Why use ePortfolios?

While reviewing Helen Barrett’s 2015 presentation on ePortfolios, I noticed that she defines the ePortfolio as both a process and a product, saying that these two aspects must be balanced. I think that it is useful to examine the merits of ePortfolios in the education system by discussing these two aspects further.
As a process, according to Harapnuik, the ePortfolio allows a learner to aggregate a digital collection as evidence of their learning. This is a active process where students are actively learning and making deeper and meaningful connections within the subject matter in order to gain mastery of the content. The use of ePortfolios also allows students to learn using the standards of Choice, Ownership, Voice and Authenticity described in the COVA model by Thibodeaux, Cummings and Harapnuik (2017). In COVA students have greater agency and responsibility in their own learning. Instead of learning material by repetition in order to recall it later, students using COVA are active, critical and questioning and build on their knowledge base through experience and collaboration. Unlike more traditional forms of teaching and learning, the application of the COVA model through ePortfolio as a process, provides different methods of access/representation, engagement and expression to students.
According to The Why Reflect? blog post, “Portfolios provide a powerful environment in which students can collect and organize the artifacts that result from engaging in these challenging, real-life tasks, and write the reflections through which students draw meaning.” As a process this reflection would allow students to build on and incorporate their prior knowledge to their current learning by making meaningful connections within the content. The more meaningful connections students make, the greater the depth of their learning, and the greater their mastery of the curriculum. the greater their mastery As a product this reflection allows the instructor to provide feedback to the learner as they are building the portfolio, which in turn can contribute to further reflections and the making of more connections.
As a product and ePortfolio can also serve as a showcase for the learner, showing their growth over their career or a single course. It can serve as a resume, or according to Barrett (2015) “personal online branding” or a “digital footprint”, which shows the abilities accomplishments and thought processes of the learner. According to Harapnuik, this product can serve as evidence of learning and abilities to potential universities and employers, as “an eportfolio is one of the tools that many organizations will be looking for.”
An ePortfolio as a product can be a useful form of assessment that demonstrates learning, but speaking from my experience as a highschool teacher, it would be difficult for it to serve as a major form of assessment in course the way our curriculum is currently written and the way we are expected to teach. We are rarely expected to assess skills and bigger picture understanding and applications, which is what ePortfolios are great at assessing. Traditionally, portfolios and similar projects like science fairs, show and tell etc. tend to be less frequent or disappear by high school because the demands of the curriculum are much different compared to middle and elementary school. I do not feel like our current practices in high school science education allow for the implementation of the COVA model and the use of ePortfolios. Another use of ePortfolio as a product would be for educators themselves; it could serve as documentation of professional development and show growth a commitment to continued learning (Barnstable, 2010). It could be incorporated into an educator’s annual evaluation and be useful in matching them to higher positions within the organization.

Barnstable, K. (2010, January 8). 41 Benefits of an ePortfolio. Stable Transitions. Retrieved from https://kbarnstable.wordpress.com/2010/01/08/41-benefits-of-an-eportfolio/

Barrett, H. (2015, August 23). Fresno State University Keynote & Session. ePortfolios for Learning. Retrieved from http://eportfoliosblog.blogspot.ca/2015/08/fresno-state-university-keynote-session.html
Harapnuik, D. (n.d.). Why use an Eportfolio? It's About Learning. Retrieved from http://www.harapnuik.org/?page_id=6063

Thibodeaux, T., Cummings, C., & Harapnuik, S. (2017). Factors that Contribute to ePortfolio Persistence. International Journal of ePortfolio,7(1), 1-12. Retrieved from http://www.theijep.com/pdf/IJEP257.pdf

Why Reflect? (n.d.) Reflection4Learning. Retrieved from https://sites.google.com/site/reflection4learning/why-reflect


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