Table of Contents

Praise Page

Title Page


List of Figures



About the Authors


ePortfolio Implementation Framework

Part 1: Documenting Learning with ePortfolios

Chapter 1: Why Document Learning?

Folio Thinking and Reflection: The Key to Documenting Learning

Coherence in the Learning Experience

Documenting Learning—Integrated Instruction with Benefits for All

Chapter 2: A Stakeholder's Approach to Documenting Learning

Identifying Interest: Setting the Parameters for a Definition of Stakeholders


Chapter 3: Designing Effective ePortfolio Learning Activities

An Instructional Design Framework for Integrative Learning with ePortfolios

Part 2: Creating and Implementing ePortfolios

Chapter 4: Engaging Today's Learners: Students and ePortfolios

Understanding Todays Students

Strategies to Frame ePortfolios for Students

The ePortfolio as a Cabinet of Curiosities

Engaging Students as ePortfolio Consultants and Campus Advocates

Modeling Reflection in Course-Based Interventions

Chapter 5: ePortfolios Outside the Classroom: Involving Campus Partners

Fostering Civic Engagement

Engaging Employers and Career Development Centers

Chapter 6: Using ePortfolios to Support Assessment

Assessment of Learning versus Assessment for Learning

Use of Rubrics in ePortfolio Assessment

Part 3: Practical Considerations for Implementing ePortfolios

Chapter 7: Faculty Development and ePortfolios

Understanding the Campus Culture and Assessing Where ePortfolios Work

Chapter 8: Selecting ePortfolio Technologies to Support Learning

Issues to Consider for ePortfolio Tool Selection

Chapter 9: Evaluating the Impact of ePortfolios

Data Collection Methods




Documenting Learning with ePortfolios: A Guide for College Instructors is a seminal work. The authors have simply and succinctly captured the present status of ePortfolio work in a manner that is as inclusive as it is comprehensive. More importantly, however, they have illuminated future possibilities in a style that is both pedagogically compelling, easy reading, and extraordinarily informative. Anyone interested in effective online learning should read it.”

Peter Smith, senior vice president, Kaplan Higher Education, author of Harnessing America's Wasted Talent: A New Ecology of Learning


“Brilliant! A comprehensive resource that links wise practical guidance to a farreaching vision of the ePortfolio's potential to transform learning and teaching. Invaluable for innovators across higher education, from community colleges to research universities.”

Bret Eynon, Making Connections National Resource Center, LaGuardia Community College, CUNY


“This book clearly and succinctly explains why our students should document their learning, and more importantly, it provides guidance on how higher education practitioners can go about it. In a higher education environment steeped in accountability and evidence-based practice, knowing how to have students evidence their capabilities in the digital world is essential for their credibility—and ours!”

Beverley Oliver, National Teaching Fellow, Australian Learning and Teaching Council, Curtin University, Australia


List of Figures

1.1 Yancey's Multiple Curricula of Higher Education
1.2 University of Waterloo Competency Portfolio Project
1.3 Baxter Magolda's Model of Developmental Foundations of Learning Outcomes
1.4 Sexual Ethics ePortfolio of Vanessa LeBlond
1.5 The Learning Landscape
1.6 History and Film ePortfolio of Chris Moffat
1.7 Mapping of ePortfolio Milestones for Ethics Development
2.1 Constellation of Possible ePortfolio Stakeholders
2.2 D.Mindsets
2.3 Pen and Paper Sketch of What Kinds of Artifacts Might Go into an ePortfolio
2.4 Milestones in an Undergraduate Learning Career
3.1 Fink's Taxonomy of Significant Learning
3.2 Alignment in Course/Program Design
3.3 Bloom's Taxonomy of the Cognitive Domain
3.4 “Doing History” Concept Map
3.5 Example Concept Map (History and Film)
3.6 Great Dialogues Course: Reflection and Action
5.1 Foothill College's Dental Hygiene Program ePortfolio
6.1 Levels of Mapping Individual, Departmental, and Institutional Goals and Outcomes
7.1 ePortfolios at Virginia Tech
8.1 Master of Public Health ePortfolio (San Francisco State University)
8.2 Adobe Acrobat PDF ePortfolio (Clemson University)
8.3 Music Education ePortfolio (Penn State)
8.4 Epsilen ePortfolio (California State University Fullerton)


