ePortfolios, digital repositories of student work, have been transforming students' educational experiences for two decades. The Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) has long advocated ePortfolio adoption throughout higher education. As AAC&U’s Liberal Education and America's Progress (LEAP) initiative has gained prominence, the necessity for all students to have the opportunity to engage with high quality learning in all of the Essential Learning Outcomes (ELOs) has become clear. The need to increase access to higher education for a broad and diverse population also has highlighted the need for more diverse pedagogies and assessments that capture and reflect the multitude of modes through which today’s students demonstrate their learning. ePortfolios allow faculty and other educational professionals to help students organize their learning; preserve the variety of forms in which their learning occurs; and reflect upon their learning. They also enable the assessment of level of mastery for a broad set of ELOs.
In 2016, based upon proliferating research exploring the efficacy of ePortfolios, AAC&U added ePortfolios to its list of High Impact Practices. As noted in the International Journal of ePortfolio, "Key milestones leading to AAC&U's decision include the publication ten years ago of the Handbook of Research on ePortfolios (Jafar & Kaufman, 2006); research performed by man campuses through the Inter/National Coalition for Electronic Portfolio Research as well as associated publications (e.g, Cambridge, Cambridge, & Yancey, 2009); the launch in 2011 and the sustained publication since then of the peer-reviewed International Journal of ePortfolio; and in January 2016...the publication of research resulting from the Connect to Learning (C2L) project (Eynon & Gambino 2017)." This scholarly foundation provides clear evidence regarding the effectiveness of ePortfolios as well as guidance regarding how to do ePortfolios well.
The electronic or digital portfolio is an ideal format for collecting evidence of student learning, especially for those outcomes not amenable nor appropriate for standardized measurement. Additionally, ePortfolios can facilitate student reflection upon and engagement with their own learning across multi-year degree programs, across different institutions, and across diverse learning styles while helping students to set and achieve personal learning goals. ePortfolios provide both a transparent and portable medium for showcasing the broad range of complex ways students are asked to demonstrate their knowledge and abilities for purposes such as graduate school and job applications as well as to benchmark achievement among peer institutions.
With the release of the Degree Qualifications Profile (DQP) laying out the essential learning for any Associate, Baccalaureate or Master's degree and the levels of demonstrated learning competence expected for each degree attainment, eportfolios have even more utility as unified ways for students to document their learning for the integration of their learning among and across their educational pathways toward a degree. In addition, AAC&U's initiative on General Education Maps and Markers (GEMs) development of principles and models for integrative general education programs is particularly suited to an ePortfolio framework to help student, faculty and others to map the intentional pathways to demonstrated competence of essential learning.
Through the use of VALUE rubrics, mirroring the ELOs, eportfolios provide a means for direct assessment of student work drawn from the curriculum, cocurriculum and beyond the campus. The work students produce through embedded assignments in courses, programs, activities, internships, research projects and other High Impact Practices becomes the basis for student progress and attainment in a unified eportfolio system. ePortfolios create transparency around demonstrated learning and allow student artifacts to be used as evidence of accomplishment for employment, graduate school or accountability and reporting to external audiences.