Online Learning Portfolios and Micro-credentials

Technology and Learning Colleagues,

Beginning on Monday, July 13th, we will have a week-long discussion in the Technology and Learning CoP about Online Learning Portfolios (Electronic Portfolios/ePortfolios) and Micro-credentials. In preparation for the discussion, below are descriptions of online learning portfolios, micro-credentials, and career pathways, as well as links to other background readings that may be of interest.

David J. Rosen

Moderator, Technology and Learning Community of Practice


Background on Online Learning Portfolios

Online learning portfolios (sometimes called electronic portfolios or ePortfolios) are useful to adult learners as a way to see learning growth and progress, and also as a way to demonstrate accomplishment to their friends and families, prospective employers, or college admission officers. Online portfolios are useful to teachers or tutors as a way to observe and measure learning progress, and to help both teachers or tutors and learners make decisions that ensure learning progress.

There are two kinds of learning portfolios:

1) A formative assessment (learning progress, e.g. writing) portfolio, and

2) A summative assessment (showcase, product or presentation) portfolio, often a refined formative assessment portfolio that through best examples of a student’s evidence of learning (e.g. writings, photos, video and audio files, slide presentations) and credentials, including micro-credentials, demonstrates what s/he knows and can do.

The summative (showcase, product or presentation) portfolio is a gleaned collection of student learning evidence designed for prospective employers, college admissions officers, or possibly as part of a competency-based secondary education credential such as the National External Diploma Program. Summative portfolios can be useful to employers, for example as authentic evidence of how an applicant writes, how s/he solves problems, and, in the case of an online portfolio, the learner’s digital literacy skills (that are also now included across the WIOA titles) and how s/he solves problems in a technology-rich environment. As with an artist’s portfolio, students collect and curate the best evidence of what they have learned and can do.

An online portfolio can take many forms, but it should be more than a collection of test results. The formative assessment/learning progress portfolio typically includes everything, or nearly everything, that the student writes or makes. Often the student(s) and teacher periodically review and reflect on the portfolio in one-on-one or small group meetings in which, based on their review, they may together outline next steps in the student’s individual learning plan. The learner generally participates in selecting the contents, especially of the summative portfolio.

Background on Micro-credentials

In the past few years, interest has grown in a new way to recognize online learning, called micro-credentials or sometimes, digital badges. These are online badges, not like ones worn on clothing, so they are ideal for including in a student’s online learning portfolio. Digital badges can be issued for adult learners’ small increments of learning, in WIOA performance metrics language small “measurable skills gains.”  Learners at beginning literacy levels, and their teachers or tutors, may see learning progress measured and recognized more frequently. At higher levels, digital badges can be “stacked” in collections that add up to certificates or other credentials that are recognized by employers, occupational training programs, or education institutions.

Digital badges typically store information about the meaning of the badge, for example: who issued it, the credentials of the issuing authority, what learning or competencies the badge stands for, and what it says about the person who holds it. If employers or education institutions want to know what the badge stands for, or want to know about the issuing organization, they can easily click on the digital badge to find out. Adult learners could provide a link to a portfolio with the digital badges they have earned, or could provide a link to a “badges backpack” (a learner’s private webpage where digital badges are stored) to prospective employers, or to a human resource department where s/he is employed, as evidence of qualifications for job advancement.

Digital badges were launched by the Mozilla foundation in 2011 with “An Open Badge System Framework,” a paper authored by Peer 2 Peer University and The Mozilla Foundation. The paper describes badges as digital images or symbols that indicate an accomplishment, skill, quality, or interest. Later that year, the Mozilla Foundation announced a plan to develop Mozilla Open Badges, a system for issuing, collecting, and displaying digital badges on instructional sites. (Also see the Mozilla Open Badges Wiki, To see who is already issuing Open Badges, go to To learn more about the Mozilla Foundation Open Badges project, watch this MacArthur Foundation Video, “What is a Badge?” at

Digital badges are web-based micro-credentials that in some circumstances can also lead to larger, widely recognized education or occupational credentials. One example of digital badges in adult basic education that can lead to an employment credential is the free, Northstar Digital Literacy Assessment  (See their FAQ section items: “About Badging.” A good short introduction to digital badges will be found in a Digital Life and Learning article, “Finding Bilbo Badgins” at

Background on Career Pathways

Electronic portfolios and micro-credentials can be used to demonstrate academic preparation, as well as specific career preparation.  While their use in career pathways programs is relatively new, it has quickly gained traction through social media and professional networking websites, like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Mozilla Backpack.