Portfolios for teaching and for documenting student work have been around for a long time in a number of fields. For instance, there is a rich heritage of the use of portfolios in both composition and creative writing, in the visual arts, and in architecture. These paper-based portfolios have traditionally been bound volumes or large envelopes or dossiers filled with documents. Although effective mechanisms for showcasing student work, these traditional portfolios were not easily shared among geographically distributed audiences and were limited in scope because of the inability of their owners to easily modify them for different purposes and diverse audiences.

The increasing use of computers in academic settings and the emergence of digital media and the Internet in the 1990s prompted the emergence of new tools which allowed many fields the opportunity to experiment with the concept of electronic learning portfolios (ePortfolios). By the beginning of 2000, portfolios were being expanded and enhanced to include rich media. This was a time when CD-ROMs were the prominent mode of distributing multimedia, audio files, video files, and high-resolution photo images. It was also at about this time that the costs of equipment to capture rich media were coming down; newer equipment was thus becoming widely accessible. Digital video cameras supplanted film cameras; although in the early days video resolution was quite low, the resolution was improving and the cameras themselves were becoming easier to operate. In addition, digital recorders displaced cassette and reel-to-reel audio recorders.

Also in the late 1990s and early 2000s, course management systems (CMSs) were emerging. These systems not only allowed professors to provide their students with electronic versions of handouts and assignments, course syllabi, and calendars, but also offered a means of communicating outside the classroom. These systems clearly provided benefits in traditional classroom settings, but they also offered a new way to move from traditional paper-based correspondence courses or telecourses to what began to emerge in 2000 and 2001—that is, online courses. It was hoped at the time that course management tools coupled with the Internet would create a “sea change,” allowing students to attend classes virtually. However, much of the early uses of these systems were simply enhancements of the traditional classroom experience. Now, some ten years later, many colleges are finally offering “blended” or hybrid courses with both a physical and an online presence.

Interest in fully online courses—courses where no physical presence is necessary for either the faculty instructor or the student—is rapidly increasing. With increased bandwidth and various synchronous and asynchronous communication tools, a broader range of students with diverse backgrounds and work experiences can be engaged electronically and can actively take advantage of everything that higher education has to offer. All of these changes have contributed to an environment where technology is ubiquitously integrated into curriculum with ePortfolios representing one of the technology tools now available to support teaching and learning.

In the early days of the ePortfolio movement, there was much discussion about the technology of ePortfolios and their various functionalities and features. In 2002, a series of conversations were held by a consortium of individuals, institutions, and organizations including Dr. Helen Barrett, a pioneer in the field who began her explorations of ePortfolios in teacher education; California State University, Monterey Bay; The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching; Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI); Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT); Northwestern University; Stanford University; University of Washington; and others which eventually formed the beginnings of EPAC (Electronic Portfolio Action and Communication), a community of practice focusing on ePortfolios broadly defined (see Chen and Ittelson, 2009, for an overview of EPAC). These meetings eventually led to a broader national discussion around both the technological and pedagogical aspects of establishing an ePortfolio culture supported by the American Association for Higher Education (AAHE) and EDUCAUSE's National Learning Infrastructure Initiative (NLII), the predecessor of the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. In addition to the EPAC community of practice, these conversations also led to the creation of the Inter/National Coalition for Electronic Portfolio Research (I/NCEPR) in 2004, led by Barbara Cambridge, Darren Cambridge, and Kathleen Yancey, which has convened over sixty campuses in cohorts of ten institutions each to study the impact of ePortfolios on student learning and educational outcomes. There was interest in ePortfolios not only in the United States but also internationally, becoming a truly worldwide initiative with activities taking place in the United Kingdom, the European Union, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia, to name but a few. In fall 2003, the first international conference on ePortfolios was held in France by the EifEL (European Institute for E-Learning) organization in Europe. Six years later, in 2009, the Association for Authentic, Experiential and Evidence-Based Learning (AAEEBL) formed to address and promote educational transformation resulting from new designs in learning and assessment.

