San Francisco State University

ePortfolios at SFSU

Ruth Cox, Ph.D.  and Kevin Kelly, Ed.D.

Since 2005, San Francisco State University (SF State) has been developing resident expertise and organizational capacity to support and advance the development, use, and sustainability of student ePortfolios.  ePortfolios at SF State address a current and emerging need for students to have an environment in which they can collect, select, reflect upon, build, and publish a digital archive of their academic work.  Academic Technology, in conjunction with participating colleges and departments, offers on-going consultation, support, and training for both students and faculty on the creation of ePortfolios at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

 ePortfolios are serving multiple purposes within the SF State academic setting.  Students can use them to showcase achievements and/or receive feedback and assessment from faculty, peers, potential employers or graduate programs.  ePortfolios are now used as a full or partial comprehensive, formative/summative assessment strategy within 22 of 75 departments.  A number of departments are also using the portfolios to collect student work and assessment data for accreditation purposes or recruitment of future students.

To address the trend of ePortfolio use to support transfer SF State has also begun a collaboration with City College of San Francisco to pilot the use of ePortfolios in a 2 year to 4-year transfer program with ePortfolios issued in year one at CCSF within the Metro Health Academies Program.

What support is needed for an ePortfolio initiative?

The use of ePortfolios to showcase and meaningfully assess student, instructor, and university achievement is the embodiment of new learner-centered teaching methodologies that put the student, and the educational products they produce, at the center of instruction and assessment.  When creating an ePortfolio, the student, rather than the instructor, is the producer of the educational content, which is represented in various forms of digital content and media, including webpages, photos, video, sound, and graphics. Over the past six years working with a variety of departments, it has become clear that the “ground-work” phase—preparation, faculty buy-in, shared planning and cultural change are often the most challenging yet important aspects of launching a successful ePortfolio project implementation.  True to any university online teaching and learning initiative, an exemplary implementation of ePortfolios at a post-secondary institution also calls for appropriate attention and resources to three intersecting areas:


  Educational Best Practices

The website, has been key in the organization’s attempt to share information, discipline-specific examples, online training and activities related to ePortfolios. This site has been designed to be process-oriented, with the intention of sharing resources that may be helpful to faculty, staff, students and administrators throughout the California State University system.  While each campus may have individual approaches to technology solutions and assessment strategies, much of the information on the ePortfolio process may be applicable to any situation. 


  • Technology Infrastructure:  At SF State, a hosted solution (eFolio) has been chosen to support the campus project. Along with information at, students have access to Help resources directly through eFolio.
  • Student and Faculty Support Systems SF State's Online Teaching and Learning Group offers comprehensive, and tailored, pedagogical and technical support for faculty and students as they develop the technical and cognitive skills associated with creating or evaluating media-rich ePortfolios.  Students are trained in 90 minute sessions in identified "gateway" courses as identified by each department. Over the years, when working with a variety of departments, it has been noted that the most successful have been those that have an identified and required beginning and completion course tied to ePortfolio use. Successful projects are able to follow a sequential structure that allows Academic Technology to issue ePortfolio accounts to all students through “gateway” courses, promote full-faculty buy-in on requiring the timely uploading of “signature” assignments each term, and require finishing the portfolios in a capstone identified course

Lessons Learned

Any ePortfolio project will need to give attention to vision, assessment, technology, logistics, and culture.  It is suggested that the most essential element that needs to be addressed is that of shifting, re-defining, or adapting the existing culture of assessment.   Attitudes, values, goals, and practices underlying how disciplines expect students to demonstrate their learning varies radically-- from high-stakes testing to observation/demonstration to comprehensive ePortfolios. 

To support this cultural shift, a number of national projects including Leadership Campus recognition in the AAC&U’s VALUE (Valid Assessment of Learning in Undergraduate Education) project have been a great help..  There is currently a  shift, as departments work to leverage a more transparent "window" into academic achievement to benefit individuals, departments and the institution.

Faculty buy-in is key. Reflective writing and clarity around the choice of artifacts and learning objectives at different levels can guide students toward a more vital record of their academic identity and sustaining pride in their achievements.  A flexible approach is reccommended--not necessarily using only one approach to demonstrate students' competencies, but focusing more on ePortfolio processes that encourage students to make connections between curricular and co-curricular work.