Loyola University Chicago

Faculty Center for Ignatian Pedagogy

Electronic Portfolios (ePortfolios)

According to portfolio expert Dr. Helen Barrett, an electronic portfolio is "an electronic collection of evidence that shows your learning journey over time" (Barrett, 2010). The student work collected in a portfolio, known as an artifact, is highly dependent on the nature of the course or program of study. For example, it would make sense for a Creative Writing instructor to require that students maintain a portfolio containing assignments highlighting various forms of writing. For students in the Fine Arts, for example, a truly representative portfolio might contain pieces of art created by the student. The student work can also be collected for a variety of purposes, including:

  • Demonstrating Growth, which exists:
    • "to show growth or change over time
    • to help develop process skills such as self-evaluation and goal-setting
    • to identify strengths and weaknesses
    • to track the development of one more products/performances" (Mueller, 2010)
  • Showcasing Work, which exists:
    • "to showcase end-of-year/semester accomplishments
    • to prepare a sample of best work for employment or college admission
    • to showcase student perceptions of favorite, best or most important work
    • to communicate a student's current aptitudes to future teachers" (Mueller, 2010)
  • Assessment/Evaluation, which exists:
    • "to document achievement for grading purposes
    • to document progress towards standards
    • to place students appropriately" (Mueller, 2010)
    • "to demonstrate competencies" (Abrami & Barrett, 2005)

Portfolios can also be a combination of the above: for example, a portfolio used as a capstone project for a major could be used both to showcase work and to assess the students' work.

Unlike standard exams, portfolios allow students to demonstrate what they have learned over time and with greater flexibility for the student. The option exists to dictate to students exactly what should go in a portfolio, to let students pick assignments to match set criteria, or a combination of the two. Portfolios also can, and should, include a reflection component. As Jon Mueller (2010) writes, "the student needs to be directly involved in each phase of the portfolio development to learn the most from it, and the reflection phase holds the most promise for promoting student growth". Incorporating reflection is also adding in an important quality of a Jesuit, transformative education.

Loyola currently uses the TaskStream e-portfolio system, which can be accessed at https://lucapps.luc.edu/eportfolio/login.htm. More information on the Loyola e-portfolio initiative can be found at http://www.luc.edu/experiential/eportfolio/index.shtml and http://www.luc.edu/facultycenter/assessment/eportfolios/.

Pros & Cons

Information below from Sewell, Marczak, and Horn (2010):

"Allows the evaluators to see the student, group, or community as individual, each unique with its own characteristics, needs, and strengths." "May be seen as less reliable or fair than more quantitative evaluations such as test scores"
"Serves as a cross-section lens, providing a basis for future analysis and planning. By viewing the total pattern of the community or of individual participants, one can identify areas of strengths and weaknesses, and barriers to success." "Can be very time consuming for teachers or program staff to organize and evaluate the contents, especially if portfolios have to be done in addition to traditional testing and grading."
"Serves as a concrete vehicle for communication, providing ongoing communication or exchanges of information among those involved" "Having to develop your own individualized criteria can be difficult or unfamiliar at first"
"Promotes a shift in ownership; communities and participants can take an active role in examining where they have been and where they want to go." "If goals and criteria are not clear, the portfolio can be just a miscellaneous collection of artifacts that don't show patterns of growth or achievement."
"Portfolio assessment offers the possibility of addressing shortcomings of traditional assessment. It offers the possibility of assessing the more complex and important aspects of an area or topic." "Like any other form of qualitative data, data from portfolio assessments can be difficult to analyze or aggregate to show change."
"Covers a broad scope of knowledge and information, from many different people who know the program or person in different contexts (eg., participants, parents, teachers or staff, peers, or community leaders)."  

Best Practices [from "Principles and Practices in Electronic Portfolios"(http://www.ncte.org/cccc/resources/positions/electronicportfolios)]

  • "Share the rubric that will be used in e-portfolio assessment"
  • "Provide students with models of e-portfolios that illustrate different ways of meeting programmatic outcomes and satisfying rubric criteria"
  • "Facilitate critical discussions on the benefits and disadvantages of students allowing public access to their documents"
  • "Help students recognize what information, digital forms, and specific artifacts can best represent them as learners"
  • "Teach conventions of user-friendly webpage design and functionality"
  • "Ask students to discuss changes they would make to “re-purpose” e-portfolios for different readers, e.g., program directors in their major, prospective employers, evaluators of transferable course credits"
  • "Teach students different formats and forms that facilitate reflection on their learning at various stages of drafting and web-design (e.g., reflective cover letters that introduce and link readers to various artifacts; concept maps)"
  • "Teach students that ongoing, rigorous reflection is a crucial part of the process of creating e-portfolios that are dynamic, not static websites"
  • "Give students clear, constructive feedback that encourages revision and offers technological tips for improvement"
  • "Encourage students to show learning outcomes by linking artifacts to earlier drafts, or even to artifacts from earlier, relevant courses"
  • "Provide students with models of e-portfolios that have been adapted for different purposes, to show development of learning over time"


Abrami, P. C. & Barrett, H. C. (2005). Directions for research and development on electronic portfolios. Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology, 31(3). Retrieved from http://www.cjlt.ca/index.php/cjlt/article/viewArticle/92/86.

Barrett, H. C. (2010). Balancing the two faces of ePortfolios. Educacao, Formacao, & Technologias, 3(1). Retrieved from http://eft.educom.pt/index.php/eft/article/viewFile/161/102.

CCCC Taskforce on Best Practices in Electronic Portfolios. (2007). Principles and practices in electronic portfolios. Retrieved from http://www.ncte.org/cccc/resources/positions/electronicportfolios.

Mueller, J. (2010). Portfolios. Retrieved from http://jonathan.mueller.faculty.noctrl.edu/toolbox/portfolios.htm.

Sewell, M., Marczak, M., & Horn, M. (2010). The use of portfolio assessment in evaluation. Retrieved from http://ag.arizona.edu/sfcs/cyfernet/cyfar/Portfo~3.htm.