focused on actual achievements viewed directly rather than on proxies for achievement like GPAs or standardized test scores. With multimodal evidence, ePortfolios emphasize what students can do with their knowledge and skills. More than other forms of authentic assessment, reflective ePortfolios can capture complex cognitive and affective ("ineffable") outcomes, demonstrate a trajectory of learning and growth over time, and offer instructors and programs valuable insight into students' perceptions and interpretations of their learning experiences.

As Eynon and Gambino note in the Catalyst for Learning section on Outcomes Assessment, "reviewing ePortfolios and student work, faculty and staff can more easily make concrete recommendations to improve curriculum and pedagogy." This has certainly been the case at IUPUI, as a recent campus research project made clear (the International Journal of ePortfolio has published our article about this project). As one IUPUI program director noted in an interview for this research, "We made a change, a major curricular change in 2009, and a lot of that was due to the way we're doing the capstone portfolios." ePortfolios also support faculty collaboration on curriculum. As another IUPUI program director remarked in 2012, designing and assessing a program ePortfolio helped instructors understand "how their own course material related" as well as "what was being taught in other courses, how all of it fit together to achieve the program outcomes and standards."

ePortfolios are a way of documenting learning that has occurred, giving faculty a better opportunity to answer the question 'has the right learning occurred?' Artifacts help to demonstrate the integration of the learning that has occurred.

IUPUI academic staff member, 2012

Finding support

Workshops

The ePortfolio Initiative regularly offers workshops in cooperation with the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL). Topics include Introduction to ePortfolios, Introduction to Taskstream, and programs on ePortfolio Pedagogy, ePortfolio Assessment, and Reflection in ePortfolios. These and any new workshops are announced through the CTL events calendar and will be posted on this site as well. A community of practice on ePortfolios in senior capstone courses convened in 2016–17.

Experienced colleagues

In addition to members of the ePortfolio Coordinating Committee, a growing community of ePortfolio users on campus can provide advice to those interested in learning more. Many of these colleagues have contributed on-campus presentations in venues such as the E. C. Moore Symposium or special ePortfolio workshops, as well as external publications and presentations at conferences around the world. See About Us for assistance in identifying someone whose experience may be helpful in your context.