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ePortfolios are nothing new, but interest in them seems to wax and wane. As efforts to document competencies outside of the traditional hours-units-grades structure increase, so does interest in eportfolios.

ePortfolios can provide a means of recognizing extra-curricular accomplishments, skills and experiences in a transportable mode that can accompany students throughout the course of their academic careers, potentially having value beyond the classroom and their initial post-college employment. What exactly is an eportfolio and what are its uses? Why has this technology not yet been fully integrated into the educational experience—and should it be? If an eportfolio is to be implemented at your college, what should be considered before launching the use of such a tool?

Lorenzo & Ittelson (2005), in the often-cited “An Overview of E-Portfolios”, describe an eportfolio as “a digitized collection of artifacts including demonstrations, resources, and accomplishments that represent an individual, group, or institution.” In other words, an eportfolio is an electronic version of a traditional portfolio that can be used to showcase understanding, work products and, potentially, certifications received.

Often accompanying eportfolios, as well as any discussion of them, is digital badging. Like the merit badges of the past, digital badging offers a means of recognizing accomplishments. The complexity of badging systems, like the complexity of eportfolios, varies widely. At a minimum, a badging system must document what entity awarded the badge and what receipt of a given badge signifies. Ideally, a badging system allows for both a delineation of learning outcomes achieved along with a means of showcasing how those achievements were demonstrated.

ePortfolios For CCC Students

While eportfolios can be used to document the accomplishments of groups or institutions, the focus here will be on eportfolios for the students of the California Community Colleges (CCC) – eportfolios as a tool for learning, for recognizing achievements within and outside of the classroom, and as a companion to (or replacement for) a traditional resume. It’s important to recognize that how an eportfolio will be used must inform the selection of an eportfolio product. If, for example, the main use of the system will be to augment classroom-based instruction, portability and longevity may not be a primary consideration.

As a tool for learning, an eportfolio can serve as a place where students share their work and reflect on it. An eportfolio can document a student’s progress as her learning evolves and her work product increases in complexity. Ideally, the use of the eportfolio not only allows the student to document accomplishments, but the act of reflecting prompts deeper learning. If an eportfolio is used extensively at a college, it could serve as a means of establishing connections across courses and, possibly, be employed in the assessment of student learning outcomes at the program or institutional level. The college culture, of course, must be one that is willing to adopt and employ such a tool on a broad scale in order for it to serve such a purpose.

In addition to serving as a forum for showcasing classroom-based work, an eportfolio can be used to provide potential employers with a multi-faceted understanding of who a student is, what he has accomplished and what he can do. In creative fields, an eportfolio can literally be used to provide samples of student work. In technical fields, badging can be used to document specific proficiencies. In any field, an eportfolio can be used to share various things that might contribute to making the student a better employee such as additional life experiences and competencies achieved though internships, volunteering and study-abroad programs. The eportfolio allows the student to personalize how he is presented in a manner that goes well beyond the traditional resume.

Implementation Varies

As with many educational technologies, implementation can happen at various levels. The use of eportfolios as an assessment tool requires faculty time and commitment that might serve as a barrier to a college-wide implementation, especially among those disciplines that traditionally employ assessment methods that don’t require the same level of time and attention. In order to have a meaningful college-wide implementation of an eportfolio that value-added must be made explicit to faculty and students alike. If the intent is for the eportfolio to serve as a vehicle for communication with future employers, ensuring those employers see value in eportfolios and the information they convey is critical.

As with most educational technologies, cost and usability are primary considerations. In the event that a tool is available at no cost or a minimal cost to the college, it is important to determine what business model is being employed and to ensure that the funding model is not one that ultimately relies on marketing students.

The lists of things to consider when implementing an eportfolio is too lengthy for this brief overview and some of the challenges identified over a decade ago may now be moot as the various eportfolio options have matured. In 2003, the following areas were among those identified as potential challenges by the authors of the ePortConsortium White Paper and are still clearly relevant today:

  1. Interoperability with existing systems, such as the college’s course management system.
  2. Security and privacy issues may be a consideration, especially if the intent is for the eportfolio to be used with external audiences.
  3. Intellectual property and digital rights.
  4. Usability, as already noted, should be a primary consideration if a college-wide implementation is being proposed.

Most importantly, a college-wide implementation of any educational technology should be supported by a clear plan with outcomes and goals clearly delineated. Ultimately, in order for an eportfolio system to have a lasting and positive impact, its value must be recognized by both those creating the eportfolio and those who are the intended consumers.

Portfolium ePortfolio and Career Readiness Platform

Portfolium logoThe Foundation for California Community Colleges has developed a systemwide agreement with Portfolium, which offers a career/transfer readiness platform, allowing students to showcase evidence of their skills to four-year schools and employers in a very tangible way. Portfolium also offers world-class assessment capabilities for faculty and administrators, as well as hiring solutions for employers and recruiters. This service is at no cost to all 113 California Community Colleges.

Portfolium is partnered with both the University of California (UC) and California State University (CSU) systems, which provides CCC students ease of transfer with the ability to view university networks of desired transfer schools and to connect with them on the network. With Portfolium, students with very little professional experience can demonstrate their skills and stand out to employers and admissions departments by bringing the bullet points on their resumes and transcripts to life.

Portfolium will host webinars on Sept. 27 and Oct. 6 to provide information on how to implement Portfolium on your campus. Please register for the webinars using the links below. If you are unable to attend at either time, contact Ashley Hyman at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to schedule an alternative meeting.

If you would like to activate Portfolium on your campus, contact Ashley Hyman at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or call her directly at 619-606-6345.

References & Resources

ePortConsortium.org (2003). Electronic Portfolio White Paper Version 1.0, http://www.immagic.com/eLibrary/ARCHIVES/GENERAL/EPORT/E031103J.pdf

Fiedler, R.L. & Pick, D. "Adopting an Electronic Portfolio System: Key Considerations for Decision Makers", p. 167, http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED485082.pdf

Miller, R. & Morgaine, W. (2009). "The Benefits of E-Porfolios for Students and Faculty in Their Own Words", Association of American Colleges & Universities Peer Review, Winter 2009, https://www.aacu.org/publications-research/periodicals/benefits-e-portfolios-students-and-faculty-their-own-words

Batson, T. "Defining 'ePortfolio': Four Ways of Seeing an ePortfolio", AAEEBL.org Batson Blog, March 16, 2015, http://www.aaeebl.org/blogpost/1008436/211326/Defining-ePortfolio--Four-Ways-of-Seeing-an-ePortfolio

Lorenzo, G. & Ittelson, J. (2005, July). "An Overview of E-Portfolios", Educause Learning Initiative Paper 1: 2005, https://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI3001.pdf


Michelle Pilati, Ph.D., is Managing Editor of
the California Community Colleges Professional Learning Network