Former military personnel transitioning to the civilian sector are also using micro-credentials, sometimes called badges, to demonstrate their technical skills to potential employers through an initiative called Badges for Vets,

In urban, youth development programs across the U.S., in St. Paul, Chicago, Dallas, and Los Angeles, students are developing micro-credentials through participation in out-of-school time programs, in order to demonstrate professional competencies. Cities of Learning ( supports youth in these cities to create portfolios that are used to showcase earned micro-credentials, examples of work, and peer assessments.  These micro-credentials are part of a larger career pathways program, which focuses on financial and digital literacy, employability skills and technical skills, such as CPR certification.

Micro-credentials and electronic portfolios are also making their way into post-secondary education.  A recent article in The Chronicle of Higher Education ( reports that Pell Grants may become available to students enrolled in Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). The U.S. Department of Education is considering a pilot project to allow post-secondary institutions to contract with educational technology providers for coursework while maintaining their institutional eligibility for federal grants and loans. Depending on the outcome of the pilot, students pursuing alternatives to traditional degrees, such as micro-credentials made available by ed-tech companies, may be eligible for federal student aid.  While questions of who would validate these partnerships have yet to be figured out, popular MOOC developers, such as edX and Udacity, could conceivably enter the post-secondary education market under such an arrangement. 

In each of these contexts, electronic portfolios and micro-credentials are being used to develop and expand career pathways for an ever-widening segment of the population. 

Other Background Readings to Help you Prepare for the Discussion


Online Portfolios

Career Pathways, Micro-credentials, and Online Portfolios




Welcome to our discussion this week on Online Portfolios/e-portfolios and Micro-credentials. In my post last Friday, I provided descriptions of online learning portfolios, micro-credentials, and career pathways. I hope you have had a chance to read them. Throughout our discussion, we will be thinking about whether or not these descriptions are accurate, comprehensive, clear, and useful, and in light of the discussion we may revise them accordingly.

To begin our discussion today, I want to introduce our guest experts:

Jeff Carter has a wide range of experience in adult education policy and advocacy. He was recently tapped by the National Adult Education Professional Development Consortium (NAEPDC) and the National Council of State Directors of Adult Education (NCSDAE) to serve as their Executive Director, and started July 1, 2015. Prior to this position, Jeff served as the Director of Adult Education Initiatives at Digital Promise, an independent, bipartisan organization authorized by Congress to spur innovation in education. While at Digital Promise he oversaw the Beacon Project, which is exploring how communities work together to improve adult learning opportunities through the use of technology, including digital badges. Digital Promise is also building a coalition of educators and partners to develop a micro-credential system that provides K-12 teachers with the opportunity to gain recognition for skills they master throughout their careers. Earlier in his career, Jeff served as the Director of Policy and Government Affairs for ProLiteracy, and as Executive Director and President of D.C. LEARNs, a coalition of Washington D.C.- based adult, child, and family literacy programs. He is the current President of the National Coalition for Literacy (NCL), a coalition of the leading national, state, and regional organizations dedicated to advancing adult education, family literacy, and English language acquisition in the U.S.

Branka Marceta has held the position of Technology Projects Coordinator with Outreach and Technical Assistance Network (OTAN) since 2006. In this role, Branka has been planning, delivering and facilitating professional development, as well as supporting the process of planning for technology integration and online delivery by adult education providers. Branka has taught English as a Second Language, Community-Based English Tutoring, as well as basic skills and Career and Technical Education in the correctional education environment.  For the past five years, Branka has been coordinating an ePortfolio pilot with the goal to explore the potential use for the adult education field in California, introduce tools and possibilities, and share promising practices.

