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ePortfolio – Your guide to ePortfolios

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ePortfolios, also known as electronic portfolios or digital portfolios, have made it easier to document, showcase, and reflect on our learning and achievements. While various terms are used interchangeably, they all refer to the same concept: a digital collection of artifacts that demonstrate skills, experiences, and accomplishments.

The critical aspect is the learning process they support. Organising, planning, feedback, continuous reflection and showcasing learning experiences helps surface learning and generates deeper learning.

In this guide, we’ll explore the fundamentals of ePortfolios and how they empower educators and learners worldwide.

What is an ePortfolio?

In basic terms, it is a digital showcase of a learner’s experiences, achievements, and goals, tailored for a specific audience. Unlike a paper portfolio, ePortfolios have inbuilt tools to prompt, support and give educator feedback to learners.

How do ePortfolios differ from the LMS?

In contrast to Learning Management Systems (LMS), where instructors control access and content, ePortfolios prioritise student ownership and autonomy. In an LMS, instructors manage access permissions and tools, while in ePortfolios, students decide who views their work and how it’s presented.

Of course, many ePortfolios systems integrate with the LMS, but at its core, ePortfolios support student-centred learning and development. Students can record, reflect and capture learning experiences that transcends a specific, module, course, programme and academic year.

Another key difference is that LMS access typically ends with courses, whilst ePortfolios remain the student’s property. ePortfolios are for lifelong learning and support students after they graduate with continued professional development.

Are there different types?

Yes, different faculties, disciplines, professional bodies and departments all have different approaches. We’ve collated several different ways ePortfolios are being used to support teaching, learning and assessment.

Show me ePortfolio types in higher education?

To inspire you, we have curated the following examples and approaches used by educators and instructors within PebblePad’s higher education community.

Deeper learning through reflection and dialogue

In this post, Dr Alison Cullinane, Portfolio Director at the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Edinburgh introduces reflective portfolios in science courses. She explores how she planned and designed the portfolios and highlights the assessment process for a portfolio curriculum.

Biological Sciences Example: Embedding a reflective portfolio for student development in science courses – Blog (UK)

Evidencing employability skills and attributes

This institution-wide approach from Edge Hill University supports graduate employability by helping students to capture twenty skills and graduate attributes that are important for employers.

Career-readiness Example:  Evidencing graduate attributes at Edge Hill University – PDF (UK)

Preparing for and evidencing placement learning

In this example from Murdoch University, we see how placement vlogs have been used as part of a clinical ePortfolio approach to supporting placements.

Clinical placement Example:  ePortfolios for remote clinical placements at Murdoch University –  PDF

Assessing programme level outcomes via ePortfolios

This example of an ePortfolio approach for Paramedic Science shows how ePortfolios can be used to enable students to evidence against a set of programme-level outcomes that have been mapped to the HCPC’s standards of practice. Students can use their e-portfolios through to registration with the HCPC and beyond.

Paramedic Science Example: Assessing programme-wide outcomes via ePortfolios – JISC PDF (UK)

Authentic assessment and feedback

James Cook University undertook a multidisciplinary project with business partners solving real industry problems. Using an ePortfolio they used a work-integrated learning approach for both staff and students.  Evidencing workplace competencies, growing a rich portfolio of evidence, and presenting skills to employers through a showcase portfolio available after graduation.

Business example: Fostering excellence through multidisciplinary projects – PDF (Australia)

Evidencing competencies against professional frameworks

In this example from the Education Workforce Council, their approach was to create a professional learning passport (PLP) for newly qualified teachers.

Teaching Example: Education Workforce Council Case Study – Professional Learning Passport (pebblepad.co.uk) (UK)

Connecting learning experiences across programmes in and out of the classroom

Science & Engineering Example: A portfolio at the heart of a distance learning programme at University of Edinburgh – PDF

Developing professional competency

The example highlights how the University of Waterloo’s approach has helped MSc Social Works students integrate their learning experiences and track their growth and development, shifting the programme from a didactic to student-centred model.

Social Work Example: Unlocking Student Potential: ePortfolio Assessment for Social Work – Short PDF  (Canada)

Formulating professional identity

In this Business School example, the approach to fostering professional identity included an ePortfolio with reflective activities built into the business curriculum. The approach helped students to understand their strengths and areas for development – students gained confidence through the process. ‘Students walk out in week 13 different’. ‘They can tell an organisation ‘This is who I am’. They don’t need a printout – it’s all in here’.

Business School Example: Formulating professional identity in Business – Video Link (Australia)

Students as co-creators

In this example from the University of Edinburgh, educators have created Student led co-created course (SLICCs) to help develop autonomous learners. The approach encourages self-generated feedback, self-regulation, reflection, dialogue and peer review

Students as co-creators of their learning assessment (SLICCs) – PebblePad  (UK)

Surfacing the process of learning over time

This award-winning case study from Atlantic Technological University highlights how clinical ePortfolios support all aspects of placements, with video blogs (vlogs) to encourage greater connection with students and deeper reflection.

Medical Science Example: Transforming medical science practice placement at ATU – Video Link

Supporting a ‘work-integrated learning’ approach for employability

The following example from Nottingham Trent University, building a professional mindset – highlights their innovative approach to integrating employability into the curriculum across years 1, 2 and 3.

Horticulture Example: Building a professional growth mindset – JISC PDF (UK)

Deeper learning through reflection and dialogue

This Optometry example, see students from the University of Plymouth, using an ePortfolio to gain better and more timely access to feedback, as well as the opportunity for review and reflection. ‘Students benefitted significantly from this new approach and were able to access feedback from anywhere within 24 hrs of the clinic happening. This enabled them to take more control of their learning by reviewing and reflecting on their feedback and being able to use the built-in progress tracker to gain real time evidence on their achievements.

Optometry example: A eportfolio based learning approach for Optometry in the clinical setting – PDF (2020)

Further resources

 

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