Technology Research

Two Trends Driving Change in the ePortfolio Market

At the recent Association for Authentic, Experiential and Evidence Based Learning (AAEEBL) conference in Boston, Eduventures moderated a panel of experts on the adoption of ePortfolios by colleges and universities. Not only was the session among the best attended at the conference, but it also spawned a renewed interest among our clients for more coverage of this market segment. Part of that coverage includes our webinar on the ePortfolio market that attracted a record number of registrations in the first 24 hours on our website. What is driving all of this interest? Eduventures sees two clear trends. First, an influx of new vendors into this market segment has made understanding it more complicated for institutions. Secondly, we see an increase in emerging ways of using ePortfolios outside the context of academic advising. To help institutions make sense of this market, we thought now would be a good time to step back and provide more context around each of these trends.

TREND #1: There has been a surge of new vendors and portfolio platforms into the higher education market.

To understand the true scope of this market, Eduventures has interviewed a surprising number of vendors. Over 30 vendors now offer ePortfolio products to higher education. Building upon the work started by AAEEBL and its collection of ePortfolio vendor profiles, we also interviewed several companies that serve the direct-to-consumer career exploration market, as well as generic portfolio platforms used outside of higher education. The traditional definition of what an ePortfolio includes is quite simply, “…a collection of electronic evidence assembled and managed by a user.” When we look at the market through the lens of this very broad definition, we find many vendors that provide some collection of the evidence of learning in their platforms. Of the 30 vendors we profiled, the vast majority—25—focus their ePortfolio apps on the academic advising phase of the student lifecycle. Three distinct types of ePortfolio platforms demonstrate this traditional focus: standalone products, open source platforms, and portfolios offered as an add-on from learning or student management system vendors. Below is a list of vendors that fall into these three platform categories.
Portfolio Vendors with Traditional Focus on Academic Advising
Digication Blackboard Mahara
TaskStream Canvas Foliospaces
PebblePad Brightspace Moofolio
Chalk and Wire (myMantl) Ellucian Elgg
LiveText Jenzabar RCampus
Pathbrite (Cengage) Sakai
Learning Objects
HMH Portfolio (SchoolChapters)
It is important to note that while some of these products continue to focus exclusively on the use of portfolios to demonstrate mastery of academic subjects—as is the case with all apps connected to learning management systems—many other platforms are being updated to support new use cases for students and other stakeholders from non-academic offices. That brings us to trend number two.

TREND #2: The role of an ePortfolio is expanding to touch all phases of the student lifecycle.

From admissions through alumni engagement, this expansion represents a substantial shift in the ways that vendors are marketing the capabilities of portfolios to faculty, staff, students, and employers. While the vast majority of vendors we reviewed still support traditional learning and academic advising, many platforms specialize in areas such as admissions and enrollment, career advising, career placement, and alumni engagement. The image below shows the alignment of a subset of key vendors that are leading this expansion and which phases of the student lifecycle they impact. Portfolio Vendor Alignment to the Student Lifecycle  

Early Access to Portfolios During Admissions and Enrollment

Students are becoming accustomed to keeping a portfolio much earlier in their academic careers. As institutions realize the value of allowing students to demonstrate mastery of high school curriculum in an admissions-themed portfolio, more undergraduate programs are looking to accept portfolios instead of traditional placement scores. As a result, many highly selective institutions and consortia of such institutions that wish to know their applicants better are increasing their use of portfolios in the admissions process. Most recently, the Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success has been promoting its Coalition Locker to allow student applicants to store documents that will someday be relevant to their college application, and other selective institutions are following suit. Slideroom recently announced a major contract renewal with the Common Application to facilitate portfolios for students applying to STEM and fine arts programs. Slideroom also powers MIT’s “Maker Portfolio,” which allows students to showcase their hands-on, technical skills—think of, “How I built my BattleBot.”

Portfolios Becoming Essential to Career Success

The real opportunity for the impact and an expanded role of ePortfolios, however, may come later in an academic career, at the time students are applying for jobs. By using career portfolios, learners can organize both academic and non-academic work, highlight how that work aligns with the skills needed for a particular job opportunity, and then share that with a potential employer. Employers are starting to come on board with this approach, mostly because an ePortfolio has a much better chance of demonstrating the mastery of workplace skills and academic concepts than a simple resume or transcript. Career services offices will similarly benefit from the use of ePortfolios in their advising processes with students. Matching students to employers and jobs is much easier when using portfolios aligned with students’ competencies and skills. Institutions that are looking for ways to meet the onerous requirements of federal gainful employment regulations would be well served by adopting career services management software that includes an ePortfolio component in addition to traditional resume writing tools. Employers can use these for a better assessment of the fit and readiness of students for specific job opportunities through an engaging career portfolio, and may ultimately interview and hire those students more often.  

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