Electronic portfolios – a multimodal education tool

‘An e-portfolio is a purposeful aggregation of digital items – ideas, evidence, reflections, feedback etc, which “presents” a selected audience with evidence of a person’s learning and/or ability.’

Sutherland, S. and Powell, A. (2007)

The primary aim of an Electronic portfolio (EP) is to collect evidence for summative assessment, to demonstrate achievement, record progress and set targets – as in records of achievement and individual learning plans (ILPs) – or to nurture a continuing process of personal development and reflective learning. It is an important tool that can be used to support and document student learning as well as the development of educational, personal, and professional skills.  EPs support portfolio pedagogy by engaging individuals in deep reflection on their learning and provide evidence of professional and intellectual growth as well as documenting the complex processes involved in learning.

Portfolio creation and management is pedagogically a good practice for both teachers and students. Teachers, while doing their teacher training program need to build up work portfolio which some schools expect them to present at the time of interview so that it gives them an insight into the kind of teacher he/she is. Some teachers continue this practice along with helping their students develop theirs. Many educational programs (including IB and Reggio) have made it a mandatory tool of assessment and reflection. 

Although paper portfolios have long been in use as valuable sources of evidence that document an individual’s growth and learning processes, the emergence of Web 2.0 tools and the increasing accessibility of digital technology has prompted many educators and professionals to shift from paper to electronic portfolios.  EPs allows for multimodal artefacts, e.g. images, videos, audio files, or programming snippets, along with more traditional rich media files such as Word documents, PowerPoints, spreadsheets etc., to be collected, managed and presented to different audiences as evidence of learning and skills development over time.  EPs are much more dynamic, interactive and flexible than their physical counterparts.

An EP, like its paper equivalent, is produced at key points in a learning journey – (when demonstrating the outcomes of learning, the next stage of learning, etc).  EPs demonstrate what is important about the individual at a particular point in time – their achievements, reflections on learning and, potentially, a rich and rounded picture of their abilities, aspirations and ambitions.

Note: Some excerpts of this blog have been sourced from a report titled Effective Practice with e-Portfolios, published by JISC