Today, ePortfolios are but one approach in a suite of assessment tools that aim to gather evidence of student progress and development in learning outcomes identified at the individual course, program, or institutional level (Leskes and Wright, 2005). As we discuss throughout this book, the first step in identifying how and where ePortfolios can facilitate and support assessment is to establish clear and well-defined learning outcomes. This trend is becoming more prevalent across institutions, as demonstrated by a member survey conducted by the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) in April 2009 that found that over three-quarters of the 433 institutional respondents reported having a common set of intended learning outcomes for undergraduates and 96% are either currently assessing or planning for assessment of learning outcomes across the curriculum. Only 4% of these institutions are not considering the use of ePortfolios for assessment (Hart Research Associates, 2009).

This groundswell of interest in ePortfolios has fostered increasing connections among the global ePortfolio community including both academic institutions and corporate affiliates. Community practitioners contribute to knowledge transfer around the use of ePortfolios to document learning by conducting research, sharing results, and developing training for faculty instructors and others who are interested in using this approach to assist students to integrate their learning experiences in an engaging and effective manner.

This book provides readers with a “theory-to-practice” approach to the use of ePortfolios for documenting learning. In Part One, we explore the theory behind this pedagogical method for integrative learning, using examples from some of the best practices in ePortfolio thinking today to illustrate the ways in which ePortfolios are being used to engage students. Chapter One explores the rationale behind the need to document learning, situating ePortfolios within the broader context of a changing technological and globalized world. Chapter Two considers the different stakeholders who might be interested in using ePortfolios, either as a tool in itself, or as a means to collect, analyze, and disseminate evidence of student learning. Chapter Three explores a variety of learning, teaching, and assessment activities that can assist with the documentation of learning. In Part Two, we consider the “practice” of creating and implementing ePortfolios by focusing on specific stakeholders. Chapters Four and Five situate ePortfolio practice for students and student affairs practitioners with relevant examples from a variety of campuses. Chapter Six explores ePortfolios and assessment by considering the stakeholders who are interested in ePortfolios for assessment of individual learning as well as at the programmatic or institutional levels. Part Three considers the practical implications for implementing ePortfolios. Chapter Seven explores practical considerations for faculty development initiatives to support ePortfolio initiatives. Chapter Eight focuses on the considerations that need to be taken into account when deciding which technological tools to deploy in support of student learning. Chapter Nine discusses ways to evaluate the impact of ePortfolio initiatives.

Together, these chapters present a framework for thinking about the ways that educators can engage their students in practices that will foster their development into responsible learners and citizens as they document their learning. The intellectual and social development needed in higher education can be facilitated by ePortfolios and we aim to make a compelling and practical case for instructors who wish to implement this pedagogical approach. Finally, we make the case that coherence among the various stakeholders who might be interested in ePortfolios is required for successful and effective implementation. Strategies and practical examples provide readers with a framework for undertaking this approach on their own campuses. In addition to the strategies and examples presented here, we have also developed a web companion to this book ( There you will be able to access additional ePortfolio examples, see the way that different tools are being used to implement ePortfolio projects on campuses, explore some of the campuses mentioned here in more detail, and link to the broader ePortfolio community.

We have written this book primarily with faculty instructors in mind. We therefore pay particular attention to the issues that they need to consider when planning for ePortfolio implementation. At the same time, we also address the issue of documenting learning from a stakeholder's approach—an approach that is iterative and practical in nature. We hope, however, that in considering the various perspectives a faculty instructor will keep in mind that the ideas presented here will also be useful to other campus partners who are exploring ePortfolios as a way for learners to document and make connections among their various learning experiences.


The field of ePortfolios, though growing, is still a fairly small circle of colleagues. As a group we share our experiences and care very much about supporting each other's efforts, mentoring those who become interested in the field, and being guided by those who have gone before us. So, in a sense, our appreciation goes to all who share our enthusiasm for ePortfolios, especially those students who have experimented with ePortfolios to document their learning and shared with us their transformative experiences of how they learn. We have showcased only a few of their experiences here but continue to draw inspiration from their ongoing efforts to change themselves and the world through the ideas and experiences captured in their ePortfolios.