At our request, Branka has invited some of the teachers OTAN has worked with in their ePortfolio project. These include:

Jennifer Gagliardi has been teaching ESL and Citizenship at Milpitas Adult School in California for more than 12 years.  She also maintains US Citizenship Podcast (, a daily blog about Citizenship, Naturalization, and Immigration news and resources. Her students recently completed a class project in which they developed individual ePortfolios that documented their preparation for their U.S. Citizenship Interview.

Debbie Jensen works as an ABE teacher at Baldwin Park Adult and Community Education in Southern California.  She also works with OTAN on online courses and evaluating technology in the classroom. She uses ePortfolios with her ABE students using Google apps to show their best work both individually and collaboratively.  Her students are expanding their portfolios to include job focused student documents such as resumes, job searches, applications, and cover letters.

Victoria Jones is a lead instructor and technology coordinator in the ESL and ABE Departments at Simi Valley Adult School and Career Institute. Her responsibilities include facilitating the use of technology in all of the program’s ESL classes, teaching U.S. Citizenship, and introducing advanced level ESL students to the process of creating ePortfolios. After attending the Technology Integration Academy in 2009, Victoria was invited to participate in OTAN’s ePortfolio project. For the past four-five years she has introduced the concept of creating, collecting and preparing artifacts with the goal of teaching ESL students how to develop an online presence, improve their writing and computer skills, and showcase their work.

Suzanne Murphy is a full-time Transition Specialist/Career and Technical Education (CTE) Department Chair at Pittsburg Adult Education Center in Pittsburg CA.  As the Transition Specialist, with the help of a Policy to Performance (P2P) grant that was awarded to her school four years ago, she established a program that connects students to their local community college.  As the coordinator of the school’s CTE program, she oversees the CTE departments and the school’s FOCUS grant from CalWorks that provides a six-week academic and career program for their clients as they are job searching. Her experience with ePortfolios began with an OTAN ePortfolio pilot project in 2010 in another school district where she was a CTE business teacher.  Over the years, her program changed from using a commercial electronic portfolio product to using Google apps, such as Google documents, sites, voice, and calendar, because they were free and accessible through the school.

Judy Mortrude directs the 10 state Alliance for Quality Career Pathways at the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP).  This Alliance of education, workforce development, and human service providers from across the country has developed quality standards for career pathway system partners to use as they develop and evaluate their aligned efforts.  Judy has over 30 years of experience developing, delivering, and managing education projects for workforce development, particularly with low literacy and high barrier populations. She was the lead administrator for Minnesota’s largest Adult Basic Education (ABE) consortium before moving to the Minnesota Department of Employment & Economic Development in 2009 to staff the Minnesota FastTRAC Adult Career Pathway cross-system initiative.  MN FastTRAC aligns workforce development, community and technical colleges and Adult Basic Education to produce better education and employment results for Minnesota’s working learners. The initiative has helped over 5000 adults re-engage with career pathway education and employment and changed the way public workforce development and education do business together.

Sharon Ram teaches at Fremont Adult & Continuing Education in California. She has been an Adult ESL teacher for 14 years and an ESL Computer Lab teacher for seven years. In the ESL Computer Lab, her students practice ways to increase their English proficiency and computer skills. Using her Weebly website, and Google Drive, she tries to keep the lab current with engaging and fun student-centered computer projects, and she helps students to create ePortfolios. Sharon also uses USA Learns, Burlington English, and Moodle courses. Students can earn Certificates of Completion and Digital Badges for skills learned. As the ESL Distance Learning Facilitator, she has led teacher training (face-to-face and online), student orientations, and facilitated online courses in Moodle. She has been awarded several grants and recognition for Technology Integration in ESL and Distance Learning, including the CASAS Promising Practice Award in 2012. Her goal is to provide a high quality, immediately relevant, and up-to-date Online and Distance Learning Program to students at Fremont Adult & Continuing Education.

