by Jen Epler
English Department
Delaware Technical Community College
Wilmington Campus

We’ve all heard about artists and writers, both students and professionals, amassing their published or exhibited creations in a portfolio to use as calling cards for future work. We also know in academia and business, faculty and professionals chronicle their accomplishments in portfolios to leverage new jobs or promotions. And even here at Delaware Tech, new hires working their way through the New Faculty Development Program will create their own e-portfolios to document their progress as emerging educators.

A recent article in The Wall Street Journal about student e-portfolios got me thinking about how students at the community college level could benefit from this long-term investment in academic self-reflection. The article suggests that a recent trend to require student e-portfolios is driven by a competitive job market. In fact, a recent survey of 318 employers found that “a large majority of employers say an electronic portfolio demonstrating a student’s work and key skill and knowledge areas would be useful in evaluating potential candidates for hire.” Although a large number of employers have expressed interest in such products from potential employees, according to The Wall Street Journal, they admit that their own recruitment and screening practices haven’t advanced enough to make good use of them. So, why ask students to develop e-portfolios if it won’t help them get a job? The article proposes that some colleges are touting e-portfolios as a valuable tool for student reflection that will translate well in the job interview process and beyond.

The English Department at our Wilmington Campus implemented paper portfolios for about 15 years at the developmental level. Students were asked to compile and organize their assignments and write a reflective letter to an outside evaluator about their experience in the course. The exercise held both students and faculty accountable to specific standards.

While we no longer require paper portfolios, the idea still has merit, especially if it is revamped to include the latest technology (there are several e-portfolio products available on the market), a broadened academic focus (not just English), and a place to highlight student-campus engagement (volunteerism, club participation, sports, and mentoring to name a few).

In addition to providing a mechanism to engage students in their own success, student e-portfolios could…

  • Encourage retention. The more time a student invests in building a portfolio, the harder it may be to walk away from.
  • Encourage a commitment to quality. The e-portfolio would reflect a student’s personal quality standards.
  • Instill a sense of pride and ownership in academic accomplishments.
  • Encourage synthesis of cross-disciplinary academic experiences.
  • Demonstrate a link between course content and personal experience.
  • Provide a vehicle to showcase diverse learning and communication styles (audio clips, video, visuals, and written content).
  • Encourage healthy competition between students through an e-portfolio “showcase” event.
  • Reinforce the value of the diploma with tangible evidence of professional and academic growth and success.

For more information on e-portfolios, as well as a few quality examples, check out this resource from TeachOnline.


If you have used portfolios in your classes, how have they benefited you and your students? If you haven’t used them, do you think they might fit in your class? Leave a comment and let us know.

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