Global Digital Positioning Systems: E-Portfolios in a Digital Age


January 24, 2015
Marriott Marquis Hotel
901 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20001

The Forum on Digital Learning and E-Portfolios is jointly sponsored by AAC&U’s project, VALUE: Valid Assessment of Learning in Undergraduate Education; and the Association for Authentic, Experiential and Evidence-Based Learning (AAEEBL), the association of e-portfolio professionals.

Logos: VALUE Project,  Association for Authentic, Experiential and Evidence-Based Learning (AAEEBL) and the International Journal of ePortfolio


The Forum on Digital Learning and E-Portfolios is now at full capacity, beginning with the Forum luncheon, and we regret that we cannot accept any more registrations.  The Forum's Saturday morning sessions remain open to all Annual Meeting registrants on a first-come/first-served basis.

Registration for the Centennial Annual Meeting remains open, and we look forward to seeing you there.

About the Forum

Among educators, it is common to talk of “pathways.”  The term usually refers to learning pathways through knowledge toward a learning outcome.  But, hidden in this term may be a challenge for the e-portfolio and digital learning communities, for the crucial question is — “who creates those pathways?” 

We are accustomed to the educational institution creating learning pathways in terms of syllabi, curricula, and course sequences. Perhaps we are too accustomed to that orientation.  Because, implicit in the phrase “learning pathways” is the idea that the professor or other institutional educators, usually both, will scaffold learning for the student.  Implicit, also, is that the knowledge therefore pre-exists the learner’s discovery.  It is old knowledge; it is finished. 

Seen this way, the term “pathways” runs counter to what the e-portfolio and digital learning communities stand for:  learning-centered, reflective, and constructed knowledge.

To a hiker, “pathways” means trails.  They know trails.  Nothing is as wonderful as a trail, guiding you through the mountains reliably, showing you the easiest way up a slope, assuring you that other people are not too far ahead or too far behind.  It is your tether to civilization.  You are “home” on a trail; it is intentional; it is your lifeline. Who would not want a trail or a pathway? 

But there is also a down side to trails:  it is very easy to become hypnotized by following a trail for hours.  It is easy to get lost in following and miss the views and opportunities around you. Trails or pathways can therefore isolate students from experience, reflection, discovery – the deep learning our students need. The alternative to a trail or pathway may be the woods.  Whereas a trail pre-defines to some extent what experience you will have, walking through woods, going off-trail (“bushwacking”) opens up experiences. 

Woods are defined, albeit less clearly by where the trees taper and disappear. But woods do have logical and apparent ways through them created by natural outcroppings, rivers, storms and animals to help students traverse the expanse of a wood in a meaningful way. Does the lack of predetermined, scripted paths hinder or help us support the kind of learning experiences modern digital technology offers to students today? How do we open the field of unscripted possibilities to learners—the essence of a liberal education—so all students have the preparation to experience discovery, innovation, struggling to find solutions, understanding the field, the woods and not just one path? 

We would like our students to actively engage with us in creating their own learning pathways in various knowledge domains.  But, once you throw open the possibility of “going off-trail,” don’t you also open the possibility of chaos?  Often, it is this trepidation, or this reality, that holds educators back:  we must keep our students on the trail because otherwise they get lost. Can students really create their own trail and end up at the desired destination through using digital resources? Can only the most talented students do this? How do we help all students make sense and meaning from the pathway? How do we help all students create connections and deep learning from traversing the woods?

Students need their own compass (or GPS!), especially our new majority students.  That compass is their e-portfolio and other digital learning frames.  Because it is not just creating the trail that is important but collecting information along that trail to reflectively make sense of the experience.  It is the collecting of information or evidence along a pathway or through the woods that prepares students to find their direction. When we send our students off trail, we need to send them with their compass, their e-portfolio, rich with the digital learning tools available to them. What would that compass look like?

Digital learning will be with our students long after they leave our courses, classes and institutions. How do we work with employers and educators to help them understand the new digital and e-portfolio modes of learning our students will demonstrate in the context that is familiar to them, the traditional modes of representing learning? How do we integrate the formal with the informal and lived experience of students in a way that preserves the integrity of the student experience and the faculty’s and professional educators’ expertise and validation of learning? How do we move from My Learning to Our Learning as a collaborative, reflective and shared journey through a rich liberal educational experience?


Essential E-Portfolio and Digital Learning Track


E-portfolios are now being used in departments, programs, and schools on more than half of colleges and universities. This means that many faculty and other educational professionals will be new to creating and using e-portfolios and incorporating digital technology into student work. We invite session proposals that will provide hands-on, practical steps based on experience in creating and implementing student e-portfolios and digital media into the student academic experience. Sessions could, among other topics, focus on:

  • How to use e-portfolios and digital media to help students reflect and integrate their thinking, learning, and performing across the curriculum and cocurriculum through multiple pedagogies; and how workforce development requires the same skills as liberal arts degrees.
  • How e-portfolios and digital media can move from a practice of a few innovative faculty to a core aspect of every college and university through systematic institutionalization, resulting in a campus culture of integration and reflection among both faculty members and students.
  • How tried and true methods for picking an e-portfolio or other digital platform can be implemented to ensure student learning, while providing the data institutions need for assessment and accreditation.


E-Portfolio and Digital Learning Research Track

E-portfolios and digital learning technology have been used on many campuses for several years as teaching and learning approaches. Individual campuses and consortia of colleges are conducting research on various aspects of e-portfolios and digital learning.

At the 2014 Forum, attendees identified important areas for research on the impact and effectiveness of e-portfolio and digital technology for deep student liberal learning. Fourteen topics emerged from the categorization of the 156 questions collected during the Forum. The top three areas of need were Institutional, Faculty, and Student Buy-In and Adoption (22%), Assessment (18%), and Student Learning (17%). Examples of the key research questions that received the highest scores are below:

  • In what ways can reflective e-Portfolios affect student persistence/retention?
  • Do employers value e-Portfolios as a substitute for traditional resumes? How do we build better reflective authors (e-Portfolio students)?
  • Are there institutional data that prove that e-Portfolio use leads to higher retention/graduation rates?

Sessions in this track will provide the results of information and data on e-portfolio and digital learning use that are informing faculty and students about the effect of engaging with e-portfolios for enhanced student learning, effective pedagogy and student success. Sessions could, among other topics, focus on:

  • Effect of using e-portfolios on student performance on deep learning, GPA, completion, reflective practice, etc.
  • Instructional approaches, including use of signature assignments, high impact practices, etc., and their impact on faculty development and student learning.
  • Assessment strategies and practices in an e-portfolio environment and how data can be used for formative and summative improvement, accountability, and reporting.