Isn’t an eportfolio just a digital resume?
The concept of electronic portfolios or eportfolios has been around for nearly 20 years but still many educators grapple with what it is and how they could use it.
One of the main reasons for this is that an eportfolio is both:
- a product – a digital collection of evidence which demonstrates a person’s learning, and
- a process – a strategy to help people manage their own learning (Barrett, 2011).
Often people get hung up on the product and view an eportfolio solely as a digital resume or CV. This is because, as a personal online space which can be shared with others, people often only see the final product of the eportfolio, that is: the digital information and files which showcase a person’s experiences, achievements and knowledge – so you can see why people think this way.
In reality, however, it is the eportfolio process, or eportfolio approach to learning, which is the killer aspect of an eportfolio, so let’s unpick this through these five steps.
5 steps to an eportfolio approach to learning
An eportfolio approach to learning involves leading and supporting a learner through a five step, iterative process which helps learners learn how to manage their own learning. It begins with:
1. What do I want to achieve? – The answer to this question may have already been determined for the learner such as:
- performance criteria in a unit of competency,
- learning objectives/outcomes in a curriculum document, or
- standards set by a regulatory or professional body.
Or, it might be working with the learner to set some personal or professional goals.
2. What do I need to do to achieve it? – This step is best done through using an action planning approach which helps learners to determine the steps, key milestones and resources they need to achieve their learning outcomes or the goals they set in step 1.
3. How will I know when I have achieved it? – This step is often overlooked by educators as they are the ones who decide whether someone will pass something or not, without even including the learner in this decision-making process. However, educators should help their learners recognise when they are competent or achieved their learning objectives. The best way to do this is by teaching learners how to recognise their own ‘picture of competence’.
A picture of competence is when someone is performing what is required of them in a job role eg a barista making the perfect flat white coffee. To help a learner recognise their own picture of competence, you need to deconstruct the picture of competence so a learner can recognise when they have achieved it.
This is best done by using a rubric which explicitly describes what people are doing or thinking when they have achieved their picture of competence.
4. What evidence can I capture to show that I’ve achieved it? – once learners recognise that they are competent or have achieved their learning outcomes or goal, the learner then needs to capture evidence of this achievement. In a digital age, learners can use a variety of ways to capture this evidence and keep it in their eportfolio, such as using:
- An audio recorder on their mobile phone to capture reflective dialogue with others.
- A digital camera or video recorder on their mobile phone or via a Go Pro type camera strapped to their head to capture live evidence of them doing something.
- Writing blogs or online journals (either public or private) to capture what has happened on the job or at their work placement, or writing reflections of their learning journey through describing what they have achieved and why it is important.
- Using Movie Maker, iMovie or Photostory to create digital stories about themselves and their learning journey.
- Adding digital badges and digital certificates that they have received from their study, training or attending workshops.
5. How can I present this evidence to third parties in a way which meets their requirements? – This where the product part of an eportfolio comes in.
This step, however, isn’t just throwing together all of the evidence that a learner has gathered. It’s a thought out process which enables the learner to present their information in such a way that it demonstrates what they are capable of, and the presentation of this evidence will change depending on their audience.
This is where a good eportfolio tool comes in such as Mahara or PebblePad, as these tools allow learners to easily reuse and repurpose the evidence that they have stored in their eportfolio. This step also requires the learner to have good digital literacy.
Why use an eportfolio approach?
As a summary, an eportfolio is more than just the final output ie the online collection of evidence. It is the process which empowers learners to manage their own learning. In an era which requires people to have higher order thinking and problem solving skills (Australian Government’s “Ideas Boom” Innovation Agenda), an eportfolio approach provides a learning-centred approach to education and training.
In simple terms, the eportfolio approach is about:
- Goal setting
- Action planning
- Multi-media and file management
- Web presence development