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January 27, 2016 — Leave a comment

The minimalist definition of an eportfolio:

a learner’s digital evidence of meaningful connections

Can portfolios really be defined so simply and succinctly as a learner’s digital evidence of meaningful connections? I think they have to be considering the following:

  • Learning is the making of meaningful connections (see related posts meaningful connections).
  • Eportfolios are a learner’s digital evidence of learning.
  • Therefore eportfolios are a learner’s digital evidence of meaningful connections.

I have also been reviewing the literature on eportfolios ever since the term has been developed over 20 years ago and there is no shortage of definitions and debates on what constitutes an eportfolio. Furthermore, the literature is filled with obtuse (see post Our work doesnt’ have to be obtuse to be important ) academic writing that is all too often challenging to read and detracts for the usefulness of the eportfolio discussion and process. It is my hope to reduce or simplify the definition of an eportfolio and not add any unnecessary complexity.

However, if my minimalist definition doesn’t offer enough substance, then I suggest that you refer to a 2007 CETIS SIG mailing list discussion between Sutherland and Powell where they ratified the following definition before the mailing list audience:

An e-portfolio is a purposeful aggregation of digital items – ideas, evidence, reflections, feedback etc, which ‘presents’ a selected audience with evidence of a person’s learning and/or ability.

While this definition is somewhat expanded it really doesn’t say that much more or offer any more significance than the proposed minimalist definition. The more we add to the definition the more we start moving into a discussion of the why, or purpose, of portfolios and how we create them. I will be writing about the Why and the How of eportfolios in future posts.

For those who need to know more or see a more thorough handling of the definition of eportfolios please refer to the following links:

Dr. Helen Barrett, the most renowned proponent of portfolios/eportfolios offers the following definition and links to supporting essays on her Frequently-Asked Questions about Electronic Portfolios page. Barrett argues that there are two types of portfolios, the working and presentation portfolio, and that we need to combine both types to be most effective. While she is correct, she unfortunately overlooks the fact that modern tools like WordPress enable the learner to do both the working and presentation portfolio into one site.

University of British Columbia (UBC) Eportfolios – What is it? UBC has been working with eportfolios for several years and their toolkit approach to using eportfolios provides a useful and pragmatic starting point.

University of Waterloo – ePortfolios Explained. Another good starting point for learning about the eportfolio process.

JISC eportfolio – Perhaps on the most compressive sites on the eportfolio.

Alverno College has one of the longest traditions (since the 70’s) of using a portfolio as part of their assessment-as-learning process. They currently use the Diagnostic Digital Portfolio (DPP) which enables the learner to follow their learning progress throughout their student career at Alverno.

Barrett, H. C. (2000). Electronic Portfolios–A chapter in Educational Technology; An Encyclopedia to be published by ABC-CLIO, 2001. Retrieved from

Barrett, H. (2000). Electronic Teaching Portfolios: Multimedia Skills+ Portfolio Development= Powerful Professional Development. Retrieved from

Sutherland, S. and Powell, A. (2007), CETIS SIG mailing list discussions. Retrieved from