Jen Vanek is currently a doctoral student in Second Languages Education at the University of Minnesota. She's been working in the field of adult literacy since receiving her MA in Teaching English as a Second Language from the University of Illinois-Chicago in 1995. She's supported adult literacy learners on college campuses, adult learning centers, workforce centers, and factories. Her recent work and research centers on creating online content for ABE learners and supporting the professional development of ESL and ABE teachers in the area of digital literacy, distance learning, and adult career pathways. As part of the leadership team supporting the Northstar Digital Literacy Assessment project, she initiated and coordinated the integration of Mozilla open badges (digital micro-credentials) into the assessments, enabling over 1900 test takers in the last several months to earn proof of their digital literacy skills.  

In my next post, I have some questions for our guest experts. Others are also now welcome to post their questions, beginning with questions and comments about online portfolios.

David J. Rosen

Technology and Learning CoP Moderator



Below are some questions for our guest experts – and other participants – to begin our discussion on online learning portfolios. On Wednesday, we will add the topic of micro-credentials. Beginning now, and throughout the week, you are welcome to post your questions and comments about either or both topics, how you see online portfolios and micro-credentials enhancing career pathways, and what you see as implications for program managers who want to experiment with, implement, or expand online portfolios and/or micro-credentials.

Questions on Online Learning Portfolios for our Guest Experts and Others

  1. From your perspective, what are the most important reasons for adult education teachers and programs to offer learners online portfolios?
  2. Please give us some examples of how you, as a teacher or program administrator, are using online portfolios or, if you are not using them directly, please describe programs you are familiar with that are using them.
  3. Tell us about the students you work with who are using online portfolios:
    1. What are they studying (e.g. English language, preparation for HSE exam, industry, certification prep) and at what level(s)?
    2. When you introduced online portfolios what were their reactions?
    3. What are their reactions to online portfolios now?
  4. How are students who have online portfolios using them? To see their own learning progress? Applying for jobs? Applying for job training programs? Applying for post-secondary education? In other ways? Please tell us about this and, if you can, give us some examples.
  5. What are some examples of how portfolios have been used successfully by students in demonstrating academic or career preparation to post-secondary institutions and/or employers?

David J. Rosen

Technology and Learning CoP Moderator

Hello David and all,

Thanks for inviting us, California adult educators, to talk about experience with ePortfolios.

From my perspective, one important reason for adult education teachers and programs to offer learners online portfolios is to build and improve on the adult learner’s digital skills. Another important reason is nurturing the practice of reflecting on learning experiences.

When we disseminate information about the ePortfolio Pilot that OTAN has run for 5 years now, we do it in the form of conference presentations and online webinars under the title “ePortfolios for Empowered Students and Happy Teachers”.  The learner empowerment comes from several aspects of the process. The adult learners gain skills ranging from creating an online account to selecting their own work to showcase and deciding who they share it with and for how long. The teacher happiness comes from the new ways to electronically organize and manage their learner’s work, create assignments and potentially spend less time on preparation and follow-up involved with paper-only classrooms. 

Thanks Branka,

Please tell us more about nurturing the practice of reflecting on learning experiences. What are some of the important elements of that practice and how do teachers incorporate those elements in their classes?

Let's also hear from each of the teachers who work with the OTAN ePortfolios project. I would love to hear your answers to my questions posted earlier.

Let's also hear questions and comments from others participating in the discussion.

David J. Rosen

Technology and Learning CoP Moderator


In teacher preparation programs, and elsewhere, it is widely accepted that reflecting on one’s actions in the process of self-observation and self-evaluation may lead to improved teaching and learning effectiveness. 

Similarly, when asked to compile a collection of the work that represents their learning, adult learners will engage in evaluation of each of their projects and products. They will articulate reasons why they choose certain projects, or work, or artifacts over other similar items.

Dr. Hellen Barret has written and presented extensively on this topic. Her two more recent resources are a Web site, Reflection4Learning and a presentation from February 2015. In the presentation Dr. Barret offers this citation: “A portfolio tells a story. It is the story of knowing. Knowing about things…Knowing oneself…Knowing an audience…Portfolios are students’ own stories of what they know, why they believe they know it, and why others should be of the same opinion.” (Paulson & Paulson, 1991, p.2)

Thanks Branka,

Dr. Helen Barret is a great resource for those interested in ePortfolios. I like the quote from her that you have chosen. I wonder if other guests -- and other participants -- in this discussion are familiar with -- and have read her work. Do we have other professional developers in the discussion, for example, who have included her work in their courses or webinars?

