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Module 1: Understanding ePortfolios


This is an introductory module on ePortfolios and no previous knowledge on the topic is required. The module provides an entry point to individuals and/or institutions that want to use and implement an ePortfolio for the first time or want to improve an existing ePortfolio or develop a new one.


Objectives of the module

  • Describe what an ePortfolio is from the user’s perspective.

  • Identify why users need an ePortfolio.

  • Analyse a scenario in which an ePortfolio could be implemented to cover a need.


Warm up questions

  • What is an ePortfolio? What do you expect from an ePortfolio?

  • Why build an ePortfolio? Why do you think the ePortfolio is a right or a wrong option?

  • Why do you or your institution need an ePortfolio? What benefits do you expect from an ePortfolio?


ePortfolio Background

Portfolios are not new. They have been implemented  in educational contexts for more than a decade. There were primarily used for showcasing learner work and to support formative or summative assessment processes. However, electronic-based portfolios (ePortfolios) have significantly expanded the possibilities over paper-based portfolio allowing for new ways of storing, archiving, thinking, reflecting, storytelling, collaborating and publishing about learning experiences.


In a wider sense, an ePortfolio offers the opportunity to create and manage an online space of digital artefacts (including documents, graphics, audio files, videos, feedback, ideas, and so on) and reflections that provide evidence of our knowledge, competencies, experiences, and achievements. ePortfolios brought many changes into the traditional educational system and are also gaining momentum outside the formal educational context since they show relevance in the areas of Continuing Professional Development (CPD), Lifelong Learning (LLL), or Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL).

  • For a deeper understanding of the main characteristics of an ePortfolio watch the following videos:




Even if we find many definitions of the term ePortfolio they usually refer to specific purposes, technologies or contexts of application thus not revealing their the full potential.

For the purpose of this module, we propose the following generic and comprehensive definition:


ePortfolio is an umbrella term for a structured collection of self or co-created digital artefacts, recognitions, and accreditations where the owner has enough freedom to arrange their presentation according to specific purposes and audiences”


Some consensus exists in considering that reflection is one valuable characteristic of every ePortfolio. There is also agreement that behind any ePortfolio-based-learning lies rich and complex processes of planning, synthesizing, sharing, discussing, reflecting, giving, receiving, and responding to feedback.


The following video by Helen Barrett  provides a deeper understanding of how ePortfolios can support reflection and metacognitive processes:



ePortfolios phases

The ePortfolio implementation toolkit developed by JISC (Joint Information Systems Committee) presents a diagram that illustrates how a single ePortfolio repository of artefacts may serve different  purposes. The underlying connection are activities (e.g.  writing, reflecting, storing, planning, sharing etc.) which form specific processes involved in developing an ePortfolio (e.g. capturing and storing evidence, planning and setting goals etc.).


Despite the development of an ePortfolio is not a linear nor a sequential process, there are some basic phases that can be drawn out. Barret (2000) introduces a set of   common stages involved in developing an ePortfolio that you can investigate.


ePortfolio functions

According to ePortfolio aims it is possible to distinguish between different ePortfolio functions:

  • Showcase ePortfolio: Demonstrate the work, skills and competencies acquired over an established  period of time (e.g. a course outputs, lifelong records, etc.). The individual selects relevant works, organize them and shows the ePortfolio to relevant interest groups (e.g. educators, peers or potential employers). An example could be one’s curriculum vitae supported by evidence of relevant work experience.

Online resources:

  • Development/Reflection ePortfolio: Usually supports the individual in his/her Personal Development Plan (PDP), Career Development Plan (CPD) or Lifelong Learning (LLL) and sets the direction for future learning/professional purposes by establishing specific goals.

Online resources:

  • Case study on the use of ePortfolios as a reflective teaching tool:  

  • Assessment ePortfolio: The purpose is to evaluate an individual’s competence or knowledge development as defined by an educational institution, a dedicated body, an organization or even a person (e.g. peer learning). ePortfolios have great potential to improve and/or enhance formative and integrative assessment.

Online resources:


The suggested activities will assist you in figuring out a functional conceptualization of an ePortolio in relation to your own priorities, and gain deeper understanding of ePortfolios characteristics by analysing a chosen ePortfolio case.  

  1. Analyse and discuss different ePortfolio interpretations. You should start by reviewing an initial list of ePortfolio definitions. You can then proceed to develop a personal definition or description of an envisioned ePortfolio suitable to your needs. We encourage you to use a template developed for this purpose that you can download here: My ePortfolio definition..

  2. After creating the personalized definition of an ePortfolio, analyse an  existing ePortfolio case scenario. The case scenario may be an individual initiative or a whole implementation within an institution/organization (depending on your own perspective). To assist you in this task you can select the template of the following  ePortfolios case studies and examples: (list of Mahara ePortfolio examples), (studies of ePortfolio implementation by JISC).


To guide this activity, use the templates:



We strongly encourage you to share  your own productions.

Share your definition and your case scenario analysis with peers (using email, your blog, your social networks, etc.). For an optimal dissemination of your ideas use the course hashtag #ePcourse and the Europortfolio community hashtag #epnet.

Probably, at this stage you will have a list of questions. As you go through the modules, you should hopefully find elements to create your own answer; you might also raise even more questions. (Temporary solution) please add your question to the following document:

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During next modules you should provide an answer to these questions. In addition, you can receive feedback from your peers if you share the document with them.