Example – ePortfolio

What is the technique?

It is generally accepted that an academic ePortfolio is a digital collection created by a student of their course-related work, such as essays, posters, photographs, videos, and artwork; academic ePortfolios can also capture other aspects of a student's life, such as volunteer experiences, employment history, extracurricular activities, and more. More specifically, as the center for teaching excellence of the University of Waterloo (Canada) underlines: “... a good academic ePortfolio represents a process – specifically, the process of generating new or deeper learning by reflecting on one’s existing learning.” That is to say that “... ePortfolios differ from Learning Management Systems in two key ways: ownership and control”.

EPortfolios can have diverse purposes: evaluation (of coursework, learning processes, academic achievement), validation (of standards, grades or graduation), reflection (on academic goals and progress), archiving (academic work products or documentation). In the example presented here, the ePortfolios are implemented to facilitate reflective, intercultural learning for students studying internationally. In the course, “Intercultural Learning : Identity Practices,” students set up and add reflective writing exercises to an ePortfolio over the course of a 13-week semester.

Which learning objectives or competences does it support, and how?

EPortfolios offer a platform on which students can keep track of their own thoughts, ideas, and see change over time. This can facilitate creating narratives or telling stories about their own experiences and learning. In “Intercultural Learning : Identity Practices,” students are asked to reflect specifically on how they will integrate their experiences and learning during their time abroad into their future social, intellectual, and professional lives.

The flexibility of a digital form of portfolios, means that students can include various media: images, audio, videos, links to websites, etc. In this course, students are asked to take on the intellectually, and perhaps also emotionally challenging task of critically reflecting on issues of a social, civic, and global nature. This flexibility of allowing students to incorporate various media means that they can approach this critical reflection creatively and tailor it to their own interests and experiences.

Furthermore, ePortfolios offer an easy way to share their work with their instructors or with other students. In “Intercultural Learning : Identity Practices,” students choose writing activities to make accessible to their classmates on two occastions. They then read some of their classmates’ work and are asked to respond on the online platform, creating space for students to learn socially and collaboratively, even in an online environment. By reading the way their peers express their experiences, they may be also better able to reflect on how their own experiences are similar or unique.

Please also see more information about using ePortfolios to support learning objectives in courses in the CREATES Toolkit for Co-creative Learning.

How can this tool be implemented?

Teachers interested in implementing ePortfolios in their courses should think first about why and how they want to guide students towards more reflection and responsibility in their learning processes. What are the pedagogical goals they want students to achieve? What is the best pedagogical approach and scenario in that aim? Teachers should list reflexive activities they want students to engage in. For each activity, they should prepare practical information (i.e. types and uses of ePortfolios, components to integrate, etc.) as well as detailed explanations (guidelines for accessing, collecting, reflecting and showing information) to support learners along the way.

Choosing the actual digital tool should occur afterwards. Teachers can determine whether students will use free ePortfolios of their choice or one offered by the institution. Obviously, using an ePortfolio provided by the university will be more easy and efficient.


Challenges or limitations to expect

A successful use of ePortfolios in teaching requires:

  • An ambitious pedagogical strategy, combined with a clear vision of the teaching and learning opportunities, both strongly supported by the institution (i.e. university executive, directory board)
  • Well-planned rules of action, calendar and technical implementation (i.e. IT teams)
  • Clear directions for students and academics to access support, adopt and use the ePortfolio tool for educational activities
  • High-quality documentation and support offered to users (staff, faculty and students)
  • Enthusiastic (even though small) communities of faculty members, students and staff members engaged in eportfolios’ use
  • Cyclic assessment of implementation progress, so as to share successes and failures of the project

The absence of these elements might contribute to resistance or failure in the adoption of ePortfolios. Lack of understanding and fear of being overwhelmed can make the adoption of ePortfolios problematic.


