Implementation Guidelines for institutions

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Implementing ePortfolios in an institution is challenging: It is not only an introduction of a tool but also an introduction of an innovative educational concept (Chen Veugelers) involving many stakeholders.

Moreover, when embedded into an organizational strategy, ePortfolios can be a catalyst for institutional change.

Attention areas ePortfolios.png

Due to the fact, that every institution has its own context and needs, a 'one size fits all' implementation process is not appropriate. However, this Jisc ePortfolio Implementation study found, that successful large-scale implementation across an institution usually involves five stages:

Stage O: Prior development:reflecting developments and conditions prior to implementation

Stage 1: Planning taking into consideration institutional context

Stage 2: Early adoption: piloting

Stage 3: Embedding: sharing practice and widening adoption

Stage 4: Sustaining: refers to organisational change

Analysis of ePortfolio context

Defining the context and the PURPOSE

There are various purposes and application areas for ePortfolios. Thus, the purpose for your ePortfolio has to be aligned to your institution and to your specific context!

The following points are based on ePortfolio purposes, identified by Jisc (further information you will find here:| Jisc) and are aiming at providing you a short overview of the most common purposes for use of an ePortfolio in your organisation.

Demonstrating and assessing learning outcomes and processes

ePortfolios can be used both to demonstrate learning outcomes (products - summative assessment) and to reflect upon learning processes (formative assessment). Thus, ePortfolios can be a strong institutional driver due to underpinning individual and organisational learning processes and supporting knowledge management and organisational change processes.

Further information on implementation of ePortfolios that demonstrate and assess learning you`ll find in this ducument by Lorenzo and Ittelson: [1]

Accreditation purposes

When ePortfolios are used for accreditation purposes the can offer benefit by e.g.: -Making accreditation process more visible and transparent -Demonstrating products and/or processes collectively to the public and governance boards

Example: The Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) uses institutional ePortfolios as in-depth self-study vehicles and as primary-evidence sources for reaccreditation: IUPUI

Recognition of prior learning (RPL) and competencies

The process of RPL can be streamlined through the use of ePortfolio, making the RPL process simpler and more efficient. More information on RPL & ePortfolio you`ll find here: [2]

For further information on use of ePortfolios for competency recognition and accreditation of learning see also the following document by EPNET community

Lifelong Learning (LLL) & professional accreditation

ePortfolios can support Personal Development Planning (PDP) and Continuing Professional Development (CPD) practices through assisting in reflection on current and already completed learning experiences and achievements and on goals. Thus ePortfolios can guide PDP and CPD over time and support professional accreditation.

More information about ePortfolios and LLL, PDP & CPD can be found on the webpage of the project EPICS | project EPICS and in this presentation here dealing with ePortfolios for LLL, based on SICTAS report 'ePortfolios beyond training and education' (Australia).

A good overview of the approach to embedding for staff can be found in the summary from | Flourish project at Cumbria

Further information on ePortfolios and staff development you`ll find also here

However, there are also other purposes, e.g. supporting/managing job applications, managing own learning process, guiding transition etc. | Here you`ll find an overview of different purposes and its institutional touch points (e.g. curricula-driven or extra-curricula-driven)

Depending again on the purpose and the context of application, different types of ePortfolios can be identified. The three main types of ePortfolios(for further information see general implementation guidelines, section 3.4):

  • Reflection Portfolio
  • Development Portfolio
  • Presentation Portfolio

Further discussions on purposes you`ll find also | here

Identification and involvement of STAKEHOLDERS

Stakeholders have a variety of needs. So, it is very important that you consider that a crucial element of any ePortfolio implementation into your organisation is to identify internal and external project stakeholder and to adress their needs.

Understanding how these stakeholder can both contribute to the ePortfolio implementaion process and also benefit from ePortfolios is very important: It provides information about the design of ePortfolio and how these stakeholder can be integrated into the culture of the institution.

