Academic journal article Peer Review

Creating an Eportfolio Culture on Campus through Platform Selection and Implementation

Academic journal article Peer Review

Creating an Eportfolio Culture on Campus through Platform Selection and Implementation

Article excerpt

Given the initial excitement in the early 2000s about the potential of eportfolios for advancing integrative learning and authentic assessment in higher education, one might imagine that eportfolios would be ubiquitous in the academy, replacing final exams, cumbersome assessment processes, resumes, and even transcripts. The reality is much more meager. A recent Educause survey (Dahlstrom, Walker, and Dziuban 2013) reports that 57 percent of higher education campuses have "made some use" of eportfolios, but only at a program or course level. However, the promise of eportfolios as a broadly used tool for enhancing student learning and advancing authentic assessment is yet to be seen. The rate of eportfolio adoption follows Rogers' (2003) Diffusion of Innovation theory, which describes the process of adopting of new technologies over time with the standard bell curve illustrating the process. The theory asserts that innovation starts with innovators, of course, and that, by definition, they are limited in numbers. The next group to follow a new technology are the early adopters.

It is at this stage that many campus eportfolio projects get stuck. A few enthusiastic stalwarts rally their colleagues and harangue their students to adopt this amazing learning tool but often end up continuing to talk with each other at that next eportfolio faculty development event. The theory posits that there is a breaking point, called the chasm, that must be gotten through to get to the pinnacle-early and late majority adoption of technology. (At the tail end of the technology adoption model are the laggards.) The question becomes, how do we spread the use of eportfolios beyond our innovators and early adopters? This article describes one institution's current attempt to move a long-standing practice of eportfolios to a majority of users, along with what we have learned in our journey. Perhaps our lessons will help those who also wish to move their eportfolio use in higher education forward.


Portland State University (PSU) is an urban campus located in the heart of downtown Portland. It is the largest university in the state, with more than 28,000 students enrolled in undergraduate and graduate programs. It is Oregon's most diverse state university and also boasts a large transfer population.

In 1994, PSU launched its four-year interdisciplinary general education program, University Studies. From the start, portfolios were seen as a way to enhance student learning and assess the program. In 1998, we started using eportfolios in University Studies' yearlong Freshman Inquiry courses. Soon, nearly all of our Freshman Inquiry courses were using eportfolios. Despite the technological challenges encountered in these early days of webdeveloped portfolios, faculty and students saw the value added in using eportfolios. Labissiere and Reynolds (2004) highlight the advantage of an eportfolio over a hard copy portfolio. Especially relevant is the impact on student intellectual and personal growth An eportfolio allows students to consider multiple audiences, forcing a critical lens on what they share and why. With the ability to hyperlink on a webpage, students are also more easily able to make connections between and across what they have learned, creating opportunities for deeper critical thinking.

Our intention was to carry the eportfolio into all levels of our University Studies courses and beyond. This happened on a limited scale. Some of our Sophomore Inquiry and Senior Capstone courses began to use eportfolios. Some individual courses in majors also began to use eportfolios. But the hope for a proliferation of eportfolio use was not achieved. While the majority of Freshman Inquiry students (more than 1,000 students each year) created an eportfolio, few encountered one again in their academic careers. If they did, it was unlikely that the portfolio would be related to their previous portfolios and would probably be hosted on an entirely different web platform. …

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