Envisioning ePortfolio initiatives at higher education institutions

September 18, 2023 Allison Holt

Envisioning ePortfolio initiatives at higher education institutions

Over the last several years, there has been a gradual shift in how people think about ePortfolios. Traditional ePortfolio models let students showcase their exemplary work. However, as the use of ePortfolios grows, many institutions recognize how powerful they are in supporting student learning in different ways.

Whether you’re considering adopting ePortfolios or need to kick-start an existing ePortfolio initiative, there are several key questions to consider:

What are you trying to achieve with your initiative?

If you ask 50 faculty members what an ePortfolio is and how using one can benefit their institution, you will most likely get varied answers. At a basic level, an ePortfolio is a tool that allows students to compile and document their work electronically. However, ePortfolios are versatile, allowing students to use them in the ways that best support their goals.

Do you want students to use their ePortfolios as professional portfolios for their job search or graduate school applications? Do you want students to engage in reflective learning? Do you want to integrate service learning or extracurricular activities into the ePortfolio? Before you start thinking about how you want the “e” part of ePortfolios to work, you’ll want to decide what you want to achieve with your initiative.

How will your institution weave the ePortfolio initiative into the students’ educational experience?

Once you’ve set your intentions for what you want to achieve and how you want your students to benefit from using ePortfolios, you need to consider how you want to integrate them into the educational experience. Helping students understand the benefits of using ePortfolios is essential for motivating them to participate.

Weaving ePortfolios into each student's educational experience is typically the most successful way to implement them. Creating an ePortfolio can go from being a tedious task to an important part of the student journey. There are many different ways to embed an ePortfolio initiative in students’ learning and many questions you can consider to formulate your initiative. 

Knowing how the ePortfolio will become part of each student's educational experiences early drives how you develop and design your initiative. This knowledge can also help you identify other stakeholders and engage them in the initiative. 

Do you want to involve assessment in your initiative?

An ePortfolio displays a student's knowledge and experience. Faculty can use ePortfolios to assess learning outcomes and extracurricular and service learning activities. ePortfolios can facilitate holistic assessment approaches covering multiple learning outcomes, or faculty can choose to assess different components within each ePortfolio. To leverage your ePortfolio initiative for successful assessment, you must consider the following decisions:

  • What outcomes or skills does your faculty plan to assess?
  • Who will assess student work?
  • How do you plan to set up the assessment measurement?
  • Will faculty assess and grade ePortfolios, and will the measurement be the same for both?

Do you want to involve assessment in your initiative?

While higher education institutions typically use ePortfolio initiatives to support goals outside of assessment plans, adding assessment purposes to your initiative can strengthen it. Evaluating and grading ePortfolios can motivate students to increase efforts and ensure they display their best work, and it can provide faculty with insight into how well their students are learning.

How can you successfully involve assessment in your initiative?

You can integrate ePortfolio assessment into your initiative successfully with these tips:

  • Ensure students have the resources, time, and instruction necessary to build ePortfolios.
  • Introduce ePortfolios early in the semester to ensure adequate time to become familiar with the platform.
  • Clearly communicate ePortfolio assessment expectations and criteria to students.
  • Help each student define their ePortfolio's purpose and audience through career research.
  • Provide examples so students understand what an ePortfolio should look like.
  • Provide constructive ePortfolio feedback.
  • Teach students how to assess their work and provide time for them to do so.
  • Encourage students to seek peer feedback.

What is your budget?

Establishing a budget is important because it can help your institution choose the right ePortfolio tools. Before incorporating an ePortfolio initiative in your institution, make sure you have the funds to cover the following potential costs:

  • Hosting
  • Domain names
  • The platform's one-time cost or recurring fees
  • Storage and support
  • Supporting software
  • Data transfer fees
  • Hardware and installation
  • Additional costs for high numbers of users

Where should you host your ePortfolio platform?

You also need to determine whether you will host your ePortfolio on an internal or external network. Certain platforms require institutions to manage their ePortfolio systems, processes, and data manually, but a cloud-based solution offers a more streamlined process. 

It's important to ensure the platform's location can support adequate performance, access, and reliability. Data storage is another important consideration. Storing data within the country increases protection and security.

How can you gain the proper support?

Support significantly influences your initiative's effectiveness. While we may think about ePortfolios primarily as a technological tool, it is most important to think about the non-technical considerations. Having the right support helps ensure smooth processes and student success.

You can gain the support of faculty members, administrative staff, students, and the IT department through awareness. Educating students on how ePortfolios can help them kick-start and expand their careers helps motivate them to take ePortfolio building seriously. Training faculty on how to implement ePortfolios in their assessment and teaching processes can help students build and graduate with successful ePortfolios that help them throughout their careers.

What type of platform can best serve your user base?

An ePortfolio platform must be accessible for it to be successful. Consider the following parties who will most likely need to use the platform to view or edit ePortfolios:

  • Students
  • Staff
  • External examiners
  • Potential employers

Students should be able to access and update their ePortfolios easily. The right features enable students to feature their best work and attract employers in their target industries. Platforms with a universal design in mind are ideal because they let students reach a wider audience. The more individuals who can easily access an ePortfolio, the more career opportunities a student can pursue.

Implement a successful ePortfolio initiative at your institution

The implementation of ePortfolios helps students kick-start their careers, hone self-evaluation skills, and reveal how well they learn and apply course material. You can help students work on effective ePortfolios with the right tools and software.

We offer innovative technology solutions such as Watermark Student Learning & Licensure software to help students create effective ePortfolios and showcase their work with user-friendly tools. Faculty can use this software to embed rubrics easily and report student progress, allowing them to coordinate the best student internship positions, educator prep opportunities, and clinicals. Contact us to learn more and request a demo.

Implement a successful ePortfolio initiative at your institution

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