What is a digital portfolio?
Digital portfolios are personalized, active, and multimodal. These can take the form of a personalized, web-based collection of work and reflections used to demonstrate key skills and accomplishments for a variety of contexts and time periods.
There are several types of digital portfolios, but for this post we’ll focus on academic portfolios. A personal portfolio might draw upon experiences listed in an academic portfolio. An academic portfolio primarily consist of a number of course portfolios combined into a holistic portfolio of work completed in a program. A professional portfolio might incorporate important items from an academic portfolio while considering events after the completion of an academic program.
Academic digital portfolios typically include the following elements:
- Evidence – Show me what you’ve learned. Individually or collaboratively collect, archive, and present evidence of learning over time.
- Reflection – Show me what you think about your learning. Students consider and discuss their perspectives on their work process and product. This documentation of thinking helps develop metacognitive skills and comprehension of content.
- Assessment – Let’s talk about your evidence and reflection. This ongoing discussion focuses on feedback about the assembled materials in the portfolio. This feedback loop may be provided by others (instructor, peers) or in some cases may be a self-assessment.
Benefits of digital portfolios
Digital portfolios are a valuable learning & assessment tool that supports multimodal learning & expression, and increases student engagement while making learning visible. There are many reasons why you you might create one.
Digital portfolios benefit students by providing opportunities for more authentic, contextual learning. They also may increase engagement with course or program content by improving skills recognition and metacognition. Finally, they develop a student’s self-publishing skills and sense of agency in the learning process.
Digital portfolios benefit educators and instructors by enhancing and expanding literacy and learning within or across courses. Portfolios provide a structure for more frequent feedback on student work. These assembled materials allow educators to view evidence of student learning and growth over time. This provides a broader context of student learning and achievement.
Essential elements of a digital portfolio
As indicated earlier, this post primarily focuses on the use of digital portfolios for academic purposes. In this capacity, there are six characteristics students and educators must consider while developing and presenting these materials.
- Purpose – What is the overall purpose of the portfolio? How do these materials support and present learning?
- Authorship – Who is chiefly responsible for assembling, editing, and revising the portfolio? Is this a collaborative effort on the part of the student, educator(s), and peers?
- Audience – Who is the primary, or intended audience for the portfolio? Is this primarily for the student or self? Peers? Instructors? Credentialing authority? Future employers?
- Privacy – How public and/or private will the portfolio remain while under construction? How public and/or private will the portfolio (or portions of it) be when completed?
- Structure of composition – How formal will the portfolio be upon completion? Is there a general structure all portfolios must follow? Is this structure determined by the educator and/or students? What design and/or visual elements is the student allowed to include in the process or final project?
- Motivation – What is the primary motivation or reason for the development of this portfolio? Is the work process and/or work product assessed (self, peer, instructor)?
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