AAEEBL Digital Ethics Principles: version 1

Principle 3: Practice

ePortfolio creators need opportunities to develop and practice the digital literacies necessary to create accessible and effective ePortfolios.

ABSTRACT: ePortfolio creators need practice with digital literacies. ePortfolio instruction should teach creators what ePortfolios are, why they are creating one, how to employ visual design and Universal Design principles when creating one, and how to work with ePortfolio tools and technologies. When creating ePortfolios, a knowledge of their audience, context, and constraints should guide creators.   

Strategies for applying this principle include...

  • Identifying and sharing effective strategies for storing, attaching, and curating artifacts.
  • Maintaining an expectation of accessibility, including the ability for an ePortfolio to be accessed across devices and by everyone, including people using assistive technologies.
  • Employing universal design principles whenever possible (including color choice, contrast, font size, page hierarchy, captioning, alternatives to drop down menus, etc.).
  • Teaching students about visual design considerations, such as font choices, color contrast, image selection and placement, and any other relevant design principles.
  • Encouraging students to think about the context of their ePortfolio work, including considering their audience, purpose, and constraints.
  • Making sure students understand the many rhetorical choices they are making during the process and how these choices differ from those made during the composition of more traditional documents such as essays, resumes, and cover letters.
  • Considering the constraints and affordances of various ePortfolio genres (learning, archive, assessment, showcase, etc.) in regards to composition, sharing, maintenance, design, etc.
  • Determining the availability of tools for ePortfolio making and how student materials are impacted by the constraints of their situation.
  • Offering basic training in the use of the ePortfolio platform at the time of implementation, as well as periodically, and upon request through student services.
  • Having available on-campus and online staff, including students, who can answer questions around the use of any mandated ePortfolio platform and can also assist with instructional design questions.
  • Informing ePortfolio creators of institutional or public resources that can support them in creating their ePortfolio. 


Scenario #1:

You are an undergraduate business major who has composed an ePortfolio for your English course at your college. You have received consistently positive feedback from the educator on your work. Now that you wish to use examples from this portfolio in your application for an internship, you seek advice from the career center. Your advisor encourages you to include writing samples from your existing portfolio in your application yet cautions you not to include everything because you are now creating a portfolio for employability purposes and not to receive feedback on your learning experiences.

You select appropriate examples and create another portfolio specific to your internship application in which you can frame these examples, provide contextual information, and link to other experiences that are valuable for your potential employers.

Scenario #2:

You are a non-traditional student, returning to college after many years. Your educator requires you to compose an ePortfolio, which requires the ability to create and add content in digital spaces. They acknowledge that not all of their students may have the necessary digital literacy skills to do so and perform a quick assessment at the beginning of the program, offering direct help and resources where students can self-learn and upskill. 

Your educator works with e-terns, who are students employed by the university to assist students as well as educators with educational technology questions. The e-terns are available to answer your questions throughout the term and make you comfortable gaining necessary digital skills to compose your ePortfolio successfully.

You are grateful for this support because while you use your smartphone and various apps on it on a regular basis to communicate with friends and family, you have not conducted academic work digitally and only just bought a new computer to be able to participate in the online parts of the program, conduct research, and complete assignments electronically.

Scenario #3:

You are a non-tenure track educator in a department that has decided to mandate the use of ePortfolios. A two-day workshop is scheduled the week before classes begin to introduce the requirement. A trainer from the ePortfolio software provider is brought in to run the workshop, which includes an introduction to the technical features of the platform and a chance for educators to revise their assignments and syllabi to make use of the new platform. 

Four weeks later, you’re asking students to set up and add their first assignment to an ePortfolio for your course, but some of the students get error messages that you don’t understand, and several others seem to have saved their work in a format that the platform won’t display. Your two-day workshop did not prepare you for these potential issues. 

You contact the Academic Technologies office and speak with one of the e-terns who support both students and educators when it comes to ePortfolio-related questions. They can assist with the file format question on the phone, but ask that you come into the office or jump into a web conference call to take them through the steps to replicate the error message. Once they know how to reproduce the error message, they get in touch with the software provider to get this issue resolved and provide you with an update once it is done.

While you are talking with one of the e-terns, they point out that there are regular drop-in clinics scheduled throughout the year that students and educators can attend digitally or in-person to ask questions about how to make best use of the ePortfolio platform. You can also sign up for educator training in which an instructional designer reviews your portfolio component with you based on your own impressions and the feedback you have received from students.


    1. Auburn University, Office of University Writing. (n.d.). EPortfolio project: Technology. http://wp.auburn.edu/writing/eportfolio-project/student-resources/technology/.
    2. Cambridge, D. (2008). Audience, integrity, and the living document: EFolio Minnesota and lifelong and lifewide learning with ePortfolios. Computers & Education, 51(3), 1227–1246. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2007.11.010
    3. CAST. (2019). About universal design for learning. 
    4. Center for Persons with Disabilities. (n.d.). Introduction to web accessibility. WebAIM. https://webaim.org/intro/
    5. Clark, J. E. (2010). The digital imperative: Making the case for a 21st-century pedagogy. Computers and Composition, 27(1), 27–35. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.compcom.2009.12.004
    6. Licastro, A. (2016). Excavating ePortfolios: What student-driven data reveals about multimodal composition and instruction
    7. National Disability Authority. (2014). What is universal design. Centre for Excellence in Universal Design.
    8. Oswal, S. K. (2013). Accessible ePortfolios for visually-impaired users: Interfaces, designs, and infrastructures. In K. V. Wills & R. Rice (Eds.), ePortfolio performance support systems: Constructing, presenting, and assessing portfolios (pp. 135–153). WAC Clearinghouse.
    9. Strivens, J. (2007). A survey of e-pdp and e-portfolio practice in UK Higher Education. The Higher Education Academy, 2, 1–24.
    10. The University of Queensland. (n.d.). Digital essentials. Library.
    11. W3C. (2019, June 5). Introduction to web accessibility. W3C Web Accessibility Initiative.
    12. Wills, K. V., & Rice, R. (Eds.). (2013). ePortfolio performance support systems: Constructing, presenting, and assessing portfolios. WAC Clearinghouse.

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)

This work is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0
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