Fifteen recommendations on the meaningful use of ePortfolios in Higher Education

Studying and work environments are in constant transformation due to globalization and the exponential advancement in technology. Having this in mind, the European Union has stated in numerous of its policy documents (e.g. the Modernization of Higher Education strategy, the European Employment Strategy – Employment guidelines, the Digital Agenda for Europe) that the European citizens’ lifelong learning and career management skills as well as digital competences need to be strengthened. In practice, this means for example developing pedagogical practices and the relevance of world of work in education, diminishing the gap between labor market needs and graduate skills, and promoting the right skills of the citizens for the modern digital economy. The common factor in all these is the development of lifelong learning competences i.e. civic competences, transversal skills, cultural awareness and critical thinking. In addition, the strategies to improve lifelong learning competences need to address digital competences as well, either in formal education or in the workplaces.

This policy framework has been the basis of the Empowering Eportfolio Process EEP project (2016‒2018) funded by the European Union’s Erasmus+ programme. EEP was designed to improve the ePortfolio process in higher education taking into account the assessment and guidance practices, enhancement of students’ digital competences, and the connections to the world of work. The higher education partners from Denmark (VIA University College), Belgium (Katholic University of Leuven, KU Leuven and UC Leuven-Limburg, UCLL), Finland (Häme University of Applied Sciences, HAMK), Ireland (Marino Institute of Education, MIE) and Portugal (Polytechnic Institute of Setubal, IPS) have given their valuable input in creating the understanding about the successful use of ePortfolios, which can be further examined in the EEP article collections: Students’ (Kunnari & Laurikainen 2017), Higher Education (Kunnari 2018), Employers’ perspectives on ePortfolios (Laurikainen & Kunnari 2018) and Empowering ePortfolio Process (Kunnari & Laurikainen 2018).

Recommendations video

In the final phase of EEP, the partners collaboratively concluded the results in the project into fifteen recommendations for practice that provide the most important directions for the future development of ePortfolios. These recommendations demonstrate the optimal future conditions for meaningful and effective utilization of ePortfolios at students’, teachers’, higher education and employers’ level. However, it is important to acknowledge that each higher education institute has its own development phases and thus, not all the recommendations can be interpreted as the next possible steps in each country.

Recommendations article on HAMK Unlimited Journal

A great and empowering experience

In September 2016, we started with the Erasmus+ project ‘Empowering ePortfolio process’, together with five other higher educational institutes from Belgium, Denmark, Ireland, Portugal and Finland as project leader.

For UCLL, the project was performed in the educational bachelor programme ‘Biomedical laboratory technology’ (BLT). The team of instructors consists of a combination of professional bachelors, masters and/or masters with Ph. D. degree. The educational programme BLT has level six of the Flemish Qualification Framework (related to European Qualification framework) and has a duration of three academic years. The first year is a common year for all the students. From the second year on, students can choose between ‘Pharmaceutical and biological laboratory technology’ (FBT), which is more biomedical research related, or ‘Medical laboratory technology’ (MLT) that is more related to the clinical field.

Within the project, we had a lot of interesting and empowering meetings at the different locations to discuss and work on our different pilot activities, but we also disseminated to our colleagues.

Our Biomedical laboratory technology programme will implement an ePortfolio for the first time in their curriculum in September 2018. Especially for organizational issues, a pilot was performed in March 2018 containing just one small task about the choice students have to make between FBT and MLT. The portfolio coordinator found the tool we used, MyPortfolio, which is available within our Toledo-platform, a useful and clear tool. Also students did not experience a lot of problems. Only a few questions were asked. To introduce the portfolio to our students, the portfolio coordinator started with an introduction session, where she used a lot of screenshots. This small pilot strengthened the user-friendliness of the tool and gives self-confidence to the portfolio coordinator.

Other tasks will be further developed and refined in the next couple of months. It will be a challenge since the ePortfolio will be implemented in the overall curriculum and not just in one curricular unit. This was very important for us because one of the aims is to make intercourse and interdisciplinary generic competences more transparent and visible within the BLT study programme. In this way, students have the opportunity to grow and learn about different generic competences in a fluent way.

We try to motivate students to work on 21st century competences and become next generation graduated students which contribute to the expectations of the working field and we hope all the stakeholders can benefit from it.

We thank all the national and international partners from EEP to inspire us within this project and we invite you all to watch our summary movie.


Devaere Karolien



Time flies – outcomes on the way

Editing and preparing our next publications has shed light to the developing use of ePortfolios. Our next publication, coming out soon, is focused on employers’ perspectives how digital portfolios can be used to make hiring process more successful. It seems that even though employers ask applicants to provide digital material and videos, they do not always use the word ”portfolio”. We will present many interesting viewpoints of employers and discuss how digital portfolios can help to match the young employees and jobs in the best possible way.