Resources Needed

Given the challenges or limitations in adoption of ePortfolios, the use of these tools in teaching in higher education should at least involve the following parties:

  • Institutions convinced in the benefits of active and engaged in reflexive teaching and learning strategies
  • IT departments ready to support technical implementation
  • Teachers interested in highlighting the individual development of their students within the frame of the course (focusing on learning, personal development, skills and future plans), as well as guiding and monitoring continually their students’ reflexive processes
  • Students motivated by the possibility of managing their learning process more actively and more independently
  • Alumni, career services and employers (at the steps of leaving the university or starting a first job / changing job)



Roth, P., Spang Bovey, N., Restrepo Zea, C., Hediger, A.,  Keller, S. and Berg, E. (2014). Guidelines for ePorfolios in higher education. Part of the Switch Project UNIGE.9. https://wp.unil.ch/selfpad/files/2014/11/Guidelines_ePortfolio1.pdf (see also https://projects.switch.ch/aaa/projects/detail/UNIGE.9).

Uí Choistealbha, J. (2018). The benefits and challenges of using ePortfolios. In I. Kunnari & M. Laurikainen (eds.) Students’ perspectives in ePortfolios.  HAMK Unlimited Journal 31.1.2018. Retrieved [2020] from: https://unlimited.hamk.fi/ammatillinen-osaaminen-ja-opetus/the-benefits-and-challenges-of-using-eportfolios/#.X4BuumczbFQ

Fisher, M.B., Hill, A.J. (2015). Eportfolio Adoption and Implementation in a Multiple Campus University Environment - a Reflection on Opportunities and Challenges Emerging When Engaging Academic Staff and Students in Adoption of Eportfolio Technologies Implemented in Learning and Teaching at Australian Catholic University. Literacy information and computer education journal, 6(1), 1821-1826. https://infonomics-society.org/wp-content/uploads/ijcdse/published-papers/volume-8-2017/Eportfolio-Implementation-in-a-Multiple-Campus-University-Environment-6%E2%80%93Academic-Teacher-Continuous-Improvement.pdf 

A example of ePortfolio implementation in a course

Example Course Syllabus: “Intercultural Learning: Identity Practices”

This course syllabus is submitted as part of "Designing ePortfolio Pedagogies to foster Intercultural Learning in Double-Degree Programmes."

The syllabus described below was designed within the frame of USPC-NUS Joint Innovation Project in Higher Education in 2017 and delivered by the end of 2018 at NUS. This course’s syllabus was chosen because it is a very convincing example of how practical self-advising activities can help students process, critically reflect, and integrate multiple experiences, while building on lessons learnt in previous years.

Course Description

Experiences of studying abroad have the potential to not only be sources of cultural learning but intellectually and emotionally rich episodes that can contribute to self assessment and self advising (inside and outside university life, regarding who students are and what their ethical and intellectual commitments might be). 

Intercultural Learning provides a space in students' curriculum that actively and purposefully helps them process, critically reflect, and integrate such experiences. It focuses on getting students to reflect on a specific dimension of their international learning experience while building on their experiences and lessons learnt in the previous years.

Intercultural Learning : Identity Practices is the first unit. This unit focuses on the first year spent abroad and the ways in which students experience and come to negotiate the challenges of culture shock and adjustment. It asks students to critically reflect on how their culture informs their sense and expression of self and how that gets adapted in the context of a new cultural setting.


Course Objectives

To help students make the most of their international learning experience, this course aims to:

  1. To provide resources, strategies, and feedback for them to critically reflect on and integrate their different cultural learning experiences.
  2. To prompt and enable deeper understanding of the social-political-cultural contexts of their host country.
  3. To prompt and enable awareness of the global scope of issues and events in a multicultural and globalized society.
  4. To help students understand the value of intercultural learning experiences and the skills acquired through them.
  5. To promote reflection on how students can integrate their new perspectives, knowledge and skills into their own future intellectual, ethical, and professional commitments.


Learning Outcomes

The learning outcomes are aimed at cultivating globally engaged students sensitive and adaptable to the demands of multicultural societies. To do so, these outcomes are geared towards developing the skills of critical reflection and connection-making across five dimensions of the students international learning journey:

  1. Identity practices
  2. Social and civic Issues
  3. Knowledge-production
  4. Global engagement and citizenship
  5. Cross-cultural communication


Course Structure

This course was designed to be conducted entirely online. As in a conventional classroom, students will still be asked to engage with readings, do activities, interact with classmates, and submit assignments. Throughout the course, the instructor will provide feedback--both in writing and through online individual conferences--on your work. Students will have many opportunities to consult with the instructor and classmates on individual progress.