David J. Rosen

Technology and Learning CoP Moderator



Suzanne, Debbie, Jennifer and Vicki will write about what they have done in their classrooms more recently, and for now I will share the work of other teachers from a few years ago.

In 2011-2012 the goal for the pilot was to have the adult learner gain understanding that she can have a collection of documents and other files online. These can be private or can be shared with individuals and/or public for the purpose of showcasing the outcomes of her learning and reflecting on the process. In collaboration with the OTAN coordinator, the five pilot teachers developed plans for their programs and implemented the use of Google Docs. The programs ranged from a GED class (now High School Equivalency preparation) to an ESL resource computer lab to the Policy to Performance Project to the Points of Entry Project.  In the process of introducing Google Documents to their learners, the participating teachers also started using other Google products such as Google Voice and Google Calendar, thus increasing the intensity, frequency and effectiveness of communication with the learners. Simi Valley adult learners took the pilot to the next level when they created individual Web sites using Google sites and embedded their documents and even audio files from the past semester.

Elk Grove Adult and Community Education Program Transition Pilot

In the school year 2011-12, Patricia Oliva held the assignments of the Transition Specialist under the Policy to Performance Pilot and taught writing skills and strategies, and a college success class at Elk Grove Adult and Community Education Program. Her goal was for adult learners and teachers to create and share ePortfolios using Google Documents as a tool to transition to post-secondary education or /and the workforce. She worked with fourteen learners. Students used Google documents to write essays, collect work, share documents, provide feedback and reflect on learning and accomplishments.

 Some challenges encountered were:

  • Some students that did not have Gmail did not want to create a new email account.
  • Some students thought that using Google documents would be extra work.
  • It took some time to get used to Google as a study and transition tool.


Some successes identified were:

  • Students learned how to create and share documents on a Google platform. Some students used Google documents to write essay drafts, collect information and share with classmates and transition specialist. Students really liked the comment feature for feedback.
  • Students that were not good at following up with the Transition Specials, started using Google Voice to text Transition Specials on an ongoing basis.
  • Students expressed that Google calendar helped them stay organized.
  • Students ended with a portfolio as a collection of employment tools and information they can use to transition to college or training.
  • Students were able to access their ePortfolio anywhere they can get internet connection.
  • Google documents helped the Transition Specials maintain and manage the Individual Action Plans, an important deliverable for the project.



Chaffey Adult School ABE/ASE

In the school year 2011-12, Francisco Lopez held the assignment of the ABE and ASE teacher at Chaffey Adult School. His goal for the ePortfolio was to assist students to transition from school to work. He wanted his students to get familiar with the use of Google Docs. He worked with nine learners. In a short-term project lasting a few weeks they accomplished the following:

  • Four learners filled out Goals Identification List document and communicated with the teacher about it. 
  • One learner created a professional resume, shared it with the teacher and revised it based on teacher comments.  
  • A group of GED learners inserted comments on one shared document for the duration of one week, reflecting on their learning. 

Hi, Branka -

Thanks for sharing these challenges and successes. I'm curious what the Goals Identification List used by Chaffey Adult School students. You mention that Mr. Lopez's goal for the e-portfolios was to help students transition from school to work. Were students developing both academic and career goals with the Goals Identification List?  If they included both types of goals, do you know whether they were connected in a meaningful way? For example, earning a GED in order to enroll in post-secondary education or training, for which the GED or high school diploma are a prerequisite?



Hi Mike, 

The great thing about Google Drive is that I can easily search for items shared with me and find them within seconds. Here’s the link to the document Francisco shared with me back in April 2012.  I am trying to remember how we came up with it. The footnote reveals that the checklist items were built from California State Library California Adult Learner Progress Evaluation Process form, Snohomish County Literacy Coalition/Everett Community College Literacy Center Goal Identification form, Literacy Source student identified needs, and KCCF Transitions Class self-identified student goals form. We did not post the links to the original works (which we should have done).  You can also see that Francisco and I were practicing making comments in this sample document. 

