Student Electronic Portfolios

An ePortfolio is a collection of digital objects shared electronically for the purpose of reflection, comment, and evaluation.

ePortfolios can formatively engage a student in analyzing his/her own progress through a curriculum, project, or task, with beneficial results, particularly when combined with online reflective journal writing such as in a blog. A student may also usefully engage peers, domain advisors, and communities of practice in offering formative feedback using an ePortfolio. While some educators consider reflection and collaboration to be an essential aspect of the ePortfolio process, ePortfolios can also summatively present or showcase a student's ability to resolve academic domain problems. A collection of completed artifacts which illustrates the student's competence in the field (usually for "high stakes" rather than formative evaluation) is a particularly useful way to profile student achievement and provide evidence of learning compared with a simple grade in the academic record.  In some ways this is similar to the Faculty PTR process.

In a co-op or service learning placement situation, where finding a match between the student's skills, background, interests (profile) and an employer-industry-project is desirable--in addition to keeping these stakeholders in contact with other--sharing materials digitally and securely is essential.

ePortfolios can be constituted in a number of ways--fundamentally they are discrete, portable caches of digital documents. This means an ePortfolio could reside on a DVD or a memory stick, a personal website, a blog, or an institutional learning management system such as Quercus/Canvas.

Which system you would want to use would depend on the goals of the program. If ePublishing skills are a core competency, such as in a program about design visualization in ePublishing, then a custom DVD or a personal website is preferable. Where ePublishing skills are not explicitly part of the teaching and learning domain, an ePortfolio authored in a blog, wiki or Quercus is more suitable in terms of achieving the goals of sharing, reflection and commentary. More on [ePortfolios in Quercus/Canvas]. Wikipedia on electronic portfolios.


Case Studies

Here are two examples which highlight some useful ways an ePortfolio can serve the teaching and learning process.  Both of them were created by graduates of the Master's program in Biomedical Communications (BMC) here at University of Toronto, which focuses on visualization of applied science using new media. This makes the ePortfolio development very visual, so the processes occurring in them are somewhat easier to explain.

Screen shots of these ePortfolios have been reproduced with explicit permission from the students, with thanks.

Case 1: Formative Progress Through a Project - "Across The Gap" 3D Visualization.

Hyun Joo's ePortfolio site architecture reflects a practical taxonomy of domain depiction problems, {illustration, interactive design, 3D visualization}. In constituting the site architecture Hyun Joo has created a mind map or advance organizer of the domain for the casual visitor.

Particularly of note in Hyun Joo's ePortfolio is the visual account of her two-year odyssey through the Master's Research Project. In Hyun Joo's case, this was a 3D scientific video animation designed to explain a medical experiment on nerve cell regeneration in damaged human spinal cords.

 Screen shot of Hyun Joo Lee's ePortfolio home page

In the first year of the project, Hyun Joo studied the science and the domain problem at length. Then she created a storyboard, a series of hand drawings depicting snapshots for the proposed animation, and composed a narrative script to accompany it. The drawings are reproduced as digital scans within Hyun Joo's ePortfolio online.

Once Hyun Joo received feedback on these materials from the various project stakeholders (researchers, doctors, her professors, and other students), Hyun Joo refined the video animation work through three stages: a 2D animatic (animated still drawings), a 3D primitive animatic (Maya), then the final animation (Maya, After Effects). After each stage, there was a feedback session. Below are three snapshots from the three animatic videos, captured at the same point of depiction, illustrating the progress of the animation through the project.

In many ways the ePortfolio organization depicting the project's development is a more impressive achievement than the final project, because it shows Hyun Joo's clear grasp of process and the careful refinement of her work through a combination of reflection and formative feedback.

Here is the final animation on YouTube.

Case 2: Summative: Breadth of Experience and Competencies

This ePortfolio, by Ardis Cheng, portrays the student's digital artifacts more in a summative fashion, with links to her resume and contact information prominently on the home page. Ardis's taxonomy of the domain reflects a more philosophical view compared with Hyun Joo's practical view. In particular it illustrates the breadth and versatility of Ardis's design acumen realized across her academic and professional career.

Ardis was a biologist with some architectural training before she entered the scientific visualization program. This series of illustrations shows completed studies in furniture design, a dance performance space, and an information centre for harbour marine life.

Ardis's art work includes design studies in 3D process, optical effects, and scenes (many architectural).
Screen shot of Ardis Cheng's ePortfolio showing her art work

To her existing works, now in ePortfolio form, Ardis added her studies in medical depiction, including bacterial infection, anatomy, and her Master's Research Project about neurological interaction.
Screen shot showing Ardis Cheng's ePortfolio of scientific/medical illustration work
Few formative versions of Ardis's work are visible in her ePortfolio. And while the ePortfolio contains many of the same projects and assignments as Hyun Joo's, Ardis has organized her work and the academic domain around the tags {interpretation, sequence, conceptual}. Ardis has also weighted her ePortfolio differently -- although her Master's Research Project was highly complex and completed with great effort and success over two years, it has the same weight as her other projects in the ePortfolio.

Ardis's ePortfolio suggests a alternative thesis and approach for organizing the teaching and learning domain of scientific visualization: examining the similarities and differences in design problems across different forms of expression (illustration, architecture, etc.), a valid and insightful approach. It also illustrates her breadth and competency in design visualization to a potential employer.

Ardis's ePortfolio has shifted, now she focuses on her hand illustration and children's books and she lives in Australia.

Through the process of organizing digital artifacts in an ePorfolio, students reflect on the structure of the academic knowledge in their program and on their journey through the process. Student's core competencies are clearly revealed, and a wide range of assessment and growth opportunties become available in teaching and learning, for the student, the program, and the communities of practice in which they are participating.

Here's a cross section of resources and research on ePortfolios:

Schwartz, S., & Rolheiser, C. (2001). Pre-service portfolios: A base for professional growth. Canadian Journal of Education, 26(3)

Meeus, Wil. "Open Source Eportfolio: Development and Implementation of an Institution-Wide Electronic Portfolio Platform for Students." Educational Media International 43.2 (2006):133-145.

Handbook of research on ePortfolios [electronic resource]/ Ali Jafari and Catherine Kaufman, editors. Hershey PA : Idea Group Reference, c2006.