Intercultural Learning : Identity Practices is organized around seven sections. Each section contains a series of videos, activities, readings, and opportunities for discussion. Students are expected to complete each section sequentially and must complete the section and all its activities and assignments within the section’s allocated time frame. For example, students must begin with Section I which starts in Week 1 before they can move on to Section II which starts in Week 2. Students must have done all the work for Section I by the end of Week 1. The instructor will be looking at each student’s work and progress at the end of each section to ensure that students are following the course accordingly.

A summary of Intercultural Learning : Identity Practices’ seven sections are as follows:

  • Section I: Introduction (Week 1)
  • Section II: What is Critical Reflection? (Week 2)
  • Section III: Generating and Collecting Data 1--Starting from the Self (Week 3-4)
  • Section IV: Generating and Collecting Data 2--Observing and Comparing (Week 5-6)
  • Section V: Turning data into critical reflection (Week 7-9)
  • Section VI: Writing your critical reflection essay (Week 10-12)
  • Section VII: “What a year!”--Reflecting on reflection and setting the stage for Unit 2, Intercultural Learning II: Social Issues (Week 13)



The assignments in the course are designed to prompt critical reflection. They are all entirely dependent on each student’s willingness to seriously and truthfully reflect on his / her experiences. Each assignment builds on the previous assignments in crucial ways and in many instances provides the resources needed to move on to the next assignment.

An overview of the assignments is as follows:

  1. ePortfolio set-up & organization (5%)
  2. Participation (15%)
  3. Writing Exercises (30%)
  4. Critical reflection essay on Identity Practices (30%)
  5. Reflection Letter (20%)


Week-by-Week Syllabus

Section I – Introduction (Week 1)

This section will introduce students to three things: 1) the course’s aims and structure; 2) its technical logistics; and 3) the key concepts of the module--culture, identity, and critical reflection. The activities are designed to get students to begin the habit of documenting their experiences with particular attention to their first week of being aboard.

Videos:  Welcome and Course Overview / Setting Up & Getting Organized / Key Concepts--Culture, Identity & Critical Reflection

Reading: Choi, J. (2017) Creating a multivocal self: autoethnography as method, Routledge: New York.

Activities: Watch videos / Online eportfolio site setup / Write a short text about an episode or an object from first week abroad that stood out and elaborate on why it stood out / Upload the text onto website.

Class discussions: 30 minutes online class (synchronous) for general introductions / Online forum discussion (asynchronous, response to 2 classmates’ posts {response guide provided})

Instructor-student conference: one 2 hour online “office hours” for students to ask the instructor any questions regarding the course, setting up, etc..


Section II – What is Critical Reflection? (Week 2)

This section introduces students to the practice of critical reflection -- what it is and how to go about practicing it.

Videos: What is Critical Reflection? / What are Artifacts and how to use them?

Readings: Choi, J. (2017) Creating a multivocal self: autoethnography as method, Routledge: New York.

Activities: Watch videos / Rewrite past week elaborations with Choi’s four concepts (broader social issue ; values/attitudes/assumptions/prior experiences ; omissions or emphasises ; explanation)

No Class discussions

Instructor-student conference: individual conferences with students individually to discuss writing exercise


Section III – Generating and Collecting Data 1: Starting from the Self (Week 3-4)

This section begins the actual work of generating and collecting data for critical reflection. It focuses on the self and the cultural/personal/familial practices that shape identity. The activities are designed to prompt such an attention and the information produced serves as the materials students will use when writing their critical reflection essay.

Video: How to collect & generate data for reflection / Explaining our methods I

Readings: Choi, J. (2017) Creating a multivocal self: autoethnography as method, Routledge: New York / Chang, Heewon (2016) Autoethnography as Method, Routledge: New York / S. Jones S., Adams T. & Ellis C. (2013) Handbook of Autoethnography, Chap. 1, Routledge: New York.

Activities: Watch videos / Culture-gram / Autobiographical Timeline I / Routines I / Inventory the Self

Class discussion: Make one writing activity accessible to classmates / Read 2 classmates’ posts + write a response (response guide provided).

Instructor-student conference: one 2 hour online “office hours” for students to ask the instructor any questions regarding the data-collecting activities.


Section IV – Generating and Collecting Data 2: Self and Others (Week 5-6)

Beginning of the task of reflecting on cultural and identity practices in the context of a new cultural setting. Activities are hence more comparative in nature, designed to get students to see how they are positioned within the new cultural environment and how that might inform their sense of self and understanding of the new culture.