The goals sections do not identify what would be a chronological progression from one goal to another. 


Hello Branka, Suzanne, Debbie, Jennifer, Vicki, and Sharon,

I imagine participants in this discussion would like to see what some of the online adult learning portfolios look like. If possible, could you include some web links to portfolio preparation materials for teachers, and to examples of adult learners' portfolios, and could you perhaps describe the process that led to the portfolio's creation?

David J. Rosen

Technology and Learning CoP Moderator



Hi David,

I'm including a link to a site I created to show examples of what we've been doing with students in the ESL department at Simi Valley Adult School. From this site there are links to several videos showing our Advanced ESL instructor teaching students how to write and share essays online, how to work collaboratively on a project demonstrating and showcasing their skills, and the benefits of maintaining an ePortfolio. 

Our initial goal in introducing ePortfolios was for our adult learners to gain an understanding of how they can have a collection of documents and other file types online. Students learned that this online collection can be private or can be shared with individuals, and/or public for the purpose of showcasing and reflecting on the process and outcomes of their learning. Several students created their ePortfolios using a Google Site as the container and Google Drive as the vehicle to produce the digital artifacts. 

Our most advanced ESL students write and share their assignments with the teacher through Google Drive (Docs) and these writing samples are critiqued by the teacher, edited and refined by the students (all online) and then selected for inclusion in the ePortfolio collection. The process proceeds from the teacher's syllabus and the focus can include simple grammar exercises, pronunciation practice with audio files and more involved presentation files (Google Slides) requiring online research and class presentation.

        Select "Google Drive"  on the sidebar to the left for videos of  students in a lab setting with instructor Mai Ackerman


Thanks Victoria. There are some great videos on your site of Mai Ackerman working with students on their ePortfolios. I especially liked this two-minute video:  In it Mai answers a question I asked earlier, how students can use their ePortfolios, in this case to get employed or promote their own small businesses.

David J. Rosen

Technology and Learning CoP Moderator


Hi Victoria,

Thanks for sharing this website! I also enjoyed Mai's video and I was reminded of my advice to students years ago when I taught about job interview skills; I would tell them to bring a folder portfolio of personal examples or work and accomplishments to their interview . This was I practice I did myself! And now, we can easily open up our Linkedin profile, or our personal webpage with our experience, achievements and projects to show prospective employers! I think helping students with a personal statement and career profile may definitely give students an edge up on the competition. For instance, I know someone who was applying for a very competitive job. He brought in his laptop to the job interview and pulled up some documents to exemplify his points and skills. He was the only applicant who did that. He got the job! :)

The discussion so far has been wonderful.  I will add an ABE slant. I teach basic skills in  Baldwin Park, Southern California. ABE includes reading, writing and mathematics from beginning levels through 8th grade.  Some of my students come to my class fearful of technology.  From the first day I try to make a safe place for them to try, fail, and try again until they succeed with this new online world.  I demonstrate any task over and over and inevitably I make mistakes.  I try new uses of online applications and talk my way through the instructions, making blunders as I go.  It makes for a bit of discomfort for me, but the students see me fail and don’t worry so much when they do.

We put their presentations on our class Google site,  This group of students came to Google Drive and Google sites in March of this year.  One of the assignments was to use Google Slides and  introduce themselves including where they were from (Google Maps).  We learned a lot about  Permissions and Sharing, but too late to change them, so many of their presentations are not available to the public.  The shared Tech Terms Presentation required each student to look up a tech term and find an image to illustrate it.  This proved to be a fun way to expand vocabulary.

Our major success was in the students embracing the technology.  Those who were afraid at first, taught each other and the presentations were well received.  They are excited to see their work online and be able to share it with others.

In the fall we will expand their ePortfolios to include vocational applications such as memos, resumes, cover letters and job searches.

Thanks Debbie for providing ABE examples. I want to (bold) highlight some of your comments because I think they are important not only for this Technology and Learning topic, but for many of our topics here:

You wrote: "From the first day I try to make a safe place for [ students] to try, fail, and try again until they succeed with this new online world.  I demonstrate any task over and over and inevitably I make mistakes.  I try new uses of online applications and talk my way through the instructions, making blunders as I go.  It makes for a bit of discomfort for me, but the students see me fail and don’t worry so much when they do.