We have also benefited greatly from being part of a community of researchers, teachers, and scholars of ePortfolios who have shared their enthusiasm and expertise with us. In particular, we would like to thank Helen Barrett; Trent Batson, Judy Williamson Batson, and Gary Brown of the Association for Authentic Experiential Evidence Based Learning (AAEEBL); Tom Carey, formerly of the University of Waterloo, for suggesting many years ago that ePortfolios might be an interesting approach to explore and who provided the latitude to do so; Bret Eynon, Randy Bass, and the entire Connect to Learning (C2L) Project team; Ali Jafari; Susan Kahn; Terrel Rhodes and Wende Garrison of the Association of American Colleges and Universities. We have all benefited greatly from participating in different cohorts of the Inter/National Coalition for Electronic Portfolio Research (I/NCEPR)—we thank all of our colleagues in those cohorts who shared their experiences and expertise with us. Of course, we could not have had those great experiences without the leadership of Darren Cambridge, Barbara Cambridge, and Kathleen Yancey. We have also benefited from working with many involved in the creation and support of various ePortfolio tools including Toru Iiyoshi of the KEEP Toolkit; Jeffrey Yan and Kelly Driscoll at Digication; Steve Adler and Molly Aiken at Adobe; and Webster Thompson at TaskStream.

In a very real sense the content of this book rests on the shoulders of those doing exciting and interesting work on their campuses who were willing to share both their successes and trials with us. We are grateful to all of them including: Evangeline Harris Stefanakis at Boston University; Giulia Guarnieri at Bronx Community College (CUNY); Sara E. Johnson and Norma Quirarte at California State University Fullerton; Gail Ring, Jennifer Johnson, Nathan Newsom, and David Pearson at Clemson University; Carmine Balascio and Kathleen Pusecker at the University of Delaware; Una Daly and Phyllis Spragge of Foothill Community College; Kristin Norris, Mary Price, and Kathryn Steinberg at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis; Thomas Brumm of Iowa State University; James Griffin, Maureen Dumas, and Greg Lorenz at Johnson and Wales University; J. Elizabeth Clark of LaGuardia Community College; Joseph Ugoretz at William E. Macaulay Honors College (CUNY); Nancy Pawlyshyn at Mercy College; Kristina Hoeppner, Luke Baird, and Jon Bowen of MyPortfolio in New Zealand; Glenn Johnson at Penn State University; Jean Darcy at Queensborough Community College (CUNY); Kevin Kelly, Ruth Cox, Savita Malik, Oscar Macias, and Alycia Shada at San Francisco State University; Thomas Black, Reid Kallman, Celeste Fowles Nguyen, Sheri Sheppard, Robert Emery Smith, the Stanford and the Office of the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education at Stanford University; Nancy Wozniak and Sourav Tamang at SUNY Stony Brook; Toni Serafini, Carm De Santis, Vanessa LeBlond, Alex Romanowski, and Michelle Donaldson at St. Jerome's University; Laura Gambino at Tunxis Community College; Katherine Lithgow, Bob Sproule, and Chris Moffat at the University of Waterloo; Marc Zaldivar and Teggin Summers at Virginia Tech University; Diane L. Johnson, Janet W. Schnitz, Kyle Moreton, and Geri Nicastro at Western Governors University.

Taking on the writing of this book was both a labor of love and a challenge of great proportions. Choosing from the many amazing stories and pulling together a meaningful and useful document that we hope encourages colleagues to move from wherever they are in the process to the next step was the challenge we accepted. We hope we have succeeded. Of course, we could not have reached our goal without the generosity and assistance of so many. A special thanks go to our families who have given up numerous evenings, dinners, and even family vacations as we worked to finish this book: Thom, Emma, and Meghan Light and John, Elizabeth, and Lucy Higgins, as well as Mary Chen and Millicent Higgins. We especially thank Bobbi L. Kamil for providing wonderful support and for being a cheerleader and copyeditor. Finally, we thank our editor, Erin Null, for her wisdom, support, and feedback on the book.

