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Implementation: key principles for success

The exemplars within this toolkit were judged to meet the five key principles for successful e-portfolio implementation that was an outcome of a prior study of effective practice (Joyes and Gray, 2010).

The key to effective practice as shown in the e-portfolio implementation model in figure 1 is to: 

  1. Recognise that e-portfolio implementation involves a developmental journey for all those involved
  2. Apply the e-portfolio implementation principles throughout this journey


 Figure 1: The e-portfolio implementation model  - the key implementation principles applied across one instance of adoption 

The table of e-portfolio implementation guidance for practitioners below sets out the key issues for practitioners together with statements of effective practice that are related to a consideration of the e-portfolio implementation principles.  The statements of effective practice are supported by some links to the case studies and to resources and events that were noted to support the development of effective practice.  This may be a helpful point of reference when thinking through your own implementation. However, you will know your own context best - the key for success is the application of the principles to your context. Further guidance may be found within Effective Practice with e-Portfolios (JISC, 2008) and the e-Portfolios infoKit (JISC, 2008).

 Table 1:  e-portfolio implementation guidance for practitioners 


implementation principles 

The key issues from a practitioner perspective

Statements of effective practice with links to examples from the e-portfolio implementation case studies

1. Purpose needs to be aligned to context to maximise benefits.

The diversity of purposes for e-portfolios can lead to misunderstandings and ineffective implementation. There needs to be clarity over this at the start the implementation.

2. Learning activity needs to be designed to suit the purpose.

Familiarity with the e-portfolio tool is needed in order to understand what learning activities it can support. 

This enables:

  • conscious pedagogic decisions to be made about use ;
  • an understanding of the scaffolding students need to carry out the e-portfolio based learning activity.

3. Processes need to be supported technologically and pedagogically.

Support for the technology can be offered centrally and e-portfolio tools may offer some generic  pedagogic support, e.g. for action planning.


However what is required for processes such as reflection and presentation may vary across courses and so there is a need for course specific support.


It is important not to underestimate the level of support needed for both staff and students who may lack technical and/or the 'new' learning skills such as reflection.

4. Ownership needs to be student centred.

Both learners and those they need to share their e-portfolios with, need to access the e-portfolios to support the learning activity and understand the expected learning outcomes; but the e-portfolio in process needs to be private to the individual learner.

How can the learner understand the value of the learner centred part of this process until they have experienced it?

How can access be provided in all contexts including work based learning ones?

  • It is recognised that, even though the purpose within a taught course will have been defined by the lecturer rather than by the learner, the e-portfolio is a personal and private space whilst in construction, and elements of it are shared only when the learner decides to share them. It is also recognised that this aspect of e-portfolios has implications for some students with learning difficulties - see Thanet College case study .

  • The e-portfolio is made available to all students and staff for use during their studies alongside the careful integration in courses - there is evidence that this results in rapid uptake  by students, e.g.,  Birmingham City University and Southampton Solent University, that provides a learning environment that encourages peer support. 

  • The ability to use the e-portfolio and/or export this to other e-portfolios beyond the period of study is provided for.

  • Student voice should be used to promote effective use - see the Business studies at Birmingham City University student video, also this video of students on a construction course at Dumfries and Galloway College  and this  University of Wolverhampton student reflection.  

5. Transformation (disruption) needs to be planned for.


The benefits and implications of using the e-portfolio in a particular context are unlikely to be fully understood by others outside that context.

This means that in spite of all the guidance and support that is available, a careful consideration of the ways the context may be unique and ongoing feedback from users is needed to ensure effective implementation.

  • It is understood that each particular instance of e-portfolio use is likely to mean new practice will need to be developed  by learners and those who are supporting them.

  • The implications of this ‘new’ practice are planned for. This has been covered in 1, 2 and 3 above and the case studies provide examples of carefully thought through implementations.

  • Evaluation of practice needs to be ongoing. This was a key feature within the case studies  and wider evaluation of pilot use of e-portfolios was common, in some cases more formal evaluation occurred - see the University of Bradford and Southampton Solent University case studies.




JISC (2008) Effective Practice with e-Portfolios

JISC (2008) e-Portfolios infoKit

Joyes, G. and Gray, L. (2010) The trouble with e-portfolio implementation: A threshold concepts perspective In The PDP newsletter Issue 20


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