The following publication, coming out later this spring, will be focused on teachers’ and organizational perspectives, which we have already explored and developed in our pilots. So in that sense, the articles in that publication make us to classify and clarify what are the most essential aspects in creating an empowering process. What does it mean in teachers’ work and how it need to be seen from the organizational standpoint?

Time flies 🙂 We had a successful training week in Leuven in February. Big thanks for our Belgian partners for hard work organizing the week, it was very intensive and effective helping us to reach our goals. This spring we will focus on finalizing the publications and progressing with our pilots. The project will end on October 2018, so we still have some time for collaboration 🙂


A lot of interesting work

Currently, Belgium is preparing the next training week taking place in Leuven from 19/2/2018 till 23/2/2018. On Tuesday 20/2/2018, a dissemination event “Practices on ePortfolio” will be organized where all of you are invited. More information on this event is available here.

Specifically for UC Leuven, I can inform you that we are preparing the pilot activity of the ePortfolio which includes the strategy for students to make a considered choice between our two different educational degrees. With some preliminary questions such as ‘How do you make this choice?’ and ‘Which elements influence your choice?’, we help students from the first year to choose between ‘Pharmaceutical and biological laboratory technology’ (FBT) or ‘Medical laboratory technology’ (MLT). A choice students have to make after they finished our first year.

This pilot activity will be the first time that ePortfolio is introduced in our educational program ‘Biomedical laboratory technology’. With the help of this EEP project, we will not only show students the benefits of ePortfolio, but also to our lecturers and other stakeholders like internship mentors.

In March, we will start with one activity of our ePortfolio, as mentioned before, but in September we will implement our ePortfolio completely as part of the three year study cycle in our educational program. The main aim of our ePortfolio is to make some learning outcomes, of which the most are more generic competences, more visible in our curriculum. The structure of the ePortfolio is as indicated in this figure:


Our ePortfolio will consist of three parts, each containing several tasks. The parts are ‘Lifelong learning’, ‘My (study)career’ and ‘Social responsibility’. Additionally, ‘My personal growth’ contributes to all other parts and can be seen as a fourth part. Each part will offer some (reflective) tasks that students need to combine in their ePortfolio.

The pilot activity is a part of ‘My (study) career’.

You can imagine that during this period there is a lot of interesting work to be done on ePortfolio at UC Leuven.

UC Leuven ucll

Exploring the perspectives of the world of work

Work life perspectives are very important in developing ePortfolio practices. Right at the moment we are exploring the processes in recruitment (education to work life and vice versa)  where ePortfolios can be utilized to make personal professional competences transparent. The other aim  is to raise awareness of representatives of the world of work what kind of new possibilities there could be with the use of ePortfolios. So it is not just collecting something which already exist, but also to collect and co-create new ideas and examples from the interviews with work life representatives from different professional fields, and from different kind of employers.

VIA will lead this process and we are happy to share our preliminary outcomes after the meeting in Ireland, MIE in September 13. – 15.9.2017.

Training week– March 21th to 25th

The first Training Week of the Project took place in the School of Education of the Polytechnic Institute of Setúbal (ESE / IPS) from March 2017, 21st to 25th and culminated with the second dissemination event – Multiplier Event.
The training week was dedicated to the theme “Building ownership of students – empowering assessment and guidance methods” with the participation of the partners from the various countries.
It was an intense week in which we lived very interesting and diversified experiences. We began the work sharing results of the Output # 3, at the School of Education of Setúbal balconies space.

Gallery Walking at ESE/IPS

The topics covered on the second day of the training week were ePortfolios assessment methodologies and feedback. There were workshops organized by Portugal and Ireland, respectively, that challenged us to reflect on the importance of these two aspects of ePortfolio as strategies for learning and evaluation.

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Assessment Feedback

Throughout the training week work sessions, there were many moments in small groups where we shared ideas and were built a sense of belonging to a community. The group has always been available to work on the different proposals, and fundamentally it has maintained a critical sense and the will to construct a healthy and engaging work environment.

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Metaphors Eportfolio at a distance

On Thursday we also participated in two workshops with various themes. The Danish team brought us a proposal to use metaphors as catalysts for reflection and collaboration. The Belgian team offered us reflections on a number of critical issues in an ePortfolios development experience.
The last day of workshops was dedicated to an extracurricular ePortefolios experience presented by the Belgian team. We finished it with a session about the use of Badges, dynamised by the Finnish team, in which we also worked in small groups.

