Investigating e-portfolios: The learner’s perspective


E-portfolio (EP) learner preferences in an EP system:

Flexibility: EPs are about people, rather than technology. EP tools should be unobtrusive, supportive & flexible to accommodate the diverse learner needs & preferences who can benefit from the ability to integrate their choice of tools into the EP system (i.e. social networking websites for discussion or mobile devices for capturing evidence). The ability to customise is especially important if EPs are used for reflection and personal development. Flexible EPs encourage learners to explore different ways of understanding and recording the learning journey & to gain a better appreciation of their learning preferences.

Learning Goal Matrix: EPs are most effective when used along with a learning goal matrix and introduced to learners at the very beginning. The goals matrix, discussed and negotiated first with the class, establishes ownership of the portfolio building process and encourages learners to reflect on their learning throughout the development journey.  EP based tasks have more credibility for learners if learner progress against the goals matrix is assessed.

Teacher Engagement: Learners become empowered through the reflective cycle associated with EP based learning. However, learners require guidance and direction throughout the learning cycle and a system that promotes dialogue with teachers and provides prompt and personalised feedback is preferred. Teacher engagement enables learners to be more focused on attainment of learning goals by facilitating an understanding of areas for improvement.

Peer learning: Working partnership between learners, teachers and peers is important in the achievement of EP-based learning objectives. Peer-to-peer support in a school establishes a shared understanding of the value of EPs for all participants. Participative discussion within EPs during reflection helps identify difficulties that impact the achievement of learning goals. Reflection provides a record of skills development over time – a progressive track record of which can boost learners’ sense of self worth. 

Supporting e-portfolio learners: Flexible support options are critical to learners’ progress. Learners are more likely to respond positively if EP use is introduced through carefully scaffolded tasks.