What is an Electronic Portfolio?

A portfolio is defined as a set of pieces of creative work intended to demonstrate a person's ability to a potential employer (Oxford Dictionary, 2005). An e-portfolio or webfolio can be seen as a response to the changing times and technological advancement. People can now showcase their work more creatively through the dynamic platform that e-portfolios offer. However, an e-portfolio is not a random collection of artifacts but rather a tool that demonstrates growth made visible through the reflections that transform these artifacts to "evidences" of achievement (Barrett, 2001).

In the academe, e-portfolios have also been gaining popularity as it answers the needs of digital learners who will not find full self-expression and satisfaction in a static transcript. An e-portfolio will allow an individual to translate his/her level of skill and knowledge through artifacts, examples of work, and progression of growth through various types of media (animations, film clips, audio, etc) and even add hyper links which inevitably removes boundaries that commonly limit portfolios on paper.

According to Dr. Hellen Barrett (a researcher on e-portfolios), there are three general purposes for developing portfolios:
  1. Learning (Formative) - created for the purpose of personal and professional development
  2. Assessment (Summative) - created for evaluation purposes where there is an emphasis on metacognition and self-evaluation on the student's part
  3. Employment (Marketing)- created for the purpose of applying for an academic job or for promotion and tenure within a department

e-Portfolio Development Stages

1. Defining the Portfolio Context & Goals - this stage involves identifying the assessment context or defining the purpose of the portfolio. The goals of the portfolio will serve as a frame for which the portfolio will be developed. Knowing your audience as well will determine how you will format and present your portfolio

2. The Working Portfolio – this phase of the portfolio development is the most time consuming. This phase involves collecting/choosing artifacts and choosing the right software development tools that is most appropriate to exhibit your portfolio in. The software platform will control, restrict or enhance the development process. This stage is also crucial in bringing forth the developer's personality/self-expression in the e-portfolio

3. The Reflective Portfolio – this stage is crucial for any portfolio developer who wishes to grow and learn from his/her progress in the skill that he/she is exhibiting. This usually precedes evaluation reviews (for summative portfolios) or employment applications (for marketing portfolios). In the reflective stage, one needs to ask three questions:
  • What? – a summary of the artifacts that documents the learning experience
  • So what? -- a reflection on what the student has learned and how it also leads to meeting the standards
  • Now what? -- addresses the implications for future learning/development, in other words, setting future goals

4. The Connected Portfolio – this stage is unique to an e-portfolio, it being in a dynamic platform, one would need to consider the links that is embedded in the portfolio. The process of hyper-linking different pages accounts for navigability of an e-portfolio and also contributes to the summative assessment process.

5. The Presentation Portfolio – this involves presentation of the portfolio to an audience and celebrating the accomplishments represented in the portfolio. This stage is most important for professionals in education because it is through this stage that they get meaningful feedback and partnership in self-assessment. This also gives individuals a boost to carry out further development

Advantages of having a teaching eportfolio

external image Image45.gif An e-portfolio is a great way for teachers to collect and organize their accomplishments in a coherent, creative manner. Just as teachers want their students to collect evidence of their work and achievements, they themselves should also have a portfolio readily available to show others should the need arise. Teachers can also use eportfolios to reflect on their work over time- how it has evolved, improved, and come to reflect their changing priorities and philosophies as educators.

Though creating an e-portfolio takes a considerable amount of both time and creativity, it is a worthy endeavor for any educator who values being able to examine their own work and learn in the present from work they have accomplished in the past. Keeping a good record of lesson plans which were particularly successful, examples of student work which were exemplary, etc., can be helpful in reminding teachers of useful, effective ways to formulate lessons and inspire students. Teachers can also share their e-portfolios with colleagues and mentees and in doing so provide them with valuable insight and guidance.

A successful e-portfolio should also evidence a teacher's reflective processes and philosophical approaches to education. Teachers should include commentary on how they feel in the present about their work and professional development, as well as their professional goals for the future. Teachers should reflect on the success and fulfillment they derived from certain learning/teaching experiences. They should also, however, reflect on times in their career when things did not work out as they had hoped or planned, when they felt discouraged or disappointed, and what they did about it.

E-Portfolios are fast growing because of their benefits to students as well. The use of e-Portfolios can benefit students in the following ways:
- It can increase the effectiveness of the learning effectiveness as students reflect on what they have learned to pull together a professional e-Portfolio
- The teacher’s model can be used to demonstrate and lead to professionalism by example
- To help students to embrace, enhance and utilize information technology skills
- To integrate other ways of learning and earning class credit beyond the classroom setting.

Additional information about the benefits of having an e-Portfolio:


As with other new & cutting edge technology trends, there are some costs, challenges and complications with ePortfolios for instructors and students alike.

