What is an ePortfolio ?

Part a: ePortfolio


"In general, an ePortfolio is a purposeful collection of information and digital artifacts that demonstrates development or evidences learning outcomes, skills or competencies. The process of producing an ePortfolio (writing, typing, recording etc.) usually requires the synthesis of ideas, reflection on achievements, self-awareness and forward planning; with the potential for educational, developmental or other benefits. Specific types of ePortfolios can be defined in part by their purpose (such as presentation, application, reflection, assessment and personal development planning), pedagogic design, level of structure (intrinsic or extrinsic), duration (episodic or life-long) and other factors."

Part b: The ePortfolio application


"ePortfolios can be produced using simple tools (such as presentation software or blogs) but more typically using specialist ePortfolio applications that contain a level of structure (pedagogy and learning outcomes/skills) with a high level of customisation for specific contexts and support for multiple purposes.

ePortfolio applications allow the owner to share specific parts or views of their portfolio online and support feedback and dialogue. Ideally ePortfolios are interoperable (for example with learning environments, recruitment services or for the migration of portfolio data to support continuity in life-long learning)."

Cite this definition as: Cotterill SJ. What is an ePortfolio? ePortfolios 2007, Maastricht http://www.eportfolios.ac.uk/definition The definition first presented in Maastricht at the ePortfolios 2007 conference. Presentation The definition draws on earlier work (see details below).



About this definition


The above definition was designed to be as inclusive as possible, based on the diverse 'ePortfolio community'. Here is how it was arrived at!

1. There is no ‘Universal’ definition in the mature paper-based portfolio literature: reflecting diverse purposes; different educational philosophies and practices. We should therefore not be surprised that there is no one single definition of 'ePortfolio'. A definition cannot be completely 'paradigm-neutral', but at least we should aim to be as inclusive as possible.

2. A nice starting point from the paper-based portfolio literature:

“..a purposeful collection of student work that exhibits to the student, or others, [their] efforts or achievement in one or more areas.” Arter and Spandel (1991)

3. The definition needs to mention the journey (e.g. learning), not just the destination (outputs).

4. The definition needs to touch on the differences / “value added” that technology bring to the world of portfolios.

Comments to: Simon Cotterill




Ok, that definition wasn't arrived at overnight. The concept is more complex than can be captured in a simple definition. Here are some important points:

The many different dimensions to portfolios include:


Dimensions of portfolios
First presented at SEDA, 2003

There need to be benefits for using technology:


benefits of ePortfolios
Presented at St James' Park, Newcastle. Joint PDP/ePortfolios Symposium, 2004

ePortfolios have the advantage od supporting multiple purposes:


multipurpose portfolios
Presented at the Ottawa International conference, 2004


Further information about ePortfolios


Four really great resources are:

ePortfolios InfoKit - JISC Infonet
ePortfolios infoKit
(JISC InfoNet)



JISC publication: Effective Practice with ePortfolios
Effective Practice with ePortfolios (JISC, 2008)





title= European Institute for eLearning

Page created by Simon
Last Modified: 01/07/2011