(e)Portfolio a history

By Dr Orna Farrell

This short blog post traces the history of the (e)portfolio drawing on a recent publication. It recognises that…

The portfolio is now an ubiquitous assessment in higher education, but asks where does it come from? 

The word portfolio’s etymology derives from the Italian word portafoglio. This was a case or folder for carrying loose papers and pictures. The portfolio concept has its origins in Renaissance Italy, where artists and architects collated examples of their work. One early example of a historical portfolio from the Renaissance time are the notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci. These notebooks were loose folios, later bound together as books.

The Vitruvian Man, one of Leonardo’s Folios. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Over time the meaning of portfolio has evolved from its origins as a case for holding loose papers to other contexts such as finance, government and education. Portfolios have evolved from paper to electronic, from local networks to the world wide web. 

Conception of a portfolio on the world wide web, Watkins (1996: 224)

The decade from 2000–2010 was a period when digital technology began to have a wider impact on our everyday lives and educational technology became part of mainstream higher education. The growth of portfolios was a part of this post millenium EdTech movement, with initiatives spread around the world. A shift in focus has occurred in eportfolio research and practice in the last decade; there has been more emphasis on pedagogy and student learning and less focus on digital technology as it became ubiquitous. 

It’s a statement of fact that the Covid-19 pandemic forced the higher education system to swiftly go online, and to reimagine assessment. Alternative assessment approaches such as use of eportfolio, blogs, online presentations, wikis, podcasts, and videos became mainstream or the new normal in the blink of an eye. However, the question is…

Will this shift in higher education thinking towards alternative assessment such as use of eportfolio become permanent after the pandemic?

This question will be answered in time, but if you would like to learn more about how the concept of portfolio in higher education evolved and lessons that can be learned for the future, then we invite you to read this recent journal article.

Full article

Farrell, O. (2020). From Portafoglio to Eportfolio: The Evolution of Portfolio in Higher Education. Journal of Interactive Media in Education, (1), p.19. DOI: http://doi.org/10.5334/jime.574

Eportfolio Ireland: The Potential and Practice of Eportfolio

We are delighted to announce that Eportfolio Ireland invites you to another free half-day seminar/workshop on Monday November 11th at Dublin City University’s (DCU) St. Patricks Campus. The workshop, which follows after the ICDE World Conference on Online Learning (3-7th November,) will run from 9.30am to 1:00pm.ep-logo-1.jpg

Kristina Hoeppner, from Catalyst IT, New Zealand and guru on all things eportfolio has kindly agreed to keynote on the day. Following that, we hope to facilitate a “Connect & Converse” session to share our own eportfolio practices. The value of the Eportfolio Ireland community is nested in these events where we can share our collective experiences and seek to learn from one another.

The format of Connect & Converse is a 10-minute presentation/discussion in small groups as participants rotate around the room (a speed dating format, if you will!). If you would like to share what you have been doing with eportfolio in your institution, what you would like to try, or would simply welcome feedback on your initiative from others in the field, please just send a 5 line description of what you would like to discuss by emailing Lisa Donaldson:


Please note that tables for this event are limited, so please contact Lisa as soon as possible if you would like to contribute a brief talk and register here to reserve your place.