ePortfolios at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Matthew Russell (Center for Instructional and Professional Development)
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee


The University of Wisconsin System sponsored a pilot project for the D2L e-portfolio product, starting in January 2009. The goal of this pilot was to explore the newly developed ePortfolio tool by Desire2Learn, the UWS centrally supported Learning Management System. The direct integration of the D2L eP product with the LMS offers advantages in portfolio building and easy access by faculty mentors and students. It was determined that this product could offer additional advantage in familiar interface and availability to all students who are users of D2L.

The Project

Originally, the Office of Learning Technology Development sponsored the cost of the 1500 pilot user licenses. The Learn@UW utility offered free support of the software as well as disk space usage during the pilot. A decision was made to host the D2L eP product fully integrated with the production Learning Environment locally. This provides a full experience for users who has access to their current D2L courses, as well as the Competency and Rubrics modules if desired. The pilot was originally planned for one year. It was extended for free (no additional cost for licenses) for an additional 18 months, allowing more thorough evaluation of the product by the participating campuses. There was a regular exchange of issues, suggestions and feedback to D2L from the Learn@UW support team and the participating campuses. Feedback was collected from both faculty and students during the pilot.

Thanks to the success of the pilot, the University of Wisconsin System adopted the ePortfolio tool for the entire system. As of June of 2011, any campus can employ the ePortfolio tool inside D2L. At UWM, the School of Education and College of Nursing have both adopted the D2L ePortfolio tool.

Campus Participation

  • UW-Milwaukee – since January 2009
  • UW-Stevens Point – since January 2009
  • UW-Colleges – since January 2009
  • UW-Whitewater – since January 2009
  • UW-Madison – since January 2009
  • UW-Green Bay – since June 2010

With questions, at UWM or elsewhere, or to make comments on this page, feel free to contact me at either russelmr@uwm.edu. I have given presentations around the state, at national conferences, and in online seminars with other universities, and I am always happy to answer any general questions about ePortfolios from any interested parties.

What are ePortfolios? Why should students make them?

A portfolio is commonly a physical carrying case used for porting paper-based materials, though perhaps more importantly, the collection is often a current project or a representative collection of a person's work. Being portable, the artist can retrieve or select materials from the case at any given time and present the work to different people or to small groups in the context of the situation. Think similarly now about this concept and attribute it to what's called an electronic portfolio, or ePortfolio.

An ePortfolio is typically thought of as an organized collection of digital media files that represent one's work or achievements over time. These files can be text-based writing samples, audio or video clips, photographs, presentations, and projects. One key difference is that the files, or documents, are stored as digital data accessible on the web. A web-based ePortfolio can also be designed and made accessible to a specific audience, to peers, professors, advisers, potential employers, or to anyone on the web. Another key attribute is that the owner of an ePortfolio can write, or record, thoughtful reflections on the material as a matter of learning, by taking one's experience more completely into account. Other people can also comment on a person's work, providing multiple perspectives on the material.

Individual Courses at UWM: There are a number of individual courses, in face-to-face, blended, and online formats, from a variety of disciplines using the ePortfolio tool at UWM. Here is a sample of the disciplines:
  • Anthropology (blended course)
  • Architecture (online course)
  • Art (Digital Art, face-to-face course)
  • Curriculum and Instruction
  • English as a Second Language
  • Business Writing
  • Freshman Seminar
  • Japanese
  • Comparative Literature/Translation (online course)
  • Nursing and Clinical Lab Sciences
  • Library Internships

Program-based Projects (Proposed and In-Progress): UWM is beginning to use the ePortfolio tool to meet certain program-level requirements.
  • Biological Science Program Assessment
  • Business Administration - Masters in Nonprofit Leadership Program Assessment
  • Administrative Leadership
  • Graphic Design Portfolio Review
  • Dance (Professional Development and archives of Student Performance)

ePortfolio: Suggested Best Practices
  • ePortfolio use should begin slowly and with a spirit of experimentation
  • ePortfolios should anticipate meeting students’ academic and professional needs
  • ePortfolios must meet explicit course learning objectives
  • ePortfolios must be easy to use and grade for both students and faculty
  • ePortfolios should have the capability to capture more than UWM academic experience
  • ePortfolio use will increase when integrated with other applications or D2L tools
  • All ePortfolio work must be tied directly to course assessment items!
  • ePortfolio use and support improves with consistent systematic planning and familiarity with the tool


Tutorials and Resources for D2L ePortfolios at UWM

Examples of ePortfolios (UWM)

ePortfolio Rubrics & Use in Assessment

General Resources

Articles, Presentations, and Assignment Ideas

ePortfolio Survey Instrument