e-Portfolio

What is e-Portfolio

An e-portfolio is an:

'Electronically based file store and information management system which is modeled on the working method used for paper portfolios, but which takes advantage of the capabilities of ICT. The learner builds and maintains a digital repository of artefacts, which they can use to demonstrate competence (in a summative assessment setting) and/or reflect on their learning (in a formative assessment setting).'
(toolkit.efutures.org)

'A purposeful selection of evidence by the learner at a point in time, with a particular audience in mind'.
(BECTA)

'A learner-created collection of digital items: ideas, evidence, reflections, feedback, which presents a selected audience with evidence of a person’s learning and/or ability'.
(JISC)

Benefits

Some of the advantages of an e-portfolio over a paper-based version include:

  • tracking and identifying skills, knowledge and evidence gaps that require further work;
  • storing (and/or sign-posting) all the evidence in one place, which makes for ease of access, and reduces the chances of loss or damage;
  • the capability to access the e-portfolio from any networked computer, so that the user has no need to carry anything around;
  • sharing the portfolio on a named basis, which enables learners to allow tutors and assessors to review their evidence without the need to photocopy documents – thus saving time and ensuring confidentiality;
  • transferring e-portfolio content to other systems and organisations;
  • supporting accessibility at all levels, from reducing the amount of paperwork or easing the development of an audit trail, to enabling the preferences and needs of all users;
  • supporting individual and group-based learning and assessment;
  • supporting multiple languages and cultures;
  • scalability (the capacity to deal efficiently with higher volumes of evidence and learners); and
  • the potential to include new evidence types, such as video, which would not be possible without an electronically-based portfolio.

(Source: article by Julian Cook, LTSS learning adviser and IMS Global Learning Consortium)

Roles, Responsibilities and Skills

The roles, responsibilities and generic skills required for using e-portfolios for assessment will be basically the same regardless of which e-portfolio system is in use, although the intricacies of working with different e-portfolio products may vary.

  • Management of the use of e-portfolios requires the knowledge, skills and authority to assist in the development and implementation of strategies and policies relating to the use of e-portfolios in the organisation.
  • e-Portfolio administration requires the knowledge, skills and authority to manage reports, facilitate access to e-portfolios by others and facilitate use of the e-portfolio system.
  • Technical support - Training and support for users to optimise the use of e-portfolios will be required regardless of which system is adopted. Most systems are web-based and therefore do not require additional specialist centre based technical support. However, it should be noted that where virtual learning environment (VLE) or intranet-based systems are used for e-portfolio purposes, these will require in-house specialist support, which is outside the scope of this guide due to the wide range of systems and processes that may be involved.
  • Working with learners requires the knowledge, skills and authority to assist learners to manage their progress online and manage online information, standards and evidence.
  • Assessment and verification of evidence in e-portfolios - in addition to existing knowledge and skills, the introduction of e-portfolio evidence will require assessors and verifiers to understand how the use of e-portfolios will impact on the process of ensuring the validity, authenticity and sufficiency of evidence produced by learners.

A staff requirements checklist is available from our ‘Resources page’. This can be used to ensure that the right expertise is identified (or developed) within the organisation, including ensuring that people are aware of the activities they need to support, and have sufficient knowledge and skills to perform the associated tasks effectively.

These checklists can also be used to identify activities that will involve specific centre staff and to highlight areas for improvement, either in relation to understanding the activity or familiarity with how the e-portfolio works. This can be used as the basis for identifying training needs for staff, or workshops for learners.

Specific training will need to be provided for staff (including teachers, assessors and exams staff) newly involved in delivering courses where e-portfolios form part of the process of assessment. This training may be supplied in part by the chosen supplier of the e-portfolio system. However, it is also useful to look at how e-portfolios will sit within and work with the centre’s existing assessment processes and to involve staff in related development activities.

Guidelines

It is important to ensure that learners understand the part that e-portfolios will play in providing evidence towards a unit or qualification, and acquire the skills to use the e-portfolio effectively.

It is essential to remember that learners should be neither advantaged nor disadvantaged by the use of technology. To achieve this, any staff supporting learners need to be familiar with the particular system chosen, together with any specific requirements of the appropriate awarding body or the qualification involved and any technical requirements or constraints.

Ownership

The issue of ownership of an e-portfolio is important. There is a need to ensure that the interests of the learner are maintained (including issues of data protection, security, integrity and back-up), while recognising that some of the content of the e-portfolio needs on occasions to be accessed by others involved in the assessment process.

To clarify, the learner is the owner of the e-portfolio and can determine the access rights of others to its contents. However, as part of the arrangements for e-portfolio content to be used as evidence towards a unit or award, learners must agree that awarding bodies and assessors can access the evidence area of the e-portfolio.

Selecting a system

Becta, in their paper ‘e-portfolios – Definitions and directions paper’ recommend that the e-portfolio system should, where appropriate:

  1. Be accessible by the learner, and elements to their practitioners/mentors anytime, anywhere;
  2. Be supported by awarding organisations and statutory authorities.

There is usually no compulsion from awarding organisations for a centre to use a single specific system for supporting assessment through e-portfolios (as there may be for e-testing). Choices about how to support the use of e-portfolios are generally left to the centre, based on its own requirements. However, awarding bodies are likely to have selection criteria that the e-portfolio is required to meet, and will need to approve the choice made.