Whereas the effects of instruction are generally understood to be determined by measuring learners’ ability to answer questions in a testing situation after the instruction has concluded, the outcomes of authentic learning (Herrington, Reeves, Oliver, 2014) are generally understood to be demonstrated in products and performances. Artifacts of those products and performances (along with learners’ reflection in the importance and meaning of the artifacts) are collected in portfolios. A range of web services can be adopted and adapted for creating electronic portfolios.
As with all web services, IT managers collaborate with educators to make decisions about the web services to be supported for students to make electronic portfolios. Among the important decisions that determine which technologies meet the need are the nature of the artifacts that will document the work (for example audio and video files necessitate different capacity than simply images), the physical and virtual location of the files the be included, and the intended audience for the portfolios. The nature of the students is a further consideration; the needs of high school students preparing their first professional portfolios are far more sophisticated from the needs of elementary students documenting their first project-based learning activities.
In some instances, IT managers will recommend using existing web services as a platform for electronic portfolios; the web site tool in G Suite is a popular choice. Others choose tools that are specifically designed for creating and managing electronic portfolios; Mahara (n.d.) is an example of an open source package that is used to create web-based electronic portfolios. For those students who are graduating and who are adults, IT managers sometimes recommend social networking sites as the appropriate platform for electronic portfolios as students can maintain them once they leave the school and there are already active networks of professionals on those sites that students can join.
Regardless of the web service used for electronic portfolios, they serve several purposes in schools. Eyon, Gambino, and Török (2014) compared the performance of students enrolled in courses that included electronic portfolio with students in courses that did not use that tool. They found evidence that creating an electronic portfolio was positively associated other indicators of student success in college including pass rates of courses, grade point average, and retention rate. They concluded these effects are grounded in the greater levels of reflection and metacognition that are necessary for a portfolio-based program than for one without that experience. Further, they conclude electronic portfolios become a valuable source of information to educators and school leaders as they make decisions regarding programmatic and curriculum changes and improvements.
Eynon, B., Gambino, L. M., & Török, J. (2014). What difference can ePortfolio make? A field report from the Connect to Learning Project. International Journal of ePortfolio, 4(1), 95-114.
Herrington, J., Reeves, T., & Oliver, R. (2014). Authentic learning environments. In J. M. Spector (Ed.), Handbook of research on educational communications and technology (4th edition) (pp. 401-412). New York: Springer.
Mahara [Computer Software]. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://mahara.org/, February 12, 2019.