An electronic portfolio or ePortfolio is a generic term encompassing as wide a range of types and products as there are reasons for using them. The simplest starting point is to consider an ePortfolio as an extension of the paper based-portfolio, bringing with it the obvious benefit of making a portfolio of evidence portable and shareable anywhere that you have Internet access – "the new generation of the three ring binder" JISC My World Project Final Report, Roberts. 2006
In fact, an ePortfolio has a much broader scope as an online collection of reflections and digital Artefacts (such as documents, images, blogs, resumés, multimedia, hyperlinks and contact information). Learners and staff can use an ePortfolio to demonstrate their learning, skills and development and record their achievements over time to a selected audience.
"ePortfolios ... are personal online spaces for students to access services and store work. They will become ever more useful as learners grow up and start moving between different types of learning and different institutions" Secretary of State for Education and Skills, UK, January 2006.
They have the potential to provide a central, linking role between the more rigid, institution-led learning management system and the learners’ social online spaces.
There are sound applications for the learner, the teacher, the institution – and sometimes combinations of the three. A teacher and learner for example can be one and the same person, with differing requirements from the same ePortfolio. It can be used to create collections of artefacts to share with fellow students, peers, family and friends, to present to potential employers and to complement applications for research funding. In short, it is an online space from which to manage your life, learning and goals.
Learning - Reflective learning, personalised learning, lifelong learning
An ePortfolio is an ideal tool for meeting the needs of established and emerging pedagogy and approaches to learning.
Reflective learning is "..a form of mental processing that we use to fulfil a purpose or to achieve some anticipated outcome. It is applied to gain a better understanding of relatively complicated or unstructured ideas" HE Academy Guides for busy academics, no 4, Moon 2005
An ePorfolio allows for building in reflective activities for learners and staff, through blog functions and the creation of 'Critical incident diaries' in which users reflect on their learning and experiences over a given period or activity. For example, this could be reflections on how a student dealt with a problem, or processed some new information on a given topic. This can become a two way process with a tutor or peer providing feedback via the same diary.
It works as a user-centred, personalised learning space allowing the user to shape the way they present themselves to the world. Content and layout can be personalised to create multiple Views which meet the specific, differing or changing requirements of the user. This ties in with one of the key tenets of personalised learning, that students become key partners in the design of learning to suit their needs.
"Personalising learning involves thinking about knowledge as an active process. Students get to be informed, active participants in their own learning, they contribute to decisions about what learning can work best for them, and they have a much better understanding of how they are progressing." Minister of Education, NZ, 2007