More information about the different perspectives of stakeholder and how they perceive their potential benefits you can find on the web page of the Australian ePortfolio project, carried out by Queensland University of Technology:

Further information on strategies for identifying and understanding stakeholders you can find in a video and in the presentation files by Helen L. Chen and Tracy Penny-Light, available at [3]

The EPNET Maturity matrix

The EPENT community has developed a Maturity Matrix, which can be used by organizations and/or individuals as an effective way to measure their preparedness to adopt ePortfolios for their specific purposes and to reach a desired level of maturity. The ePortfolio Maturity Matrix is based on three main dimensions:

  • Purpose
  • Characteristics
  • Audience

ePortfolios as a catalyst for institutional change

Additionally, to deepen student´s learning due to supporting reflecting learning, ePortfolios prompt connections across departments and divisions that can catalyze institutional change, as findings from Electronic Portfolio Forum and Catalyst for Learning shows:

  • ePortfolios help colleges and universities develop as adaptive learning institutions and spread ideas across campuses
  • ePortfolios connect diverse campus groups in shared conversations about student learning.

For example, Community College restructured advisement, assessment, and professional development to support the whole student.

  • ePortfolios provide learning analytics that allow to use “big data” to design better learning, and to put together a picture of the whole learner.
  • ePortfolios provide a vehicle for helping students integrate high impact learning practices such as co-curricular activities, Themed Learning Communities, writing intensive classes and service learning ect.into their curricular work.

Further information available also here

Please note, that in order to be a catalyst for institutional change the implementation of ePortfolios has to be embedded into an organizational strategy and organizational change actions. ​

Strategies and approaches for Implementing ePortfolios

In a research project under the contract of the Austrian Federal Ministry of Science & Research following implementation strategies for ePortfolios were identified and analysed by Peter Baumgartner, Klaus Himpsl and Sabine Zauchner:

ePortfolios as a ‚service‘ for students (optional)

Type of ePortfolio: development portfolio (competence portfolio)

Examples: University Graz – AT, University Klagenfurt – AT

Purpose: Visualisation of own strength, interests and competencies; support course planning

Institutional goals: Decrease of drop outs rates, visualisation of nonformal and informal learning

Recommended software: Mahara, Taskstream

ePortfolios as a learning tool

Type of ePortfolio: reflection portfolio (learning portfolio)

Examples: University Salzburg – AT, University Vienna – AT

Purpose: reflecting learning process, traing of key competences

Institutional goals: fostering transversal skills, quality assurance in teaching

Recommended software: depends on course goals

ePortfolios integrated into curriculum

Type of ePortfolio: assessment portfolio & showcase portfolio

Examples: Danube University Krems – AT, FH Eisenstadt

Purpose: reflecting learning process, traing of key competences

Institutional goals: fostering transversal skills, quality assurance in teaching

Recommended software: Mahara, factline

University wide implementation of ePortfolios

Type of ePortfolio: reflection portfolio & development portfolio & presentation portfolio

Examples: University Vienna – AT

Purpose: additional to purposes A + B, application

Institutional goals: employability

Recommended software: Mahara, PebblePad

Further information you`ll find | here and here. Webinar is also availabe.

PEDAGOGICAL challenges

ePortfolios are a learner-centered tool and ePortfolio implementation implies a change of the role of learners and teachers alike. For further information please see general implementation guidelines - characteristics of educational settings and contexts for ePortfolio use and Teachers' Guidelines

MANAGEMENT challenges

ePortfolio culture

When implementing an ePortfolio you have to consider that the institutional culture should allow an appropriate usage of ePortfolios (ePortfolio-culture) within your institution.

Thus, Vision, Mission and Values of your institution have to encourage reflection-based learning, action and innovation!

An ePortfolio culture in higher-education shares an underlying set of beliefs and assumptions, a common language, and core educational practices, as manifested in the collective artifacts that it produces. Applying Everett Roger's diffusion of innovation framework (1962), this presentation by Maggie Beers and Kevin Kelly presents two case studies on how two higher educational institutions have attempted to create ePortfolio cultures, one from the bottom-up, the other from the top-down.

