Eportfolios, digital repositories of student work, have been transforming students' educational experiences for two decades. The Association of American Colleges and Universities has long advocated eportfolio adoption throughout higher education. As AAC&U’s LEAP initiative has gained prominence, the necessity for all students to have the opportunity to engage with high quality learning in all of the Essential Learning Outcomes (ELOs) has become clear. The need to increase access to higher education for a broad and diverse population also has highlighted the need for more diverse pedagogies and assessments that capture and reflect the multitude of learning styles and modes through which today’s students demonstrate their learning. Fortunately, technology has provided the tools that allow faculty and other educational professionals to help students organize their learning, preserve the variety of forms in which their learning occurs, reflect upon their learning and to evaluate the level of mastery of a broad set of ELOs. The most promising technology broadly available is the eportfolio.
The electronic or digital portfolio is an ideal format for collecting evidence of student learning, especially for those outcomes not amenable nor appropriate for standardized measurement. Additionally, eportfolios can facilitate student reflection upon and engagement with their own learning across multi-year degree programs, across different institutions, and across diverse learning styles while helping students to set and achieve personal learning goals. Eportfolios provide both a transparent and portable medium for showcasing the broad range of complex ways students are asked to demonstrate their knowledge and abilities for purposes such as graduate school and job applications as well as to benchmark achievement among peer institutions.
With the release of the Degree Qualifications Profile (DQP) laying out the essential learning for any Associate, Baccalaureate or Master's degree and the levels of demonstrated learning competence expected for each degree attainment, eportfolios have even more utility as unified ways for students to document their learning for the integration of their learning among and across their educational pathways toward a degree. In addition, AAC&U's initiative on General Education Maps and Markers (GEMs) development of principles and models for integrative general education programs is particularly suited to an eportfolio framework to help student, faculty and others to map the intentional pathways to demonstrated competence of essential learning.
Through the use of VALUE rubrics, mirroring the ELOs, eportfolios provide a means for direct assessment of student work drawn from the curriculum, cocurriculum and beyond the campus. The work students produce through embedded assignments in courses, programs, activities, internships, research projects and other High Impact Practices become the basis for student progress and attainment in a unified eportfolio system. Eportfolios create transparency around demonstrated learning and allow student artifacts to be used as evidence of accomplishment for employment, graduate school or accountability and reporting to external audiences.