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I-portfolio Badges

The construction of a community is not made exclusively from moments of sharing on the theme of this community. The moments of leisure, where informal conversation allows us to share other interests, are catalysts for the creation of bonds between its members. In this sense, the Portuguese team organized the training week in collaboration with CIMOB, that accompanied the group in some visits to the region.
Two cultural visits were organized to the european team: the José Maria da Fonseca Caves which include Casa Museu and the Water Mill of the Moorish Estate.

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José Maria da Fonseca Caves Water Mill of the Moorish Estate

One late afternoon to stroll in Lisbon, in the gardens of Belém, was another moment of leisure.

Gardens of Belém, Lisbon

The Multiplier Event took place on the 25th in the ESE amphitheater, subordinate to the topic What triggers students to create ePortfolios? This was the space and the time where the partners shared their work to the national and foreign stakeholders who attended the event.


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Dissemination Seminar – What triggers students to create ePortfolios?

In short, it was an arduous week, enriched by the proposals presented and by the availability that all showed to reflect on them. Each of us got a little richer and consequently the project was valued.
In September we will have more work together … this time it will be in Ireland.

Portuguese Partners from ESE/IPS
Ana Luisa Oliveira Pires
Maria do Rosário Rodrigues
Ana Maria Pessoa

An exciting month

March will be an exciting month for us with the planned training/dissemination in Portugal, Setúbal, were we will be able to share students perspectives and experiences regarding ePortfolio amongst different partners.

The UCLL-pilot is the educational program ‘Biomedical laboratory  technology’ which is located at two different campuses (Leuven-Diepenbeek) due to a recent merger. At the moment we are working on a common curriculum for both campuses which takes into account the recent and future evolutions in the working field and tackles some existing problems. A lot of ideas concerning ePortfolio are circulating. We want to use ePortfolio to solve some of the existing obstacles like visualization of generic competences and optimalisation of internship assessment. During the project contacts with project partners make those ideas change, extend,…

At this stage we don’t use an ePortfolio yet and that’s why the questioning of  our students might  have a slightly different outcome compared to the other partners. For us –and hopefully also for you- it was very interesting to ask our  senior year students whether they think an ePortfolio would be useful during their internship, for example to communicate between different stakeholders.  Besides that, the questionnaire also focused on more general aspects like students motivation to work with ePortfolio and the supports they need. For us, the results of the questionnaire reflect students ideas and perspectives on ePortfolio. Due to the fact that students are the educational clients of our curriculum, these ideas and expectations will be taken into account while  implementing ePortfolio into the new curriculum.

Besides our meeting in Setúbal we will have a lot of international contacts at our campus in Leuven this month, since we are organizing an international week. This annual event was organized for the first time in 2008

The objectives of this week are:

  • make an offer to students who do not participate in international exchanges to develop their international competences;
  • pooling visits of international partners and offer them an interesting, inspiring and vibrant week;
  • strengthening our partnernetwork (national and international);
  • initiate international education and/or research projects.

Over the years this event has grown bigger and bigger. At this moment we welcome over 50 national and international partners and ± 60 incoming international students.

We are looking forward to meet all our international partners this month!

Ellen – Karolien UC Leuven


Improve your digital competences

February, still the beginning of a new year with all its opportunities ahead. While we made our plans about our professional and personal goals, reports are published: what can, could or should the new year bring? For instance the NMC Horizon Report that describes annual findings from the NMC Horizon Project. It is “an ongoing research project designed to identify and describe emerging technologies likely to have an impact on learning, teaching, and creative inquiry in education”. It states out six different significant challenges in the context of higher education.

Within our EEP-project we align our work to these challenges. One of them is to improve digital literacy.

You cannot educate and make students ready for the world out there without learning them relevant digital skills. You cannot just drop them in front of a computer and expect that they will be competent enough to reach whatever learning goal you had in mind (the same is true for teachers, of course). Students not always seem to be sure about how to use available tools to optimalise learning (Ellis et al.,2005).

What does it mean, digital literacy? It is true that most of our students go online every day. But being digitally competent is more than just knowing how to use a computer. “Digital literacy transcends gaining isolated technological skills to generate a deeper understanding of the digital environment, enabling intuitive adaptation to new contexts and co-creation of content with others. Becoming a digital literate is about developing skills to select the right tools for a particular context to deepen learning outcomes and engage in creative problem-solving.” The correct use of available digital tools by students cannot be taken for granted (Lust et al.,2011).