Rogers diffusion of innovations framework of change and work is an excellent guide for practitioners. Diffusion of innovations (and thus, the diffusion and acceptance of ePortfolios in an organization) means the process by which the innovation is communicated through certain channels over time among the members of a social system‘.

Following factors affect diffusion:

  • Relative advantage

The degree to which the innovation is perceived as better than the current situation

Proposed strategy: How can we communicate to each stakeholder that ePortfolios offer a clear advantage over the current situation or practice?

  • Compatibility

The degree to which an innovation is perceived as being consistent with the existing values, past experiences and needs of potential adopters

Proposed strategy: What aspects of ePortfolio use can be identified as compatible with each stakeholder`s beliefs and practices?

  • Complexity

The degree to which an innovation is perceived as difficult to understand and use

Proposed strategy: How can we help make ePortfolios simple to understand and use for each stakeholder?

  • Triability

The degree to which an innovation may be experimented with on a limited basis. If an innovation is triable, it results in faster adoption

Proposed strategy: How can each stakeholder experiment with ePortfolios?

  • Observability

The degree to which the results of innovation are visible to others: The easer it is for individuals to see the results of an innovation, the more likely they are to adopt

Proposed strategy: How can we make ePortfolios oberservable to each stakeholder, within both mass-media and interpersonal channels?

Further information on creating an ePortfolio culture in higher education can be found here

Ownership and intellectual property rights

According to Baumgartner (2011) and Balaban et al. (2010) following ownerships can be differentiated:

  • Individual ePortfolio

Refers to the ePortfolio of a specific person. The owner selects and communicates relevant digital archives that differ in function of the ePortfolio’s purpose. The individual is the complete owner of all processes and content of the ePortolio.

  • Individual ePortfolio within an institution/organization

The individual is owner of the content but under the umbrella of the institution. The organization determines which processes are allowed and block or unblock the relevant features of the software accordingly to their purpose.

  • Institutional/organizational ePortfolios

The ePortfolio may belong to a cultural, social, commercial or political institution. The authorized members of the institution or organization own the ePortfolio according to their charter or statute.

Examples: civil ePortfolio in the digital cities [4] European Language Portfolio [5]

Charlesworth & Home (2004, 2005 & 2006) from Bristol University raise following questions to be considered in terms of intellectual property rights and legal issues:

  • How will you ensure that your e-portfolio system adheres to data protection legislation?
  • What are the issues regarding ownership and intellectual property rights (IPR) of materials in your e-portfolio system?
  • How will you know that your e-portfolio system is accessible by all learners?
  • How will you protect your institution from misuse of the e-portfolio system by learners?
  • How will you detect and guard against plagiarism?

Further information is available here [6]


Engagement of users

When implementing an ePortfolio, you have to take into consideration different staff-attitudes in terms of adopting innovations such as ePortfolios (based on Rogers,1962, p.150):

  • Innovators are willing to take risks. Their risk tolerance allows them to adopt technologies that may ultimately fail.
  • Early adopters are more discreet in adoption choices than innovators.
  • Early Majority adopts an innovation after a varying degree of time that is significantly longer than the innovators and early adopters.
  • Late Majority adopts an innovation after the average participant. These individuals approach an innovation with a high degree of skepticism and after the majority of society has adopted the innovation. Late Majority are typically skeptical about an innovation.
  • Laggards are the last to adopt an innovation. These individuals typically have an aversion to change and typically tend to be focused on traditions.

Following techniques may foster staff commitment:

  • involving people (especially 'opinion leaders' and disseminators) from beginning on
  • informing people continuously
  • running workshops, internal meetings and introducing sessions
  • actively encouraging all members of staff to use the ePortfolio system
  • gaining peoples interest in one aspect of the e-portfolio and then gradually introducing more functionality
  • supporting staff during the e-portfolio introduction
  • seeing high quality examples of ePortfolios
  • doing marketing, e.g., committee meetings, internal website, team meetings


As a starting point for working with/developing ePortfolios Learners/User need a basic level of IT skills such as using a browser, writing and editing files. Nonetheless, to fully engage with ePortfolio tools and to use the many possibilities that ePortfolios offer, the IT-skills should not be underestimated, e.g. developing multimedia components for them.

