Applied Information Management

Identification of Unique ePortfolio System Features: Benefits to Students, Faculty and Educational Institutions

In Brief: Technology directors have an important opportunity, as leaders of higher education technology initiatives and policy, to address the changing needs of those they support in the pursuit of learning and teaching. The emergence of the ePortfolio concept, in response to these changing needs, presents a valuable tool to enhance the learning activities of students, the curriculum and practices of faculty, and the ability of the educational institution to serve its constituencies.

It is critical that campus technology directors understand the ePortfolio.

This study provides a resource for technology directors to support planning for implementation of an ePortfolio (electronic portfolio) application into a campus information system. The term ePortfolio refers to a student's electronic record of completed work, artifacts, accomplishments, and reflections about learning. An ePortfolio computer application or system provides access for ePortfolio creation, management, storage, and other important system features.

Wheeler (2003) says that the components of the larger campus information system that need to be configured for interoperability with an ePortfolio system include human resources, student information, course management, and learning management.

The ultimate goal of an ePortfolio implementation is to transform higher education to a more learner-centric model. Having a successful ePortfolio system is more than just a technological endeavor; it involves students, faculty, and institution as primary stakeholders and users. Figure 1 lists eleven ePortfolio system features important for higher education technology directors to understand. A set of narrative descriptions examines how each feature benefits one of the key stakeholder categories: students, faculty, and institution.

ePortfolio System Stakeholders ePortfolio System Features
Benefits to Students
  • Individual ownership - Lifelong access and control
  • Tool for reflection
  • Flexible management and organization
  • Communication, connections, and interaction
  • Portability and sharing
Benefits to Faculty
  • Demonstrates learning achievement
  • Tool for instructor evaluation
  • Documents professional development and activity
Benefits to Institutions
  • System integration
  • Common data structures / interoperability
  • Assessment access for accreditation / credentialing

Figure 1—Summary of ePortfolio system features as benefits to stakeholders

Discussion of Benefits to Students

Feature #1: Individual Ownership, Lifelong Access and Control. It's easy to envision the ePortfolio as central to an individual's quest for learning in the formal education setting. However, the goal is to maintain a record of both formal schooling and life experience. Students who utilize the ePortfolio concept may be better able to successfully pursue self-directed education throughout their lifetime.

Feature #2: A Tool for Reflection. Pioneering ePortfolio software vendors have made the concept of reflection a feature in their products by enabling users to explore their work, describe their feelings, and review their own strengths and weaknesses. Reviewers can also add comments.

Feature #3: Flexible Management and Organization. An ePortfolio system should permit users to manage and organize their collection of artifacts, reflections, and other portfolio components in ways that reflect the organizational preferences and styles of learners. An ideal ePortfolio system should allow flexible input, organization, retrieval and display.

Feature #4: Communication, Connections, and Interaction. ePortfolios can serve not only as collection points for learning artifacts and learner reflections, but as gathering places for peers, instructors, and others to interact and communicate with each other. In addition, these interactions can be captured as part of the ePortfolio learning record.

Feature #5: Portability and Sharing. Students must have continual access to their ePortfolios, even after leaving the higher education institution. This requirement could be accomplished by allowing the transfer of ePortfolios from one service to another. In this way, students have the ability to share their ePortfolio with a potential employer, instructor, associate, etc.

Discussion of Benefits to Faculty

Feature #6: Demonstrate Learning Achievement. While the primary benefactor of an ePortfolio system is the student, faculty and administrators also benefit directly and indirectly from the implementation of an ePortfolio system. By assessing students' ePortfolio entries, faculty can better determine level of learning.

Feature #7: Tool for Instructor Faculty Evaluation. An ePortfolio system can facilitate better faculty evaluations. Documented materials can also be used to support the tenure process, prepare promotion files, and to create and compile annual faculty reports.

Feature #8: Document Professional Development and Activity. Faculty can use this tool as a resume builder to support promotion and tenure reviews. Professionals can use it to demonstrate skills, career advancement, or other areas important to employers.

Discussion of Benefits to Institutions

Feature #9: System Integration. An ePortfolio system can connect to, and share data with, other computer information systems. These systems include course management systems, human resource systems, learner information systems, etc.

Feature #10: Common Data Structures / Interoperability. Standardization and data interoperability reduce levels of system freedom and flexibility but are necessary steps to increase use. The ePortfolio Consortium provides direction to common system languages and structures.

Feature #11: Assessment Support Accreditation Process. An ePortfolio system can aid the accreditation process by tracking student work over time, aggregating student work in a particular course, and assessing courses in similar ways.


(Selected citations only)

  • Batson, T. (2002, December). The Electronic Portfolio Boom: What's It All About. Syllabus. Retrieved on January 3, 2005 from Campus Technology.
  • Brown, J.O. (2002, May). Know Thyself: The Impact of Portfolio Development on Adult Learning. Adult Education Quarterly, 52, No. 3, pp. 228-45. Retrieved on January 24, 2005 from University of Oregon Libraries Catalog.
  • ePortConsortium, (2003, November 3). Electronic Portfolio White Paper. Retrieved on January 22, 2005 from
  • Greenberg, G. (2004, July/August). The Digital Convergence: Extending the Portfolio Model. EDUCAUSE Review, 39, pp.28-36. Retrieved January 3, 2005 from EDUCAUSE.
  • Hawkins, B.L. (2004, November/December). A Framework for the CIO Position. EDUCAUSE Review, 39, pp. 94-103. Retrieved January 5, 2005 from EDUCAUSE.

Research Paper Author: Mark E. McKell—2005 AIM Graduate, Manager, Document Production, IMS Global Learning Consortium, Inc.

Abstract: ePortfolios (electronic portfolios) have become an important tool for student-centered learning in higher education. Literature published between 2002 and 2004 is analyzed using content analysis to identify a set of unique system feature descriptions for campus technology directors. Features are framed as benefits to key constituencies, including students, faculty, and the educational institution (Jafari, 2004). This outcome is intended to prepare technology directors for future ePortfolio implementation within the larger campus information system.

Download the entire Capstone research project