“E-portfolios are supposed to serve three purposes: assessment, showcase, and learning” (Greenburg, 2004, p. 1). E-portfolios are also designed to facilitate the collection of learning evidence, create a learner-centric experience and help students develop lifelong learning skills like critical thinking and problem solving (Jones, 2010; Tosh & Werdmuller, 2004; Lorenzo & Ittelson, 2005). E-portfolios facilitate a learning experience beyond knowledge and skill acquisition, in that they assist students in “career planning and CV building” (Tosh & Werdmuller, 2004, p. 1) and provide opportunities for students to conduct their own learning assessments. The integration of e-portfolios allows educational institutions to capture information about students that can be utilised in accreditation and assessment processes and procedures (Reese and Levy, 2009). E-portfolios also provide increased opportunity for reflection on learning, thus facilitating greater learner reflection on personal achievement.
Gray (2008) extends on the potential of e-portfolios even further by defining e-portfolio-based learning as a complex process of planning, synthesising, sharing, discussing, reflecting, giving, receiving and responding to feedback” (p. 8). E-portfolio-based learning makes learners active participants in the construction of new knowledge and skills and facilitates the application of these in higher order ways that can continue to transform future e-learning experiences. Assessment of learning should not ask students to recount and recall facts, but should get students to demonstrate critical thinking skills, which can be facilitated through the integration of an e-portfolio (Haken, 2006). Providing evidence of learning is a form of assessment and a valuable way to provide future employers with more details of background knowledge and skills.
The instructional support and career planning opportunities that exist for learners to extend and evidence their learning through such a system as e-portfolios has been harnessed by PLANE in all e-learning experiences. PLANE has taken advantage of the integration being utilised by many institutions, which enables Mahara e-portfolios to be linked directly with Moodle courses. PLANE makes extensive use of this integration by making it a mandatory requirement that teachers completing learning experiences within PLANE populate and reflect on an evidence page, which is a Mahara e-portfolio page. The purpose of this evidence page is to evaluate their learning outcomes against teaching standards to gain accredited hours of professional development. New Scheme Teachers with the NSW Institute of Teachers must complete 50 hours of accredited professional learning in the five years following their accreditation at professional competence (NSW IT, 2005) and PLANE has become the only Australian provider of broadly endorsed professional learning (PLANE, 2012), facilitated by the use of e-portfolios. This is a significant extension on e-learning.