A programme of IT skills development for tutors and learners could include (Stefani et al 2007):

  • computer basics – creating, saving and uploading files to a network area as well as updates on using basic packages such as word-processing and PowerPoint
  • multimedia – creating presentations with audio and videos
  • computer graphics – how to use computer graphics programs

For those with advanced computer skills (eg. ability to build a website) it is possible to build personal e-portfolio froms cratch using any content managment systems (eg. weblogs) (see also Implementation Guidelines for teachers, section 2.2.4 [7])

The users’ previous experience in the use of information technology plays a significant role in the success of the ePortfolio process. If users are not familiar with information technology, they will need to be trained. The training may encompass not only the use of the ePortfolio applications, but also include general information technology skills.


Tools consideration

Himpsl-Gutermann and Baumgartner (2009) developed a criteria checklist for evaluation of e-portfolio systems. Depending on the type of ePortfolio, it is still up to the user/the authority to determine which functions of a software/platform are needed (see also General guidelines[8])

Lorenzo and Ittelsen point out four basic approaches to develop ePortfolio systems:

* Homegrown (developed by own IT-staff)


  • tailored to the needs of the institution
  • licencing fees
  • institution owns intellectual property


  • costs might be very high
  • development of system might be very expensive in terms of time and energy
  • high levels of expertise in IT and software development is needed
  • fluctuation of IT-staff is very critical for sustainability

* Open Source


  • no charge
  • community participates in development


  • costs for technical support and maintenance
  • possibility of open source initiative dying out
  • software development and updates may not keep pace with needs

* Commercial


  • no direct software development cost
  • technical support handled by the vendor
  • A CMS may have a built-in ePortfolio


  • licences must adapt tot he vendor`s pricing structure
  • customer service and technical support may be poor

*Common tools (eg. MS Front Page, Macromedia Dreamweaver)


  • more creative ePortfolios possible
  • nonexistent or low software cost


  • students must have web site authoring skills (e.g. HTML)

For further tools and ePortfolio examples see Implementation Guidelines for Teachers, section 3.2.


ICT Infrastructure encompasses the hardware, software, and network of the system.

Hardware includes any device used to access the ePortfolio software and the internet (PC, tablet, mobile). Moreover, Hardware includes also servers, which not only act as remote storage for data, but also store and run applications. The use of inappropriate hardware and technology might severely hamper the success of the ePortfolio project

Software includes any resident application or online application which runs the ePortfolio system as well as the design of the ePortfolio application. The design needs to take into consideration several human-computer interaction aspects, e.g. perceived usefulness and interface design.

Access to broadband either via wired or wireless means is the final requirement to run an ePortfolio system so that data can be shared with other users.

Moreover, the infrastructure requires:

  • regular maintenance through a host of support services
  • help desk officers or trainers who would train and help users to solve any problems related to the ePortfolio systems.

(Based on: Kung-Keat Teoh (2011): An examination of critical success factors in the implementation og ePortfolios in universities. In: Journal of Academic Language & Learning, Vol 5, No 2.)


Given that a 'one size fits all' - ePortfolio is inappropriate for the diversity of institutions, interoperability is a key factor when considering ePortfolio implementation - especially when you plan to use ePortfolios for LLL and transition purposes.

The result from an 'ideal' implementation process in educational institutions

In an ideal implementation (for an educational institution) ePortfolios would possess the following characteristics:

  • An eportfolio culture exists, encouraging learners to include personal life experiences, awards, non-academic activities, and other character/learning revealing artefacts in their portfolio.
  • The portfolio is viewed as a personal, learner-in-control tool. It is treated as central to the learning and assessment process.
  • Learners are introduced to the concept, and instructed on how to use the system (both from a technical and from a “how will this help you” perspective)
  • The curriculum has been designed to require learners to use the portfolio in completing their course work and assignments
  • The portfolio is used for assessment of learning objectives. Instructor feedback can be integrated back into the portfolio and treated as an artifact.
  • Learners are provided staged advising sessions evaluating their effective use of portfolios (this is a meta-cognitive evaluation of portfolio use)
  • Dialogue, debate, discussion, and examples of eportfolio use are common.
  • Time is allotted for portfolio development
  • Faculty understand and promote the value of eportfolios
  • Technical details are well managed, resulting in a simple, positive end user experience