About the Authors

Tracy Penny Light is an assistant professor at St. Jerome's University in the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada. Tracy's background in faculty development (she has designed and developed teaching and learning workshops on a variety of issues and codesigned the University of Waterloo's Teaching Excellence Academy for faculty) has served Tracy well in her own use of ePortfolios in the classroom since 2004. Prior to coming to St. Jerome's in 2007, she managed strategic learning projects for the associate vice president, Learning Resources and Innovation at the University of Waterloo, a position that included introducing ePortfolios to the campus in a number of programs, including Accounting and Financial Management, History, Co-operative Education, and Residence Life. Tracy's ongoing research focuses on ePortfolio implementation and the ability for reflection in ePortfolios to transform the student experience. Tracy also coauthored with Helen L. Chen the monograph Electronic Portfolios and Student Success: Effectiveness, Efficiency, and Learning, published by the Association of American Colleges and Universities in 2010, among other publications. She gives workshops and consults with campuses regularly (with Helen and John) on ePortfolio implementation. Tracy is also vice chair of the board of directors for the Association for Authentic, Experiential and Evidence-Based Learning (AAEEBL).

Helen L. Chen holds the position of research scientist, Department of Mechanical Engineering and is the project manager for ePortfolio Initiatives in the Office of the Registrar at Stanford University. Helen co-led the development of Folio Thinking, a reflective practice that situates and guides the effective use of learning portfolios through collaborations with national and international portfolio researchers. She is a founding member and cofacilitator of EPAC, a community of practice focusing on pedagogical and technological issues related to ePortfolios. Helen was a member of the National Advisory Board for the Valid Assessment of Learning in Undergraduate Education (VALUE) project led by the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) and has served as a faculty member for their Institute on General Education and Assessment. She is also the director of research for the Association for Authentic, Experiential and Evidence-Based Learning (AAEEBL) and a senior scholar on LaGuardia Community College's Connect to Learning project, funded by FIPSE (Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education). Helen's current research interests are focused in three areas: issues of academic and professional persistence in engineering education; documenting and measuring the impact of technology-augmented learning environments and active learning classrooms on innovations in teaching and learning; and the applications of Folio Thinking pedagogy and practices in general education, the disciplines, and in student affairs as facilitated by the use of ePortfolios and other web-based tools.

John Ittelson currently serves as director of outreach to the California Virtual Campus. John's primary interest is in ePortfolio development. John was involved from the beginning in the development of the California State University (CSU) CalState TEACH Program, and its evaluation. It is now a mainstay of CSU's electronic/mentoring teacher education efforts. He continues to consult to the project for California State University Monterey Bay (CSUMB). John has also been involved with CSU's NSF Noyces Scholars, helping develop better math and science skills for teaching math and science skills. John was a faculty member for thirty years, first at CSU Chico and then as a founding faculty member at CSUMB. During 2001–2002, John was selected to be one of two National Learning Infrastructure Initiative (NLII) EDUCAUSE Fellows. In that role he served as the lead for a conference focused on ePortfolios and held at Northwestern University. In 2003, he was named one of twenty-five California State University faculty members to receive the Bautzer University Faculty Advancement Award. Additionally, he sits on the boards of Access Monterey Peninsula Cable Consortium, the California Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, Pacific Metrics, and the National Board of the Center for Interactive Learning and Collaboration (CLIC). John has been appointed as an Apple Distinguished Educator, an Adobe Educational Leader, and serves as a cofacilitator for the EPAC community of practice. He is also the cochair of the Academic ePortfolio Workgroup for Postsecondary Educational Standards Council (PESC).


