The Expert:

Denis McGrath

With over 15 years’ experience in the fields of technology-enhanced learning and academic development, Denis has worked internationally within the corporate educational technology and higher education sectors. He has 10 years’ experience of working alongside healthcare-related professions in this capacity.

Their View:

Portfolios enable professionals to demonstrate aptitude, skill, competencies and knowledge in a given field and are commonly used in nursing and across other professions.

Contemporary portfolios are likely to be presented electronically. These electronic portfolios (e-portfolios) are usually web-based collections of evidence which are assembled, curated and managed by an end user. This electronic evidence may include a variety of artefacts including images, text, video, audio, online journal entries and links to other web-based resources. Where institutional or professional components are mandated, such as in the Nursing Council approved Professional Development and Recognition Programmes (PDRP), there may be certain components that a student must fulfil, e.g. a home page, a learning log, a critical evaluation report or reflective commentary.1

Fundamentally, however, an e-portfolio is a personal tool in which the user is ultimately responsible for demonstrating professional or educational proficiency. Users can demonstrate their achievements and competencies via the selection of artefacts, tools and components that are created and cultivated. E-portfolio users can tailor certain aspects of their e-portfolio to cater for different viewers and may make viewable sections for multiple purposes and diverse audiences. E-portfolios can be shared with other peers and various Communities of Practice to share and disseminate information.

E-portfolios encourage users to reflect on personal contributions at work, challenges faced, measures employed to overcome those challenges, and lessons learned. E-portfolios provide a vehicle to present this information to others and, coupled with recognition certification or innovations such as digital badges, can powerfully demonstrate an individual’s contribution to an organisation. Cumulative long-term development of an e-portfolio reinforces learning, enabling users to show (to themselves and others) how they are building skillsets and improving their professional prospects.

E-portfolios help users develop their critical-thinking skills, in turn helping users to develop workplace competencies and a better understanding of their ‘place’ in the organisation and the ‘agency’ they have as individuals. This fosters autonomous and independent ways of thinking, which is consistent with the principles and values of self-directed adult learning.2,3,4

E-portfolios are constantly rearranged, curated and pruned. This encourages users to think about the e-portfolio as a whole and to consider how it will be cultivated, developed and portrayed over long periods of time. This motivates users to become concerned with how the collective work portrays them.5,6

E-portfolios can create a ‘learner-centric knowledge environment’ that supports learner engagement by putting users at the centre of the e-portfolio development process. 7

Through this engagement, users can benefit from deep learning potential. E-portfolios can help enhance lifelong-learning and the creation of ‘Lifetime Personal Web Spaces’, richly documented life-long journals, which users can take throughout their education and working lives, transferring relevant content from school to higher education, to employment and into retirement.8

E-portfolios facilitate open, social, collaborative learning that is blind to geographical boundaries and can be considered ‘social’ software, like Facebook or Twitter. Social software encourages a more ‘human approach to interactivity on the web’ that is fundamentally changing educational practices. It encourages interaction between users, improves motivation, and fuels more collaborative relationships between users and moderators, instructors and managers.9

Social software amplifies the trend away from managers and instructors as sole creators or purveyors of knowledge towards a facilitative approach with end-users as co-creators in curricular design and content creation. Studies within academia have shown numerous examples of students and educators effectively co-producing digital content leading to meaningful involvement in the design of learning. This encourages autonomous and self-directed learning, an equally relevant dynamic for the professional workplace.10,11



  1. Zubizarreta, J. (2009). The learning portfolio: Reflective practice for improving student learning. Jossey-Bass.
  2. Strivens, J. (2007). A survey of e-pdp and e-portfolio practice in UK Higher Education. Higher Education, 2
  3. Knowles, M. S. (1975). Self-directed learning. New York: Association Press.
  4. Pintrich, P. R., & Zusho, A. (2007). Student motivation and self-regulated learning in the college classroom. The scholarship of teaching and learning in higher education: An evidence-based perspective. Springer (pp. 731-810).
  5. Batson, T. (2002). The electronic portfolio boom: What’s it all about. Campus Technology, 11
  6. Qin, C., Mei, F., & Fancai, Z. (2012). Exploration of E-portfolio IC2 Innovative Management Model to Promote the Professional Development of University Teachers. Global Journal of Human Social Science Research, 12(10-E)
  7. Tosh, D., & Werdmuller, B. (2004). Creation of a learning landscape: weblogging and social networking in the context of e-portfolios. Online Retrieved June, 16, 2013.
  8. Cohn, E. R., & Hibbitts, B. J. (2004). Beyond the electronic portfolio: A lifetime personal web space. Educause Quarterly, 27(4), 7-11.
  9. Kamel Boulos, M. N., & Wheeler, S. (2007). The emerging Web 2.0 social software: an enabling suite of sociable technologies in health and health care education1. Health Information & Libraries Journal, 24(1), 2-23.
  10. Conole, G., & Alevizou, P. (2010). A literature review of the use of Web 2.0 tools in Higher Education. A Report Commissioned by the Higher Education Academy.
  11. McLoughlin, C., & Lee, M. J. (2010). Personalised and self regulated learning in the Web 2.0 era: International exemplars of innovative pedagogy using social software. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 26(1), 28-43.

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