AAEEBL Digital Ethics Principles: version 1

Principle 2: Promote Awareness

Institutional administrators, staff, and educators are responsible for promoting awareness of digital ethics in ePortfolio making. 

ABSTRACT: ePortfolio educators, administrators, and staff  should have a working knowledge of the ethical issues related to ePortfolios, including data collection, security, and management; ethical sharing and representation; digital bias; accessibility; ePortfolio security and privacy; copyright, fair use, and open access; and intended vs. potential audiences. 

Strategies for applying this principle include…

  • Asking institutional stakeholders about use and storage of ePortfolio-related data, student rights to ePortfolio ownership, rationale for platform selection, and accessibility standards before assigning ePortfolios to students.
  • Developing and sharing strategies for identifying, engaging with, and countering potential biases among learners, educator(s), and any others who might review an ePortfolio.
  • Ensuring that students can determine who shall have access to their various portfolios on the platform they were asked to use. 
  • Teaching students about privacy settings and their implications.
  • Providing students with examples that help them define and determine the distinctions between their personal and professional online identities.
  • Helping students anticipate how diverse audiences will react differently to the information they share (writing, images, coursework, etc.).
  • Informing students of what entities or audiences may have access to their identity representations, data, and intellectual property along with any possible benefits and harm that may result from this access.
  • Sharing photo and media galleries that foster equal and adequate representation of the diverse set of students creating portfolios at your institution.
  • Teaching students basic knowledge about copyright, fair use, and open access.


Scenario #1:

You are a student. You have been asked by your educator to create a showcase portfolio of your most recent achievements,  from activities and experiences in and beyond the course. The audience for your portfolio is humanitarian and volunteer organizations which provide summer abroad opportunities overseas. 

You wonder what artifacts would be the best examples to use and decide to showcase your most recent retail work experience and holiday on the coast. You include photos with your friends at the beach and posts from Facebook about events at work. When you submit your first draft, your educator’s feedback is that you need to think more about your purpose and how that purpose connects to what the particular audience would see as appropriate professional images, evidence, and experiences. 

Your educator shares with the class a number of tips for choosing artifacts. First, you should consider diverse potential audiences as you choose artifacts. Second, you need to consider how you will separate your personal and professional identities online. Further, you should think about how what you share online might be perceived by others, both those you know and those you do not know, and the potential future consequences for yourself and others. 

Scenario #2:

You are an educator. Students create a public ePortfolio in your capstone course that they could use when they enter the job market. You work to provide students with example portfolios that represent a diverse group of students and experiences. 

One student voices concern that she may encounter bias on the job market if her image is included in the ePortfolio. Although you want to encourage this student to represent her identity fully, you acknowledge potential bias and engage in a conversation about her options. 

You provide her with a sample portfolio of another student who also had this worry. He created an ePortfolio without pictures of himself while still maintaining visual representation of his work. You also share with her another example of a student from a similar background as her own that provides an honest narrative about the intersection of her career and her identity. After the conversation, the student decides to use the example of the ePortfolio without personal photos as a model for her ePortfolio. You direct her to other examples of ePortfolios that have powerful design without relying on personal photos as well as websites where she can access Creative Commons licensed images.  

Scenario #3:

You are an educator and administrator or staff member. You oversee the internship program for your department. As part of their internships, students are asked to prepare a final ePortfolio that documents their internship experience and reflects on what they learned. These ePortfolios are evaluated by a committee as part of the students' grades for their internship.

Although you know that this practice is important for reinforcing the learning that happens during the internship experience, you have noticed that students struggle to explore the full breadth of their experience without disclosing details that are inappropriate for public consumption.
In order to protect students and the people they encounter in the course of their internships, you work with your department chair and technology consultants to ensure that their ePortfolios are only accessible to you and the individual student. Then, in consultation with the students, you revise the assignment so that they can use the ePortfolio as their private collection and reflection space over the course of their internship and write a public-facing reflection to be reviewed by the assessment committee rather than the full, personal portfolio.

Scenario #4:

You are a program administrator and/or staff member. You are designing an ePortfolio workshop to deliver in collaboration with your Career Center. The topic for this workshop is “Professionalism and ePortfolios.” You want to focus on the thinking work ePortfolio creators should do before they begin building their ePortfolio. 

Part of this workshop helps students develop a professional identity in response to their imagined audience and purpose. However, you also ask students to consider professionalism in the context of the ePortfolio: What does it mean to be a professional in this digital space? 
Students might speak to how they select photos and artifacts to feature in the ePortfolio, how they talk about their experiences in ways that connect to terms used in their profession, or how they show knowledge of professional standards by attributing and re-using sources according to their professional community’s standards for re-use.  

As students reflect on how they might signal professionalism in ePortfolio creation, you also speak to the consequences an unprofessional ePortfolio can have for them. You show students how they can protect their ePortfolio content until they are ready to publish their site, and you give them resources for feedback from institutional partners on campus (the career center, the writing center, and/or their advisors). 


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This document was created by the AAEEBL Digital Ethics Task Force: Amy Cicchino (Auburn University), Megan Haskins (Auburn University), Megan Crowley-Watson (Edward Waters College), Elaine Gray (Appalachian State University), Morgan Gresham (University of South Florida), Kristina Hoeppner (Catalyst, New Zealand), Kevin Kelly (San Francisco State University), Megan Mize (Old Dominion University), Christine Slade (University of Queensland), Heather Stuart (Auburn University), and Sarah Zurhellen (Appalachian State University)

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