  • Even if it is uncomfortable, teachers need to model risk taking and making mistakes You wrote: "Our major success was in the students embracing the technology.  Those who were afraid at first, taught each other and the presentations were well received."
  • When students move from fear of technology to embracing it, that is success. I believe that this reflects two kinds of success: the first, learning to be comfortable with taking risks in learning new technology skills; and the second, a more transferable competency, willingness to take risks when learning other new things. This is one of the most important "non-cognitive" skills that a learner needs.
  • Students who are afraid of technology can teach each other. This may seem counter-intuitive. How, one might ask, can someone who doesn't know how to do something teach someone else how to do it? My guesses are that: 1) students who knew some things shared what they knew how to do, and other students who knew different things shared what they knew how to do, and that together the students as a group had most or all of what they needed to know and so could learn from each other, 2) that although they were cautious at first, some knew more than they thought, and mostly needed the confidence to try, to experiment, and/or 3) that as a small group, helping each other, the students had the confidence to problem-solve together. (This is also often a workplace phenomenon.)

Debbie, are any of these guesses right? What do you think was going on when "students who were afraid at first taught each other"?

David J. Rosen

Technology and Learning CoP Moderator




I am thinking in particular of two sisters, both older women returning to get their GEDs but not scoring high enough to be in the GED class. They had never worked on computers before, though their children used them regularly. At first they were very quiet.  They would observe my modeling of the activity, (creating a vocabulary table using Google docs) then they would go to their computers and repeat the activity over and over, applying it to past chapters (missed due to later enrollment in the quarter).  I encouraged their work as I walked around the classroom, but did not realize they were creating their documents in their own Google folder rather than the shared folder. This meant, for grading purposes, they had not turned in the work.  They asked me about their assignments, but after I checked, I told them their folders were empty.  They showed me their multiple completed assignments. It was an eye opener as they realized they had created the documents in the 'wrong' folder.  It didn't take much to show them how to move their work into the shared folder.  Shyly they told me they didn't think they could succeed in the class.  But I boldly told them they would be star presenters by the end of the quarter.

Presentations scare everyone.  To get the ball rolling, four weeks before the presentations were due, I had one of the students from the previous quarter give his presentation for this group.  Then I demonstrated how Sam Student would create the five slide assignment about his life.  (Sam Student must have had five presentations created over those four weeks demonstrating how to use Google Maps to show where he was from as one of the slides).

 Here is the exciting part.  On the day of the presentation not only were both sisters prepared but they had added YouTube videos about their home cities! That wasn't part of the assignment! The students had taught each other how to embed videos! Now they stood in front of the class and told about themselves to the other class members. It was a rousing success. The younger students taught the older students and the older students encouraged the younger ones.  In the end we had a bumper crop of beaming students using Google slides, sites, and maps.  One student even Googled how to add music to her presentation--on her own.

To top the whole experience, by the end of the quarter, these two sisters had well organized shared folders and they spent time helping the younger students get 'caught up.'

When I asked for volunteers to add their pictures to our class website, they volunteered. Their beaming faces are in the last picture, (Christina and Rosa), 

Debbie Jensen

Although I have created many resources for my citizenship students, I have found that  too many teacher-created resources can overwhelm, instead of help, a student.  The solution: tap students' Civics and technical skills to collaborate and create their own Citizenship materials.  

Example: The Eligiibiliy Project

In 2014, the USCIS re-organized the N-400 Application for Naturalization.  Besides adding many more questions about Good Citizenship (Part 11 asks detailed questions about obeying US laws and criminal/violent activity in the applicant's home country), the USCIS moved the question: how an applicant is eligible to become a US citizen, to Part 1 of the N-400 application, ahead of the questions about name, birth date, country of origin, etc. Although the re-organization is bases on sound legal principles, the eligibility question essentially functions as a "gateway question" not only in regards to the law but also in regards to language.  The multi-syllabic words, eligible or eligibility, are not only difficult for the students to hear, but also to understand; although eligibility is an abstract legal concept, it is grounded in the applicant's real life experience.  How do we bridge this gap? Eligibility is associated with a very tangible item: an applicant's legal permanent residence card or his/her "Green Card."  Most applicants keep these safely locked up and no amount of worksheets can manifest this precious item. 

