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Definition of "ePortfolio"

Posted By Walden Teagan, Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Updated: Friday, October 18, 2013

September 18th, 2012

As AAEEBL, we are occasionally asked for a definition of "eportfolio.” Fair enough.

My own is:

"ePortfolio technology enables learners to manage the complexity and variability of learning designs and opportunities in formal and informal settings in order to gather evidence of their resultant deep learning.”

The two key terms in this definition are "complexity” and "deep learning.” These are the two essential poles of eportfolio experience: complexity because information technology has carried knowledge creation and use beyond simple human abilities and into a realm of super-complexity beyond the management of humans without technology. And, "deep learning,” because today’s world demands that learners be able to do, not just memorize. Deep learning is contrasted with surface learning.

My argument, and I am fully open to comment about this definition, is that other definitions – such as the classic definition of eportfolio as a process of reflection, or the definition of eportfolio as a genre, or other definitions – are all derivative of the core value of eportfolio use, which is deep learning.

ePortfolios are, of course, used for assessment, to incorporate rubrics, are used for accountability, for workforce development, for creating a digital identity, for recognition of prior learning, for creativity, for person purposes, for fun and on and on.

My contention is that none of these other uses would have arisen, or been sustained, if not for the ability of eportfolios to enable learners to manage complexity and engage in deep learning.

This definition is my personal definition. I have spent 10 years thinking about this core essence of eportfolio thinking, advocacy and use. This definition has not been vetted among the AAEEBL hierarchy, so it cannot be construed as AAEEBL’s official definition.

But, it might be a useful exercise to invite comment and see what others think. You can comment in this space or send me email at



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