SAT: e-Portfolios: innovative practice in higher education (Laila Burton)

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Laila Burton
12 January 2016

Graduates are entering a competitive and continuously evolving graduate labour market with unprecedented levels of student loan debt, which is understandably making prospective students more mindful of whether they will see a return on their investment. Higher education is undoubtedly going to be a more significant financial commitment for many students if the Government raises tuition fees further in line with the Teaching Excellence Framework, as proposed in its green paper on higher education published in November 2015 (Department for Business Innovation and Skills, 2015, p.13). Consequently, students are increasingly looking for qualifications that will enhance their employability in order to secure a graduate job and it is incumbent on universities to support students in this endeavour (Browne, 2010). Employability has been on the higher education policy landscape for some time and it is emphasised in the Government’s green paper on higher education.

Since the 1997 Dearing Report recommended universities develop their approaches to personal development planning (PDP) there has been increasing use of e-portfolios to help students articulate their employability skills (Pegg et al., 2012, p.28). A survey carried out in 2014 highlighted that 78% of universities now have a centrally supported e-portfolio tool (UCISA, 2014, p.28). Despite this increasing prevalence of e-portfolios a study commissioned by Jisc suggests that universities need to use technology more effectively to support employability (Chatterton and Rebbeck, 2015, p.2).

There are a range of e-portfolio tools that universities currently use with students, from commercial software like PebblePad, to open source tools such as Mahara and WordPress. It has been predicted that as students become more digitally confident they will want access to a wide range of e-portfolio tools that they can tailor to their own individual needs (Norman, 2015). However, if universities fail to provide a common e-portfolio platform it could result in an unsupportable provision that is confusing for students. So how do universities achieve a balance between meeting students’ individual needs and providing a feasible solution for all?

This session will explore these issues and share the outputs from this project, which explored innovative approaches to using open source e-portfolio tools across the higher education sector. The aims of the session are to:

  • explore the employability agenda in the higher education policy landscape;
  • provide insight into the role of e-portfolios as a tool for enhancing students’ employability in higher education;
  • describe some of the key e-portfolio tools used in higher education;
  • highlight case studies of innovative practice in implementing open source e-portfolio tools;
  • consider some of the issues that need to be taken into account when considering the implementation of an e-portfolio tool.

After the session participants should have an overview of e-portfolio tools, be familiar with some examples of innovative practice and be aware of some of the current issues surrounding the implementation of e-portfolios in higher education.


Browne, J. (2010) Securing a sustainable future for higher education: an independent review of higher education funding and student finance [online]. Available at: (last accessed 3 January 2016).

Chatterton, P. & Rebbeck, G. (2015) Quick read report: Technology for employability [online]. Available at: (last accessed 6 January 2016).

Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (2015) Fulfilling our potential: teaching excellence, social mobility and student choice [online]. Available at: (last accessed 6 November 2015).

Norman, D. (2015) UCalgary ePortfolio Platform [online]. Available at: (last accessed 23 December 2015).  

Pegg, A., Waldock, J., Hendy-Isaac, S. & Lawton, R. (2012) Pedagogy for employability [online]. Available at: accessed 29 December 2015).

UCISA: Universities and Colleges Information Systems Association (2014) 2014 Survey of Technology Enhanced Learning for higher education in the UK [online]. Available at: 2014 Final 18 August.ashx (last accessed 9 November 2015).


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