ePortfolio Projects

by MU Instructional Designers
November 17, 2022
8-10 min read

As described in the video above, an ePortfolio is essentially a website where students combine artifacts and reflections. There are some types/purposes of ePortfolios that can help you define the goals of this project (from Academic Technologies office of Cornell University):

  • Developmental (e.g., working) which focuses on the progress of a particular project or task
  • Reflective (e.g., learning) which focuses on your learning over time
  • Representational (e.g., showcase) which showcases your original content, like a more traditional artist’s portfolio

Using an ePortfolio project rather than a more traditional essay or assembled hard-copy portfolio can help students build digital skills and add relevance to today’s more tech-oriented workplace.

Make ePortfolio projects meaningful.

Make ePortfolio projects meaningful.

By their very nature, ePortfolio projects are meaningful — they’re entirely based on making meaning out of artifacts and experiences. You can increase this relevance and authenticity by encouraging students to create ePortfolios to be used beyond the classroom, such as in job searches or applications for higher learning. Help students use their ePortfolio to demonstrate critical thinking about their content and experiences rather than using an ePortfolio as just a resume with basic information.

Another factor to consider in order to make an ePortfolio project more meaningful is its life after the course. Will the ePortfolio continue to be an asset for students? If so, it’s important to make sure the content remains accurate and relevant. Students should plan to revisit their ePortfolio periodically to update it as necessary.

Provide opportunities for student voice and choice.

Provide opportunities for student voice and choice.

ePortfolios are inherently about student voice; they’re sharing their own experiences and creations. When designing an ePortfolio project, it’s important to find opportunities for the choice part of this strategy. Can students choose which platform to use when creating their ePortfolio? Do students have options in how their ePortfolio is organized and themed? How much freedom do they have in which artifacts and experiences they will share in their ePortfolio? Some aspects of the project will need to be universal, but opportunities for choices can still be found throughout the project.

Set clear expectations.

Set clear expectations.

  • artifacts/reflections
  • Determine the goal
  • Specify the parameters
  • Be clear about how projects will be assessed.

Like any activity/assessment, first determine the goal of the project. Make sure students are clear on the purpose and audience of their ePortfolio as well as the learning objectives. If the ePortfolio has potential use beyond the classroom, such as in internships or on social media, establish that at the beginning.

Next, consider your project parameters. Here are some questions to consider:

  • How many artifacts/reflections will students be publishing?
  • What types of artifacts should students include?
  • What constitutes a meaningful reflection? Are there wordcount considerations?
  • Will they engage with each other’s ePortfolios? If so, how?

Be clear about how projects will be assessed. Students are more familiar with the grading expectations for traditional papers but not with less traditional projects like ePortfolios. What are the expectations for the “mechanics” of the site (grammar, spelling, layout, etc), and how much of the final grade is assessing those mechanics? Using a rubric will help students understand your expectations. A single point rubric that lists the expectations, has room for comments, and includes a points column is a natural fit for a project like this.

Provide options for feedback and reflection.

Provide options for feedback and reflection.

Feedback= instructor & peer, reflection = individual

Mastery-oriented feedback is essential for writing assignments, including ePortfolio writing (UDL checkpoint 8.4). In particular, feedback opportunities throughout the writing process scaffold student learning effectively. This can take the form of teacher or peer feedback on ePortfolio outlines, rough drafts of posts/pages, published posts/pages (to inform future ones), etc. Once again, rubrics can come in handy here (UDL checkpoint 9.4).

In addition to feedback from others, it’s important for students to give themselves feedback on their writing process in the form of reflections and/or self-evaluations. A formalized approach to this would be to pair segments of the eportfolio with reflection or self-assessment assignments in Canvas. Less formally, surveys or brief written reflections can prompt students to develop those metacognitive skills when it comes to writing (UDL checkpoint 9.3).

One way that ePortfolios are unique when it comes to feedback and reflection is that it is a project that grows over time, reflecting new learning and improved skills. Students can compare early posts/pages with later ones to reflect on their own growth as writers. The ePortfolio itself will grow and evolve during development. Some pieces may be removed or retired to be replaced with sections that are more relevant to the students’ current purpose.

Scaffold ethical behavior.

Scaffold ethical behavior.

  • Accessibility
  • Copyright, CC
  • Academic Integrity
  • Privacy/data security – password protected?
  • Info validation – not really it’s all your own work

When we consider scaffolding the ethical behavior of our students, we think of our University’s mission statement:

Our mission is to educate men and women toward maturity of intellect, character and Christian faith in preparation for lives of service, leadership and reconciliation in church and society.

With our mission in mind, all stages of the student’s ePortfolio project should have opportunities for considering how their created content reflects these values. When students curate artifacts and draft reflections, remind them that as they grow to live out their Christian vocation, they will want to make sure that what they include in their ePortfolio accurately represents their experiences and goals.

ePortfolios make students content creators, a role they’ve likely already played before on social media or for other courses. However, they still might not be aware of how their work can be used by others. For example, you can encourage (or require) students to license their ePortfoliio using Creative Commons licensing. Also, give students the opportunity to read and understand the Terms of Service (TOS), Terms of Use (TOU), and/or Privacy Policies involved in their ePortfolio production (see 3rd Party Tools).

As students think more carefully about how others may interact with or use their content, it’s also important to remind them about privacy and data security. Are they sharing information that should not be broadly publicized (e.g. safety issues related to location or identity)? While the content of an ePortfolio is generally focused on the student who is creating it, some of their artifacts/reflections may mention or reference other people. Students should consider whether or not some content (e.g. stories or photos) may contain information that should not be widely shared. Photos of siblings could be an example. To alleviate some of these issues, many sites will allow you to create password-protected or non-searchable sites, which can limit access (though that doesn’t mean your information is truly secure).

Once students have drafted content ethically, they need to learn how to communicate it accessibly. In the case of ePortofolios, this means learning key digital accessibility principles like headings, alt text, and descriptive links. This improves students’ ability to continue making a positive contribution to the media landscape in a way that is inclusive to diverse audiences.

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