Using a portfolio as an online tool that gives ownership to the student, makes him responsible for his own learning process towards digital competency. It is the role of the teacher to guide students to use it and to give the tools and support they need to make it their own. At the KU Leuven we not only use portfolio as showcaseportfolio but also to visualize non-formal and/or prior learning. Students engage in using portfolio as a tool for guiding them through their learning process within curricular programs as well as extra-curricular activities. With our vision on education that education is about creating your own ‘future self’, personal development and academic development go hand in hand alongside our social responsabilities. Often the portfolio is chosen to be the best digital tool to demonstrate the students’ learning process, skills and competences.

In this phase of the project we focus on what students need to engage in using a portfolio, to use it as a learning tool and to ask them about the competences they think they will develop by using a portfolio.  Want to know all about it? Read it in our next blog!

Want to know more about the NMC Horizon Report? An eight minute video will guide you through the main areas.


Ilse Op de Beeck and Karen Van Eylen, Educational Development Unit – KU Leuven


Ellis, R. A., Marcus, G., & Taylor, R. (2005). Learning through inquiry: student difficulties with online course‐based Material. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning21(4), 239-252.

Lust, G., Vandewaetere, M., Ceulemans, E., Elen, J., & Clarebout, G. (2011). Tool-use in a blended undergraduate course: In Search of user profiles. Computers & Education57(3), 2135-2144.


Happy and Empowering New Year wishes to everyone in 2017!

Happy and Empowering New Year wishes to everyone in 2017!

It’s the beginning of an exciting year in VIA and with our work in the EEP-project.

Here in VIA our university college is already sizzling with students of all ages preparing for their exams here in January, but also of course discussing how New Year’s Eve was spent, which menu and which bubbly drinks were served :-).

And we as teachers and researchers are preparing for the next semester and our EEP pilot project.

Our pilot project will have a focus on adult students in continuing education, who have been admitted to their respective diploma programmes through a validation of prior learning (VPL).

Teachers in our diploma programmes are usually not informed about which students are admitted through VPL, because after their admittance they are considered equally with the same status as other students. But sometimes these students do experience some difficulties in their studies, maybe with reading academic texts or with writing academically, and sometimes also with relating their former praxis to the present teaching.

So by being a part of EEP, we can now try to do something EMPOWERING for these students with this immense potential :-).

A central part of the admittance process on validating prior learning is through a digital portfolio, (in english My Competence Portfolio), where the aspiring student gathers information on different competences which is then being evaluated by the accepting education institution.

There is a lot of work put in by the applying student gathering all this information on her competences – but this portfolio is never used in a teaching or career guidance setting after admittance, even though this could be relevant as a means of reflection.

We see a lot of potential in using this digital portfolio in a reflection process for students engaged in new studies that challenge them on a personal level. Entering an education programme as an adult and maybe with a different background from other students can challenge your views on yourself, your integrity and your career perspectives – “Who am I, and where am I going?”

In our pilot project we therefore want to gather together students admitted through VPL and use their individual digital portfolios for different kinds of reflection activities relating to their present studies and to their personal career perspectives. The output will hopefully be good practices that can be incorporated in an empowering “E-portfolio-praxis”.

Right now two things are happening:

  • We are drafting and developing the concrete design for the pilot project with the focus on empowering a group of students with a great potential, but who sometimes experience difficulties with their studies
  • We have started a collaboration with the career guidance practitioners and the professionals who know the students or who has knowledge of students admitted through VPL at VIA, so we can start selecting a group of participants in the project.

The career guidance practitioners here at VIA are very excited about helping us out in the EEP- project, and particularly our local pilot project since, as they say, ‘it hits the nerve’ of what is often discussed in their professional circles as an issue where ‘more could be done’ to support the VPL students.

So we feel just as sizzling as our students right now coming back from holidays, with the anticipation of much to be done in the new year, but also an anticipation of being part of an empowering process and collaboration ourselves.

Once again, a Happy New Year to all of you!


Bo and Miriam,

VIA University College in Denmark


How to use EEP WordPress?


Our web pages are up and running. Let me clarify the idea of the web pages for new readers:

The project partners will keep a blog. This means that followers will have an article to read concerning eportfolio process from different points of view. You may follow the blog by writing to your email address in ”Follow blog via email”.


Under page ”Events” you will find already the results of the first event. There is the first page: 1 Current best practices in engaging ePortfolio process. You will find partners conclusions of their own country practices at the moment. There is already all of our events mentioned and you may follow up coming information during the project. In page ”Meetings” you will find materials related to our project meetings. At the moment it’s possible to read materials of our kick off meeting in Finland.

All of our partners’ contact information will be found in page ”Partners”. How ever page ”For Partners” is our works space that is not public. Nor is our Facebook group that is meant for our internal work flow. Glossary will be published later. It is important to agree meanings of terms.

I hope you will enjoy this journey with us in Empowering ePortfolio Process!