An ePortfolio is a digitized collection of artifacts of learning that demonstrate creativity, acquisition of skills or knowledge, and student growth over time.

ePortfolios Benefit Students

ePortfolios celebrate student accomplishments and can focus on strengths that may not be traditionally academic. Viewing their progress over time, students can better understand their strengths limitations when setting individual goals. This can help students become self-directed learners and help them develop self-advocacy skills. When properly guided through scaffolding, students can develop skills for lifelong learning and problem-based learning. Creating an ePortfolio is an authentic task that can challenge and motivate students. ePortfolios also develop skills connected with executive functioning including reflection and goal setting (skills often challenging for students with disabilities).

ePortfolios Benefit Teachers

Research stresses that to be an effective teacher it is important to accurately assess student learning. Classroom tests are the most common way of doing this, but digital portfolios or ePortfolios provide a strong supplement or alternative. ePortfolio evidence can also be used by teachers as formative assessment that guide their instruction.

Special Education Use

ePortfolios benefit students with special needs because they emphasize actual student progress rather than tests scores. Since many students with special needs are poor test takers, they are a valuable tool for assessing strengths and progress.

IEPs make individualized grading legally binding. Individualized grading must be closely coordinated with IEP requirements. Student grades are based on progress on IEP objectives and teachers must judge progress in a systematic way. This includes standards-based grading and potentially basing all, or part, of student grades on progress on IEP objectives.

One way to assess student progress for individualized grading is through portfolio assessment. Portfolios demonstrate student effort, progress, and achievement through an intentional collection a student work. Portfolios are unique in that they can include evidence in many different formats.

Advantages of Digital Portfolios over Traditional Paper

  • It cannot get lost!

  • Remote access means it is easier for peers, parents, and teachers to view and contribute.

  • There are more ways to display student work including video, digital photos, sound clips, animation, diagrams, text, and podcasting.

  • Incorporating many different artifacts can potentially demonstrate student strengths and weaknesses more thoroughly.

Challenges and Limitations

There are multiple platforms available for building ePortfolios. Some simple options are outlined on the ePortfolio Platforms page. But there is learning curve. A recent study on ePortfolios provided four hours of training time to participating teachers. Recommendations for successfully implementing robust ePortfolio software include dedicated professional development time, funding, and integrating manageable goals into annual program plans (Clancy & Gardner, 2017). Assistive technology may also be needed to accommodate physical and learning disabilities.

Portfolios cannot take the place of standardized achievement tests, psychological-based measures, or curriculum-based measures. Yet, they are a valuable tool if students are motivated to use the software. Struggling learners and those with a history of failure will need extra encouragement. Teachers should demonstrate what is possible and encourage students that they can succeed.