An ePortfolio is a digitized presentation of a student’s or instructor’s skills, capabilities, depth of knowledge of a subject and work experience. Portfolios have been around for a very long time. According to historians, Leonardo Da Vinci secured his position at the court of powerful Ludovico Sforza in Milan thanks to the way he presented his skills and abilities. In 1482, he sent a letter to the duke, in which he presented himself as skilled in many crafts but especially in military, mechanics and engineering. In the letter he briefly mentioned his talent as a painter and sculptor but sent with the letter a small silver lyre of his own creation, sculpted in the shape of a horse’s head. He made quite an impression on the duke as he stayed at his court, working as a painter, architect and sculptor until the duke’s fall from power, in 1499.
According to Clemson University, a portfolio can contain any or all of the following:
- Files of various formats (text, pictures, video, etc.)
- Evidence related to courses taken, programs of study, etc.
- Writing samples (might include several drafts to show development, improvement)
- Projects prepared for class or extracurricular activities
- Evidence of creativity and performance
- Evidence of extracurricular or co-curricular activities, including examples of leadership
- Evaluations, analysis and recommendations
Working with newcomers every day, I strongly believe in the power of ePortfolios in showcasing abilities and skills, work experience and communication skills. For newcomers, securing a first position in Canada is an uphill battle. The lack of a network to support their job search and to recommend their skills and abilities is one of their main barriers. A digitized portfolio, in the form of a personal website where they can post pictures and explain the extent of their involvement in various projects, they can present themselves and prove this way the level of communication, discuss concepts and ideas in their field, showcase achievemnets and provide quotes from clients or supervisors.
Students can use ePortfolios to document and reflect on their own learning, identify needs and create more awareness of their learning styles. Blogs for example, after being used as self reflection and as placeholder for resources for assignments during the online program, can be used later on, in the workplace. A great characteristic of the online portfolios is that they are not static. They are flexible, dynamic and always changing. As a student or instructor, we can easily choose what information to be online versus private, references can be easily updated with new information added. One of the challenges of online learning is the level of student engagement. ePortfolios are a great tool to increase the level of student engagement. Learning is self paced but the student is engaged and through the process of creating the ePortfolio, their self confidence gets a big boost as well. There is always the danger of loosing themselves into too much research and getting overwhelmed by the number of resources on the net. Maintaining constant contact with the students from the beginning to the end of the course and providing clear guidelines ( for example: list up to 5 resources per assignment) will keep them on track and help them “collect, select, reflect and connect” (Hughes, 2008)
Instructors can use ePortfolios as assessment tools. The concern around using portfolios in assessment is the element of subjectivity. ePortfolios are not only a presentation of skills and competencies but a creative presentation. Beauty as we know is in the eye of the beholder! An artistic element might be the one that tips the scale in the favour of a better assessment, and not a scientific detail. To avoid this, ePortfolios have to be clearly aligned to a learning goal, should have clearly stated parameters, and have the requirements and the grading very well explained from the very beginning. Ambiguity about the goal, the grading and the purpose of the ePortfolio will confuse the students more than help with their learning experience.
ePortfolios are work and require time and some technical skills but they are well worth it. I intend to not only encourage my clients to create their own ePortfolios but make it a required part of the online workshops.
Leonardo Da Vinci Retrieved from https://www.history.com/topics/leonardo-da-vinci
McDonnald, E. (2011) Student ePortfolio as an Assessment Tool Retrieved from https://www.educationworld.com/a_curr/columnists/mcdonald/mcdonald025.shtml
Schiffer, B (2016, Aug 17) ePortfolios for eLearning Retrieved from http://blogs.onlineeducation.touro.edu/eportfolios-in-education/
The What, Why and How of ePortfolios Retrieved from https://www.clemson.edu/academics/programs/eportfolio/information.html