A portfolio (also known as an eportfolio, e-portfolio, or digital portfolio) is a collection of electronic evidence assembled and managed by a user, usually on the Web.
Such electronic evidence may include inputted text, electronic files, images, multimedia, blog entries, and hyperlinks. E-portfolios are both demonstrations of the user's abilities and platforms for self-expression, and, if they are online, they can be maintained dynamically over time. Some e-portfolio applications permit varying degrees of audience access, so the same portfolio might be used for multiple purposes. According to Anderson, e-portfolios can then go viral and be passed on to be easily viewed by many on the web.
E-portfolios also help to foster an independent and autonomous way of thinking, according to Strivens. This is in large part because people must focus on their collective work, think about how it will be portrayed, and what the work says about them as an individual. The individual is then in charge of their learning and the choice of where to demonstrate their proficiency. People are also forced to reflect on what they have learned and how they plan to build and improve in the future. This helps people to become better critical thinkers and helps them to develop their writing and multimedia skills. Today, many students are using multimedia such as Facebook, Twitter, and texting--all informal settings. The electronic portfolio, on the other hand, is a more formal setting where students must apply both their knowledge of how the web works and the message they want to convey. In this sense, students' use and comfort with the web at times can he a hindrance if they are not taught to use electronic portfolios in the correct fashion, suggests Lane. Many universities and schools are currently working to make sure that students are gaining practice and experience with electronic portfolios so that they are able to use them to the best of their ability. For example, in places like Michigan students can earn the MCOATT (Michigan Certificate of Outstanding Achievement in Teaching Technology) for submitting an electronic portfolio which demonstrates evidence of technology being used in the classroom. This consortium is an organization aimed to make Michigan one of the leaders in integrating technology into the training of young professionals.
An e-portfolio can be seen as a type of learning record that provides actual evidence of achievement. Learning records are closely related to the Learning Plan, an emerging tool that is being used to manage learning by individuals, teams, communities of interest, and organizations. To the extent that a Personal Learning Environment captures and displays a learning record, it also might be understood to be an electronic portfolio.
Students have been taught to create digital identities using presentation software or tools to create web pages. More recently the use of virtual learning environments (VLEs) in schools and universities has led to an increased activity in the creation of e-portfolios for a variety of reasons. Most of these e-portfolios, however, are retained within the VLE and are not easily accessed outside the VLE. This results in problems of exporting data and related interoperability issues. An alternative approach is to use a system externally provided to an institution. This permits transition through the various stages of education and employments and even into retirement.
E-portfolios, like traditional portfolios, can facilitate students' reflection on their own learning, leading to more awareness of learning strategies and needs. Results of a comparative research, byM. van Wesel and Prop, between paper-based portfolios and electronic portfolios in the same setting, suggest use of an electronic portfolio leads to better learning outcomes.