The idea for this book grew out of our experiences running workshops and consulting with colleagues at university and college campuses in the United States and Canada who were interested in implementing ePortfolios. We were also inspired by collaborations with learners who have documented their learning in ePortfolios in our classrooms and programs. Since 2004 we have been refining our approach to documenting learning as we have worked with colleagues to design and implement their own ePortfolio initiatives. From that work, we were able to outline eight critical issues to consider for the effective and efficient implementation of ePortfolios (Chen and Penny Light, 2010). This book explores those issues in more detail by presenting a series of guiding questions within an ePortfolio implementation framework.

ePortfolio Implementation Framework

Table I.1 maps the eight critical issues for ePortfolios and student success identified by Chen and Penny Light (2010) to an ePortfolio implementation framework. The operationalization of these issues into specific tasks to take when planning and piloting an ePortfolio initiative describes and reinforces an iterative process that is not necessarily sequential nor successively developed; some of these tasks can run in parallel and may be revisited and revised more than once. For example, as an ePortfolio project evolves and begins to scale from the pilot stage, the learning outcomes may change and prioritization of stakeholders will shift.

Table I.1 ePortfolio Implementation Framework

Eight Critical Issues for ePortfolios and Student Success The Framework: Steps and Guiding Questions
1. Defining learning outcomes Defining Learning Outcomes: What are the learning outcomes for your ePortfolio initiative? What types of learning do you want to capture and document?
2. Understanding your learners 3. Identifying stakeholders Understanding Learners and Identifying Stakeholders: Who are your stakeholders, especially your learners (the people who will be creating and using the ePortfolio)? How can they benefit from ePortfolios (i.e., what are their needs)? What can they contribute to and how can they support an ePortfolio effort?
4. Designing learning activities Designing Learning Activities: Given your outcomes, what activities can you design to best guide the ways that learners use the ePortfolio to document their learning? How will their learning be captured and documented in the ePortfolio? How can the artifacts and evidence that are captured be organized, connected, and shared in meaningful and integrated ways?
5. Using rubrics to evaluate ePortfolios 6. Anticipating external uses of evidence Informing Assessment of Student Learning: How do the ePortfolios and their artifacts inform assessment of student learning? In other words, what evidence results from how learners document their achievements and competencies? How can rubrics be used to support ePortfolio assessment?
7. Including multiple forms of evidence Using ePortfolio Tools and Technologies: Which ePortfolio tools and technologies will allow you to collect the types of evidence that will allow learners to document and demonstrate their learning? What additional resources are needed (e.g., IT support) in order for your ePortfolio initiative to succeed?
8. Evaluating the impact of ePortfolios Evaluating The Impact of Your ePortfolio Initiative: What kinds of evidence would validate the investment of time and resources to ePortfolios to all stakeholders? In other words, how might the documentation of learning collected in ePortfolios be used by other stakeholders on your campus (i.e., in accreditation efforts)? How will you evaluate whether or not your ePortfolio initiative was a success?

Additional factors to consider in the pre-planning stages of introducing ePortfolios include the culture of the department, program, or institution such as how knowledgeable faculty and students are about portfolio-related practices as well as their comfort level and experience with technology. Another factor is the timeline for implementation, which may relate to external pressures (e.g., where the institution is in its accreditation cycle or review of general education) or to internal constraints (e.g., the introduction of a new course or learning management system, a new provost or dean) that could motivate or incentivize the exploration of ePortfolios.

History of the Future Exercise

Imagine that your ePortfolio project is completed and that it succeeded in all of its goals. You are to appear tomorrow at a press conference to explain what you have accomplished. Write a press release to distribute at this meeting, explaining in a few paragraphs what it is that you have accomplished, who is benefiting from ePortfolios, why they are important tools for documenting learning (what problem does their use solve and why did it need to be solved in the first place?), and what it was that you did that led to or caused this success.

Source: Adapted from Venezky, 2001, p.18.

By completing this exercise at the beginning of a project and revisiting it periodically, you can clearly communicate the desired outcomes, why they are important, and how they can be achieved.

We believe that documenting learning is crucial for today's learners—not only to help them be successful in their personal and professional lives, but also to enhance their development as responsible citizens. We have an opportunity in higher education today to develop the kind of learners who have the power to transform our world—indeed, ePortfolios are transformative learning tools, not only for the learners and their instructors but also for a broader community of stakeholders. We hope that this book and its accompanying web site with additional resources and expanded examples at will provide you with some assistance to guide you in your exploration of the use of ePortfolios to document learning.