Key factors for successful implementation

For further information and more case studies, see also Jisc toolkit with a summary of the lessons from case studies in terms of key factors for success.

ePortfolio Implementation at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) - Australia (2004-2012)


QUT is branded as the ‚University for the Real World‘. Thus, students have high expectations in terms of employability. ePortfolio implementation aimed at PDP, CPD; Employability, Transition in/from institution, work based learning, LLL


Built in house


  • High level support by DVC Technology Information and Learning Support (TILS)
  • Broad collaboration across QUT from beginning on
  • Deans were consulted early in the development of the ePortfolio
  • Technical Services and the Careers and Employment Office played a central role in the development of the online tool.
  • During the pilot, roll-out and continuing communication with all stakeholders (different resources, face to face sessions) to ensure that potential users are informed of ePortfolio.
  • Key phases in the development of the program were supported by relevant Steering Committees ensuring representation of the broad stakeholder group.
  • The service is centrally supported by eLearning Services. This ensures all users are able to give feedback which informs development of all aspects of the program and ensures ongoing relevance to the broad user groups at QUT

See also QUT Homepage and case study Queensland University of Technology

Implementation of an institutional ePortfolio at Massey University - New Zealand (2008-2009)


The ePortfolio implementation aimed at establishing an institutional ePortfolio-system that is available to all students as well as establishing a LLL-strategy (18 month ePortfolio initiative)




  • An institutional LLL strategy: For the pilot project some staff were wary of becoming involved because they did not see the longer term strategy They were concerned about the level of support that will occur after ending of the project.
  • A senior management champion:Changes in senior management personnel can lead to changes in priorities - if this is the culture then this can lead to staff not being willing to commit to new technologies
  • A central unit supporting implementation
  • Strong support for lecturers on technical and pedagogical levels and support students on skills that are often new to them such as how to reflect
  • Fostering reflective practice among university staff, facilitated by the use of ePortfolio systems.
  • This includes maintaining of teaching portfolios and sharing with colleagues around the university and beyond. Staff modelling lifelong learning are the best role models to get the message of importance of lifelong learning across to students
  • A digital culture:
  • The lack of use of digital resources and familiarity with e-processes can be a barrier
  • The quality of teaching to be rewarded (as well as research)

More information you`ll find here: case study Massey University

Managing institutional challenges: ePortfolio implementation at Thanet Further Education College - UK (2008-2010)


Staff development and accreditation, NVQ assessment of students learning


PebblePad, Mahara, Learning Assistant (Mapping portfolios), In-folio (implementation at Thanet failed in envisaged context of work based learning)


  • Governance, leadership and vision: Head of eLearning within Innovation Team is responsible for institution-wide eLearning strategy and implementation of ePortfolio. EPortfolio introduction came mostly from his enthusiasm.
  • Alignment with the institutional context: There was need for students to have personal learning spaces, need to make paper-based portfolios more efficient and need for staff to evidence their CPD.

Communication with stakeholders and developing expertise: Head of eLearning had opportunity to develop his expertise in national projects, conference attendance and through personal study.

  • Staff: was involved from beginning of the implementation
  • Pilots: provided expertise that could then be shared and staff was encouraged to reflect on their incidents of training
  • Blog: was maintained and shared with the majority of teachers as a means of showing ePortfolios, moreover the enhancement of narratives became part of the culture of staff training.

For further information see also case study Thanet College and video case study Thanet College

The work of is licensed under a Creative Commons License (, therefore the text parts "implementing" and the illustration "maturity levels" of the article: George Siemens (2004): ePortfolios. are shared under the same licence as the original.