Context and Rationale for Creating ePortfolio Starter Templates
ePortfolios are very robust in nature. They can be leveraged for learning, reflecting, assessing and showcasing. ePortfolios provide an opportunity for students to think critically about what is important to them in relation to their studies and their chosen career path (Graves & Epstein, 2011; Rowley & Munday, 2014). Although the purpose of higher education is greater than solely equipping the future workforce, many students graduate without any practical, job-ready experiences in their area of study, thus writing an open ePortfolio can help students develop professional competency and help them find their voice (Taylor & Rowley, 2017). Students should not only be encouraged to look back at what they’ve learned, they should also be encouraged to explain how they see the knowledge they have gained from their coursework being applied into their daily lives. This kind of reflection helps students personalize their learning as well as connect the dots between their studies and their social and personal experiences (JISC, 2008). ePortfolios can be used to encourage students to write for an audience outside of academia, and when students are creating content for a broader audience than their instructor(s), the content can be more meaningful and purposeful, and less disposable (DeRosa & Robinson, 2017). ePortfolios not only promote more authentic content creation, they promote real-world skill building. In addition to honing reflective thinking skills, the effective creation of an ePortfolio should also guide students to develop design thinking skills, and since it is rare to find a strictly text based ePortfolio, students will also develop the technical skills needed to create multimedia elements. (JISC, 2008)
In order to pull off successful a successful ePortfolio project, instructors not only need to ensure students have an authentic understanding of the concepts being presented they need to be able to manage the learning curve of the technology (Boesch et al., 2015). Many times both instructors and students struggle with the technologies available to them and with making time in the course for technical instruction, thereby ePortfolio creation becomes an issue of inaccessibility. When this happens a great learning opportunity is lost and risks being a one-off assignment that is not offered again. Using WordPress templates complete with writing prompts and technical instructions will enable the instructor to focus on providing feedback to their students and will allow students the freedom to find their professional voice without being bogged down from having to learn a new platform. As such, our tool aims to decrease the barrier to entry for student creation and help instructors effectively scaffold the ePortfolio process.
Our WordPress templates serve as a tool for an individual to construct a product of their work and to enter a process of reflection and growth. Taylor and Rowley (2017) describe the process of ePortfolio creation as an ecosystem. As shown in Figure 1, ePortfolio development begins at the top with motivation. The goals a student sets for themselves will determine how they organize their data or how they collect their learning artifacts. As students reflect on the value of their data and the impact of their learning experiences, meaningfulness is internalized and new understandings of their identity surfaces. This identity work can lead to considerations for future career options, which may have students changing or finding new motivation for learning. Thus, the cycle can repeat itself when new learning goals are set. Taylor and Rowley (2017) assert that the value of this process is in “beginning to exert self-regulation, the creation of the ePortfolio itself becomes internally rewarding” (p.193).
Figure 1. ePortfolio ecosystem from Taylor and Rowley, 2017.
Our tool can also be utilized by faculty or professionals; however depending on their reason to create an ePortfolio, they may have a different entry point in Taylor and Rowley’s ecosystem (2017). Some, like students, would like to engage in more or deeper learning and will start at the top by creating learning goals. Others may want a space to organize their work. Still others are looking to reflect on their professional experience to develop or distill their self-identity, and lastly, there are others that want to showcase their work for future employers or assess their own professional value. Where a professional starts is not as important as continuing in the ecosystem process. The key here is that even for professionals, successful and robust ePortfolios rarely stay put in one aspect of the ecosystem, but usually flow into the other aspects as well. This aligns with the notion that ePortfolios function as both a process and a product for professional identity development (Rowley & Munday, 2014).
- Boesch, B., Reynolds, C., & Patton, J. (2015). ePortfolios as a Tool for Integrative Learning. In Handbook of Research on Applied Learning Theory and Design in Modern Education (pp. 439–464). IGI Global. https://doi.org/10.4018/978-1-4666-9634-1.ch021
- DeRosa, R., & Robinson, S. (2017). From OER to Open Pedagogy: Harnessing the Power of Open. In Open: The Philosophy and Practices that are Revolutionizing Education and Science (pp. 115–124). Ubiquity Press. https://doi.org/10.5334/bbc.i
- Graves, N., & Epstein, M. (2011). Eportfolio. Business Communication Quarterly, 342–346. https://doi.org/10.1177/1080569911414555
- JISC. (2008). Effective Practice with E-Portfolios: Toolkit. http://www.jisc.ac.uk/media/documents/publications/effectivepracticeeportfolios.pdf
- Rowley, J., & Munday, J. (2014). A “sense of self” through reflective thinking in ePortfolios. International Journal of Humanities Social Sciences and Education , 1(7), 78–85. https://researchoutput.csu.edu.au/ws/portalfiles/portal/11837945/69549_58324_published_paper.pdf
- Taylor, J., & Rowley, J. (2017). Building Professional Capabilities: ePortfolios as Developmental Ecosystems. In ePortfolios in Australian Universities (pp. 191–203). Springer Singapore. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-10-1732-2_12