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Everyone Wants ePortfolio on their Campus! But They Don’t Know What It Is

Posted By Trent Batson Ph. D., AAEEBL, Thursday, October 1, 2015

Everyone Wants ePortfolio on their Campus! But They Don’t Know What It Is 

Casey Green has been surveying IT and higher education trends for more than a decade.  He has just made public his 2014 Campus Computing Survey and we find rather astonishing results regarding eportfolios:  85% of CIO’s think their campus should be offering “eportfolio services.”  But only 52% of their institutions do.

Now, before we learning champions shout hallelujah!, note that the term is “eportfolio services,” so a good share of that 85% may be thinking of eportfolios as a vehicle for tracking cohorts of students toward learning outcomes and not as a vehicle to generate new forms of learning.  After all, Green’s report classifies eportfolios as “ERP services,” that is, enterprise resource planning tools.  That’s ok, because this report is talking about eportfolio technology as an enterprise application, meaning centrally supported for the use of all on the campus. 

And, also, remember that we have another view of eportfolios on campus from the EDUCAUSE Center for Analysis and Research (ECAR) that tells us, despite eportfolios being on well over half of all campuses (and actually far more than that as I’ll explain in a minute), only 10% of students use eportfolios for most or all of their courses. 

Another data point to add to the complex eportfolio picture:  all institutions spend, on average, $145,661 for Learning Management Systems each year but also spend $31,845 on eportfolio systems.  It’s clear the LMS market is gigantic, but the eportfolio market is also pretty significant. 

How to summarize these various data points?  ePortfolios, as a technology, are established in higher education in the U. S. and around the world; they are now climbing into the expenditure range of other critical enterprise applications.  Use of eportfolios among students grew rapidly from 2010 to 2013 but less so in 2014.  Still, I think we can work with the idea that eportfolio is a permanent part of the campus landscape and that now we in the field need to work hard on the spread of the eportfolio idea – the learning values we have come to associate with eportfolio. 

As we in this field know, few people in academia can actually explain what an eportfolio is or does or why it’s important, so the large scope of adoption is somewhat astonishing:  campuses investing in technology that no one understands? 

The average investment figure is probably a bit higher because what the Campus Computing survey reports is what CIOs know about.  Yet, ePortfolios are often adopted by a department or a major or even for single courses, and not by the central IT unit.  CIO’s at large institutions may not, actually almost certainly DO not, know about all the scattered eportfolio adoptions on their own campus.  My personal impression is that almost all institutions of higher learning in the U. S. have an eportfolio implementation somewhere on campus, or have had, or are planning to. 


And this brings us back to the AAEEBL Field Guide Project that we hope will find its way to the desk of CIOs and other top administrators in higher education not only in the U. S. but worldwide.  AAEEBL asks “What is the ePortfolio Idea?” as the central question the Field Guide is responding to. 

The eportfolio movement – academia and industry – has helped a technology and an idea grow despite the fact that the eportfolio idea does not fit the common university business model (endorse only learning done in courses at the college or university) nor the common university learning model (teaching-centered).  ePortfolio is a revolutionary idea – learners own their own learning??!!?? 

If CIOs want to think eportfolio is just another typical ERP service and therefore safe, at least for the time being, then we in the community can slip in the revolution un-detected. 

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