‘At some point, the electronic portfolio, or e-Portfolio, will become a fully implemented, successful tool’ is the bold claim of Ali Jafari (2004). However, in the eight years since the article was written, it is not yet clear when this time will come. Part of the problem lies in the fact that there is not a clear definition of what is meant by the term e-portfolio. ‘The term e-portfolio is not fixed’ ( Roberts & al., 2005)…and this is probably because different groups of people in education ‘each perceive a different set of functional requirements for the e-Portfolio’. (Jafari ,2004) Let us look at who those users may be and what they require from an e-portfolio.
At its most basic level, the definition given by Wikipedia is perfectly adaquate: ‘An electronic portfolio, also known as an e-portfolio or digital portfolio, is a collection of electronic evidence assembled and managed by a user, usually on the Web.’ This is backed up by Richardson & Ward (2005): ‘The term portfolio…generally describes a collection of reflective writing and associated evidence, which documents learning and which a learner may draw upon to present his/her learning achievements.’ Many VLEs at Secondary level include an e-portfolio area for pupils to save and access their work. However, these definitions were written six years ago and time has brought changes to the e-portfolio.
E-portfolios are now frequently managed by an e-portfolio system, which brings additional functionality. ‘An e-portfolio system is a collection of tools that allows various operations to be performed with e-portfolio items, for example: uploading products to a file store, entering reflective statements, and making presentations’. (Roberts & al., 2005, p. 6) Increasingly, teachers are keen for pupils not only to collect evidence of their achievements but to reflect on their work and maintain their portfolios over a period of time. ‘Building a lifelong e-Portfolio system promotes additional incentives for users to create and maintain their e-Portfolios, [allowing a student to] continue using his e-Portfolio, still accessing all of the documents and artifacts [sic] created during his college life.’ (Jafari, 2004)
Increasingly, there is another consumer group interested in e-portfolios – employers. ‘The web serves as an ideal home for electronic portfolios to be shared with all different kinds of audiences.’ (Wikipedia, 2012) With more pupil work now being completed electronically, the e-portfolio can become a show-case for the pupil’s achievements. The JISC InfoNet website states that currently ‘employer engagement with e-portfolios and perceived benefits are areas not fully known and require further research and investigation.’ Some research was conducted by Ward & Moser (2008), which found that seventy-five percent of HR managers in companies were not familiar with e-portfolios. However, fifty-six per cent of all respondents said that they planned to use them in the future.
The future of e-portfolios is still uncertain, still evolving. There are issues over institutional provision, interoperability, desirable content, target audience and longevity. Let us leave the final, inconclusive words with Stefani, Pegler, & Mason (2007) ‘e-Portfolios might evolve into something unrecognisable today or they might become yesterday’s unsuccessful idea’.
Jafari, A. (2004 (Jul / Aug) ). The “Sticky” ePortfolio System. Educause Review, 38-49.
JISC InfoNet. (3, January 2012). E-Portfolios. Retrieved January 3, 2012, from JISC InfoNet: http://www.jiscinfonet.ac.uk/infokits/e-portfolios/employer
Richardson, H., & Ward, R. (2005). Developing and Implementing a Methodology for Reviewing E-portfolio Products. Wigan: The Centre for Recording Achievement.
Roberts, G., & al., e. (2005). Reflective learning, future thinking: digital repositories, e-portfolios, informal learning and ubiquitous computing. ALT/SURF/ILTA Spring Conference Research Seminar. Dublin: ALT/SURF/ILTA.
Stefani, L., Pegler, C., & Mason, R. (2007). The educational potential of e-Portfolios: supporting personal development and reflective learning. Abingdon: Routledge.
Ward, C., & Moser, C. (2008). E-Portfolios as a Hiring Tool: Do Employers Really Care? Educause Quarterly (Oct-Dec), 13-14.
Wikipedia. (2012, January 4). Electronic Portfolio. Retrieved January 4, 2012, from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electronic_portfolio