Videos: Method explanation

Readings: Chang, Heewon (2016) Autoethnography as Method, Routledge: New York / McGraw-Hill (2002) 75 thematic readings: An anthology (Chap. II: Education & learning), Chapter by Hooks, New York / Hanson, S. (2017) “Unlearning the myth of american innocence”, The Guardian, August 8th, 2017 / Boylorn R.M., Orbe M.P. (2014) Critical autoethnography: Intersecting cultural identities in everyday life, (chapter 5), Walnut Creek: Left Coast Press.

Activities: Watch videos / Routines II / Autobiography Timeline II (Adaptation of the U-curve model culture shock) / Autobiographical Timeline III (Border-Crossing) / Interpreting and evaluating (Description-Interpretation-Evaluation (D-I-E) model) / Tensions I and II

Class discussion: Online forum discussion / Make two writing activities accessible to classmates / Read 2 classmates’ posts and write a response (response guide provided)

Instructor-student conference: one 2 hour online “office hours” for students to ask the instructor any questions regarding the data-collecting activities.


Section V – Analyzing and Interpreting Data: Turning data into critical reflection (Weeks 7-9)

Time to interpret and analyze what students have produced as a means toward critical reflection. The activities in this section are designed to help students turn the material they’ve produced into a coherent critical reflective narrative. They do so by first getting them to identify a theme/issue across materials that one would like to focus on for his / her critical reflection essay. students are guided in selecting one theoretical lens with which to analyze their material and substantiate their critical reflection.

Videos: Analyzing and Interpreting data

Readings: Chang, Heewon (2016) Autoethnography as Method, Routledge: New York / Hughes S.A. , & Pennington J.L. (2016) Autoethnography: Process, product, and possibility for critical social research, Sage: California / Bennett T., L. Grossberg L. & M. Morris M. (2005) New keywords: A revised vocabulary of culture and society, Blackwell: Oxford.

Activities: Watch videos / Read one of the references / Global reviewing of texts written throughout this module (search for recurring topics / exceptional occurrences / analyse inclusion + omission / connect or compare the past with the present {research plan + theory reading worksheet + theoretical lens provided})

No Class Discussion

Instructor-student consultation: individual conference with each student to discuss his / her choice of theoretical lens and how he / she plans to apply it to his /her material.


Section VI – Writing your critical reflection essay (Week 10-12)

Students have generated, interpreted, and analyzed their materials for reflection. The only task left to do is to transform this analysis into a coherent piece of writing. This section helps sifting through reflections such that they begin to come together into a more focused statement about students’ relationship to their own identity practices and how they are shaped by and have changed their learning contexts, both in their home and at Sciences Po. Further, this section helps students develop their focus into an organized, 1,000-word critical reflection.

Video: Writing a Critical Reflection Post

Readings: Dethier, B. (2013) 21 Genres and How to Write Them, Logan: Utah State University Press. Chapters “Focus”, “Organize”, “Draft” and “Revise”.

Activities: Watch video / Read Dethier’s chapters / autonomous work on a three-sentence description of what each student plans to write in his / her post on the online forum / write and revise the draft of the essay.

No Class Discussion

Instructor-Student Consultation: individual conference with each student to discuss their choice of theoretical lens and how they plan to apply it to their material.


Section VII – “What a year!”--Reflecting on reflection and setting the stage for Unit 2   (Week 13)

Students have, over the course of thirteen weeks, documented and reflected on their experiences studying and living overseas. What have they learnt during this process of intentional reflection? How might this experience inform the rest of their time abroad? How might it inform their reflective work in Unit 2 of this course?

Videos: Course Review and What to Expect in Unit 2, Intercultural Learning II: Social Issues

No Readings

Activity: posting the reflection letter to ePortfolio (a short, 500-word letter to future self that takes a slightly reflective stance toward the process of investigating one’s own life and critically reflecting on it. This letter should be conversational in nature, less argumentative than previous critical reflection. What was the easiest writing task this semester? What was the most difficult? What was more or less valuable for you to think about? Do you feel at home in your host city? In your host campus? Why? Why not?)

No Class Discussion

No Instructor-student conference