Show off students’ employability with e-portfolios

Why and how to make e-portfolios a central part of university courses, helping students identify and exhibit skills that will appeal to employers, by Lourdes Guàrdia and Marcelo Maina


Open University of Catalonia (UOC)
26 Jan 2023
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The mismatch between graduate readiness for entering the workplace and employers’ demands for a skilled workforce has been repeatedly highlighted by international surveys and reports. Embedding employability-related skills into the curriculum is core to reducing the skills gap and requires a rethink of teaching methods, technological infrastructure and stakeholder participation.

E-portfolios are collections of work in an electronic format that showcase a student’s learning achievements over time. They are a useful tool in providing support for transversal and evidence-based assessment of students’ achievements. Skills-focused e-portfolios enable students to link their learning experiences with real-world practice, demonstrate their capacities through selected evidence and build reflective metacognition. Moreover, new developments can help connect e-portfolios and microcredentials to offer flexible routes to certification and extended recognition, increasing the graduate profile’s visibility.

Enhancing graduate employability requires an organisational commitment. We present a set of steps to support the development of e-portfolios that link academia to the labour market.

1. Set up the organisational environment (policy and technology)

The successful roll-out of an employability-oriented curriculum and certification requires senior-level and administrative support, effective technology for student assessment, and a teaching strategy that supports the adoption of e-portfolios. Carry out an examination of the current organisational set-up using tools such as the E-portfolio Maturity Framework to analyse teaching, learning, assessment, technology and policy. This should inform decisions and help prioritise actions to introduce e-portfolios.

2. Collaborate and design reflective learning scenarios

Mastering skills requires progressive development through multiple learning tasks. Teachers should engage not only in learning design specific to their discipline or topic but should collaborate with others to adopt a programme-wide perspective. Instead of focusing all their efforts on designing whole new activities targeting specific skills, teachers should first review the existing syllabus to identify learning opportunities that might have been overlooked in which students already mobilise these skills.

They should look for learning scenarios that encourage enquiry into lived experiences inside and outside academia, including extracurricular and employment-related activities, and narratives for communicating achievements based on evidence. These will help students become more aware of the skills they have developed.

3. Engage students in reflective practices

Teachers should start by introducing students to employability skills and guide them to reflect on their own experiences. Students explore and identify relevant situations and select evidence that reveals the development of their skills. Later, ask students to go beyond factual information to write a reflective narrative explaining how the selected evidence in the e-portfolio showcases their employability. Finally, assess students using standard criterion-based rubrics and, upon successful scoring, issue the corresponding microcredentials.

4. Connect students with the workplace

A second step focuses on the students’ communication with prospective employers. Teachers should assist students in articulating their e-portfolio by:

  • presenting themselves in creative ways, using pictures, a short bio and personal interests
  • reorganising the collection of artefacts (microcredentials, learning evidence, certificates, diplomas and so on) to highlight their key achievements
  • introducing themselves using common hiring practices, eg, a video structured according to usual job interviews like the STAR method (Situation, Task, Action and Result), to emphasise their abilities.

Integrating microcredentials into e-portfolios supports flexible and transparent ways to assess and recognise students’ skills. Making students’ achievements visible increases graduate opportunities for entering the job market or securing professional promotion. The approach instils a “common language” of understanding between students, teachers and employers, responding to market demand for a skilled labour force and building trust. Most importantly, the approach boosts students’ self-awareness of their own capacities and strengthens their confidence.

This advice is based on the research paper “A micro-credentialing methodology for improved recognition of HE employability skills”, by Marcelo Maina, Lourdes Guàrdia, Frederica Mancini and Montserrat Martinez Melo, published in the International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education in 2022.

Lourdes Guàrdia is a lecturer and dean for teaching in the Faculty of Psychology and Education Sciences; and Marcelo Maina is director of the master in education and ICT (e-learning) and a lecturer in the psychology and education science department, both at the Open University of Catalonia.

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See a visual representation of a microcredentialling methodology for improved recognition of HE skills.

A European approach to microcredentials: A recommendation on a European approach to microcredentials for lifelong learning and employability adopted by the Council of the European Union on 16 June 2022. It aims to support the development, implementation and recognition of microcredentials across institutions, businesses, sectors and borders.

Digital Credentials Consortium: Founded in 2018 by leading universities with expertise in the design of verifiable digital credentials.

Modularisation of Continuing Education and Microcredentials Project: A project that contributes to the further conceptualisation of microcredentials and to transformative institutional developments in interaction with national and EU policies and frameworks.

Innovating Pedagogy 2022: Annual series exploring new forms of teaching, learning and assessment. It includes a special chapter about “Pedagogies of micro-credentials”, pp 21-26.


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