ePortfolios, digital repositories of student work, have been transforming students' educational experiences for two decades. The Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) has long advocated ePortfolio adoption throughout higher education. As AAC&U’s Liberal Education and America's Progress (LEAP) initiative has gained prominence, the necessity for all students to have the opportunity to engage with high-quality learning in all the Essential Learning Outcomes (ELOs) has become clear. The need to increase access to higher education for a broad and diverse population has also highlighted the necessity of more diverse pedagogies and assessments that capture and reflect the multitude of modes through which today’s students demonstrate their learning. ePortfolios allow faculty and other educational professionals to help students organize their learning; preserve the variety of forms in which their learning occurs; and reflect upon their learning. They also enable the assessment of level of mastery for a broad set of ELOs.
In 2016, based upon proliferating research examining the efficacy of ePortfolios, AAC&U added ePortfolios to its list of High-Impact Practices (HIPs). As noted in the International Journal of ePortfolio, "Key milestones leading to AAC&U's decision include the publication ten years ago of the Handbook of Research on ePortfolios (Jafar & Kaufman, 2006); research performed by many campuses through the Inter/National Coalition for Electronic Portfolio Research as well as associated publications (e.g, Cambridge, Cambridge, & Yancey, 2009); the launch in 2011 and the sustained publication since then of the peer-reviewed International Journal of ePortfolio; and in January 2016, the publication of research resulting from the Connect to Learning (C2L) project (Eynon & Gambino, 2017)." This scholarly foundation provides clear evidence regarding the effectiveness of ePortfolios as well as guidance regarding how to do ePortfolios well. AAC&U hopes to accelerate practice, research, and publication in this domain by providing key tools and publication venues for practitioners and researchers:
- The International Journal of ePortfolio recently joined AAC&U
- PEARL: Publications on ePortfolio: Archives of the Research Landscape
- The Field Guide to ePortfolios: Why It Matters for Learning
The electronic or digital portfolio is an ideal format for collecting evidence of student learning, especially for those outcomes not amenable or appropriate for standardized measurement. Additionally, ePortfolios can facilitate student reflection upon and engagement with their own learning across multiyear degree programs, across different institutions, and across diverse learning styles while helping students set and achieve personal learning goals. ePortfolios provide a transparent and portable medium for showcasing the broad range of complex ways students are asked to demonstrate their knowledge, skills, and abilities for purposes such as graduate school and job applications as well as for benchmarking achievement among peer institutions. Examples of ePortfolios can be found below.
ePortfolios for Learning:
- A Communication ePortfolio from Stanford University
- An International Service Learning ePortfolio from Loyola University
- A Science Writing ePortfolio from McMaster University
ePortfolios for Assessment:
- A Standards-based ePortfolio from SUNY Cortland
- A University Studies Assessment ePortfolio from Portland State University
- An Assessment Template for Teacher Licensure in the State of Vermont
ePortfolios for Professional Development and Employment:
- An ePortfolio for Professional Growth and Development
- An Undergraduate Accomplishments ePortfolio from the University of Puget Sound
- A Faculty Career ePortfolio from Loyola University
With the release of the Degree Qualifications Profile (DQP), which lays out the essential learning for any associate, baccalaureate, or master's degree and the levels of demonstrated learning competence expected for attainment of each degree, ePortfolios have even more utility as unified ways for students to document their integrated learning among and across their educational pathways toward a degree. In addition, the principles and models for integrative general education programs developed through AAC&U's General Education Maps and Markers (GEMs) initiative are particularly well suited for an ePortfolio framework, which can help students, faculty, and others map the intentional pathways to demonstrated achievement of essential learning goals. When combined with VALUE rubrics, which mirror 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 HIPs becomes 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.