An e-portfolio is ultimately a product, a purposeful aggregation of digital items, created by learners to present to an audience. Learners may create multiple e-portfolios for different purposes, from one or a number of repositories as represented in the model shown in the ‘What are e-portfolios?’ section. As presentational tools, e-portfolios can be used for a range of purposes, for example, demonstrating the outcomes of learning, applying for further study or employment, seeking registration with a professional body. An overview of JISC activities (2012) identifies some of the following key stages in a learning journey which e-portfolios might support:

  • Application – presenting evidence in support of admission to further study or for job applications
  • Transition – providing a richer and more immediate picture of the learner’s environment and supporting them through the process of transition
  • Assessment – supporting the process of learning through reflection, discussion and formative assessment, and providing evidence for summative assessment
  • Personal Development Planning (PDP) and Continuing Professional Development (CPD) – supporting and evidencing the pursuit and achievement of personal or professional competences

However, e-portfolios are more than just presentational tools and have a key role to play in the process of learning. Behind any e-portfolio presentation lie rich and complex processes of reflecting, planning, synthesising, sharing, discussing, giving and receiving feedback. These activities – referred to as ‘e-portfolio-based learning’ – are the focus of increasing attention since the process of learning can be as important as the end product.

For successful implementation of e-portfolios, it is imperative to clearly identify the purpose of the e-portfolio and to embed this into practice. The University of Bradford has wide-spread use of e-portfolios, each instance having a clearly defined purpose.

e-Portfolios enable the interrelationships and interconnectivity between the cognitive and learner values that underpin the learning process. McGettrick (2002) provides a visual conceptualisation of this interconnectivity, borrowing from the DNA double helix model.

Double Helix of Learning
Image – Double Helix of Learning, McGettrick (2002)