One additional challenge associated with eportfolios comes with those which are designed for view by others rather than for personal inquiry and development. The eportfolio typically exhibits the creator's work at its best; creators who intend for others to view the portfolio are not going to include their worst works or what comprises their average contribution. Portfolios are intended to impress; while those viewing portfolios, such as potential employers, are likely aware of this, they are unable to make any determination of what to expect as the standard from such a person. They are a very useful tool for organizing and reflecting upon one's own work, but cannot of course serve as complete assessment of an individual. It is important that those who create e-Portfolios recognize that simply because a portfolio is made electronically available, that does not mean it is necessarily superior to other forms of portfolios. The creation of e-Portfolios requires as much time, effort, and careful consideration as the construction of any other type of portfolio.

Additional obstacles, costs and challenges include:
- creating and maintaining e-Portfolios can be a very labor intensive and difficult task. external image 43.jpg
- They are also very complex and can be difficult for a teacher to develop the criteria, to regulate, to aid in answering questions. In addition, fully evaluating an e-Portfolio, let alone a full class of students’ e-Portfolios, can be a very intense and difficult task.
- Because of the complexity of evaluating, scores against criteria have been found to be relatively inconsistent. This can lead to a more time-consuming “roll-out” as rater training becomes necessary.
- The above listed difficulties are enhanced when an instructor or student does not have previous experience with working on something published on the web.
- There are also concerns about students publishing their best work online as it pertains to plagiarism. With the search engines that are available today there is an increased threat of “Cyber-Plagiarism.”
- There is also the risk and responsibility that comes with free speech in any forum and this is especially applicable to e-Portfolios as students work is published on the intenet for the public to see. There is a responsibility on the instructors to warn students of the threat of litigation and retaliation, especially if controversial issues and viewpoints are being vocalized in this format.

Research on e-Portfolios

Banister, S., Vannatta, R. A., & Ross, C. (2006). Testing electronic portfolio systems in a teacher education: Finding the right fit. Action in Teacherj0173955.gif Education, 27(4), 81-90
A research study that sought to determine the most effective e-portfolio system for teacher education programs. Three e-portfolio systems (LiveText, TaskStream, and a university-developed system called Epsilen) were used throughout a semester and students and faculty evaluated usability, functionality, and applicability of the systems.

Barrett, H. C. (2007). Researching electronic portfolios and learner engagement: The REFLECT initiative. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, 50(6), 436-449.
This article includes theoretical background for researching student learning, engagement, and collaboration through the development of electronic portfolios. It also discusses principles of student motivation and engagement and the philosophical issues related to portfolio assessment and reflection.

Grier, J. M., Denney, M. K., & Clark, M. M. A tale of two programs: A comparative study of electronic portfolio assessment in teacher education. Online Submission.Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association (San Francisco, CA, Apr 2006),

This study explores the question: how do credential candidates, faculty, and portfolio evaluators perceive the electronic portfolio processes within and across the two teacher preparation programs. The study concludes that a portfolio must be integrated into a teacher education program by students and faculty. It is fundamental that portfolio elements are aligned and goals and tasks are clear to the participants. Moreover, the time and resources needed to successfully implement and maintain a portfolio system is essential to any e-portfolio development.

Other Useful Links

Dr. Helen Barrett on Electronic Portfolio Development

E-portfolio for the Assessment of Learning
Authentic Assessment with Electronic Portfolios using Common Software and Web 2.0 Tools
Developing a Teaching Portfolio


Barret, H. P. Electronic portfolios. Retrieved 10 Dec., 2007, from http://electronicportfolios.com/portfolios/encyclopediaentry.htm

Barret, H. P. (2001). Electronic portfolio development. Retrieved 10 Dec., 2007, from http://d2l.mu.edu/content/enforced/74866-1255_3444_1801/documents/Electronic_Portfolios.pdf

"portfolio noun" The Oxford Dictionary of English (revised edition). Ed. Catherine Soanes and Angus Stevenson. Oxford University Press, 2005. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press. University of Dayton. 10 December 2007 <http://www.oxfordreference.com/views/ENTRY.html?subview=Main&entry=t140.e60505>

The professional portfolio. Retrieved 13 Dec, 2007, from http://content.scholastic.com/browse/article.jsp?id=4148

University of Iowa College of Education. (2004). Teacher's E-portfolio. Retrieved 11 Dec., 2007, from http://www.education.uiowa.edu/CR842/teacher/

Regents of the University of California, Berkley. (2004). EPortfolios: What's behind the hype?. Retrieved 8 Dec., 2007 from (http://istpub.berkeley.edu:4201/bcc/Spring2004/eportfolio.html