E-portfolios in teaching

An e-portfolio is a network-based collection of digital documents which reflect the learning processes and competences of students. The main focus here is not on the presentation of completed learning products but on reflecting the individual learning pathways and working processes which have led to the particular result. In its technical implementation, the e-portfolio can be envisaged as a kind of personal website on which the student documents his/her own educational pathway, can reflect upon it and show the qualifications and competences which have been acquired by means of the materials they have populated it with.

Why deploy e-portfolios?
E-portfolios make it possible to record and present student achievements on various levels. The structured and permanently available documentation gives quick and accurate information about competences.

Work on e-portfolios promotes self-guided study. Since an e-portfolio is developed over a longer period, the students gain practice in planning and organising their work processes and educational pathways.

Reflection on the learning process and its results is an important component of portfolio work. If students reflect on their work and in the process take into consideration both the progress and the mistakes and stumbling blocks, then they become more aware of their strengths and weaknesses, recognise their increased competence better and learn from their experience for the future.

The students do not just receive feedback on their portfolios at the end but also regularly at various work phases. Peer-to-peer feedback, where students mutually review each other’s portfolios and give comments, is very often used for this. They learn how to handle criticism and to give constructive criticism by dealing with evaluation criteria and self and external appraisal.

How do I deploy e-portfolios?
E-portfolios can be deployed to accompany courses, subjects and even degree courses. Furthermore, they can be used as a prerequisite for grade awarding or directly as a performance record. Students can also structure and reflect on their learning process independently of their course with the aid of an e-portfolio.

E-portfolios are suitable for...
...documentation and reflection on the student’s own learning processes over a single or several semesters. (reflection portfolio)

...presentation of the artefacts created, and the student’s own competence profile as compared to third parties. (presentation portfolio)

...documentation and reflection of the students’ own development within and outside of institutional education with a view to the future professional career. (development portfolio)

What are the stumbling blocks?
As with all digital learning tools, the e-portfolio also presupposes certain technical skills. For efficient portfolio work, the student must be familiarised with the software and trained in how to handle it.

Defining the framework conditions for portfolio work can also be a problem. If teachers provide too many specifications, there is a risk that the students might refrain from self-reflection and primarily conform to the prescribed guidelines. On the other hand, too much autonomy can overload students especially since they are accustomed to clear instructions regarding the task to be performed from their school context. To avoid both extremes, appropriate instruction and supervision of the e-portfolio work by teachers is necessary - especially in the beginning phase.

Work on e-portfolios often lasts for several months. Since the students often have no experience of similar forms of work, at the beginning it is not easy for them to understand the added value of portfolio work and to motivate themselves to maintain the contents regularly. Continual supervision is of great significance.

How do I set up an e-portfolio? / Where can I get help?
At the university of Göttingen, two software solutions are available to you for portfolio work: ILIAS and Mahara.

The ILIAS-Portfolio is integrated into the Stud.IP and linked to a course. Students can log in with their usual access data and thus work on their portfolios. The e-portfolio created can be imported as a stand-alone HTML file. Both peer feedback and group portfolios are possible. Students can decide for themselves when and to whom they share their e-portfolio. Submission occurs likewise in ILIAS, in the form of a ZIP file.

Mahara portfolios are set up in our standalone Mahara platform. The completed e-portfolios can be exported as a PDF or presented and a standalone website. Just like ILIAS, this system allows for peer feedback and group work and differentiated sharing of portfolio views. Mahara is very flexible and supports creative portfolio design.

On request, we will be happy to offer you individual advice and training for your queries on the topic of e-portfolios.

Sources:
Bauer, Reinhard / Baumgartner, Peter (2012): Schaufenster des Lernens. Eine Sammlung von Mustern zur Arbeit mit E-Portfolios. Münster: Waxmann Verlag.
e-teaching.org (2015): E-Portfolio. https://www.e-teaching.org/lehrszenarien/pruefung/pruefungsform/eportfolio, online am 18.02.2019.
Hornung-Prähauser, Veronika / Dr. Geser, Guntram / Hilzensauer, Wolf / Schaffert, Sandra (2007): Didaktische, organisatorische und technologische Grundlagen von E-Portfolios und Analyse internationaler Beispiele und Erfahrungen mit E-Portfolio-Implementierungen an Hochschulen. Salzburg: Salzburg Research Forschungsgesellschaft im Auftrag des Forum Neue Medien in der Lehre Austria / fnm-austria.