Solution: the Milpitas Adult School Citizenship class, used ChromeBooks ro create a collaborative Google Slide show about Eligibility.  students copied a master slide which displayed a photo of a green card.  Students then replaced the name, date, country, etc info on the Green Card master, with their own info and added the title: I have been a legal permanent resident for __ years.  Then, the students took pictures of each other and directly uploaded these photos to their portfolios and Google drive and added them to their revised Green Card.  Then they exported their slides to one class slide show which seemed to grow before their eyes.  Students were transfixed as they read through the display together--a real bonding moment.  See the slide show here: Citizenship Eligibility

The Eligibility Project to Citizenship ePorfolios

Although I wanted to grow this slide show into individual N-400 slide shows similar to ppt used to prep the video , students voted to collaborate on several presentations via Google Drive about Civics.  (perhaps the demo about using Google Street View to take picture of their home "kinda freak us out, teacher")

In order to master individual personal naturalization, students worked through a graduated series of N-400 scripts, which they recorded and posted to YouTube.  In addition, they recorded and posted two video series of the remixed USCIS 100 Civics questions.  Group collaboration and individual documentation resulted not only in the posting over 40 videos to YouTube AND higher achievement on CASAS ESL/Citizenship assessments, but resulted in a near perfect first-time pass rate of the USCIS Citizenship Interview.  Instead of exiting our Adult school after completing the citizenship course, most students transferred back to ESL classes (demonstrating significant fluency gains) and two students entered the GED classes in order to pursue professional development.  These two students were particularly motivated to continue because they are now qualified to work on government contracts which require US citizenship and HS proficiency.

To learn more, see:  OTAN /usicitizenpod: Citizenship ePortfolios: an excerpt from ePortfolios for Empowered Students and Happy Teachers: A Pilot by OTAN in 2014-2015.  This excerpt to the 06/17/2015 ePortfolio Webinarwas contributed by Jennifer Gagliardi , Milpitas Adult School; Modified 06/18/2015.

To view the Citizenship ePorfolio Deliverables, see



Hello Jennifer and others,

Thanks for this great information. I wonder if you could tell us a bit more about how students use their citizenship ePortfolios. For example, do they show them (e.g. on a smartphone or tablet or laptop) at the citizenship interview? Do they use the them to prepare for the interview (or is making them good preparation because this embeds the content during the process of making them?) Do they use them in other ways?

For those who clicked on the Youtube video link in Jennifer's post, while the URL is correct in the text, the underlying link is not; I believe it should be

Everyone -- if you have questions or comments for Branka, Jennifer or other guests, please join in! Also, if you like a post click on  "Like" at the bottom of the post.

David J. Rosen

Technology and Learning CoP Moderator




My students do not bring their ePortfolios to the Citizenship interview (I think that cell phones are prohibited in USCIS offices)

The students primarily access the internet via smartphones (iphones seem to be the smartphone of choice).  Most students go directly to uscitizenpod's YouTube channel to watch their fellow student's videos that were created as part of their ePortfolios.  Also they take videos of each other with the cell phones during practice interviews and share them privately.  Recently, I saw one of my students watching her own Citizenship Practice video while she was waiting in line at Costco,  Students have also reported carrying their 100Qs handouts and reviewing the questions during breaks or listening to class produced cds during their commute.

Students are eager to add sound or imbed the mp3s recorded by the Milpitas teachers to class' Google slides- projects--we hope to resolved this procedure by the beginning of the school year. 

There was also a class discussion about exporting the projects to an e-flashcard site such as quizlet because sound files can be automatically imbedded. However, I think it is better to develop several series of mp3s/mp4s that includes a mixture of accents and literacy levels instead of relying solely on a computer-generated-yet-very-natural-sounding-voice.

For school year 2016-2017, I hope to develop a badge/mini-credential system based on the "leveled" N-400r interview and oral/written assessment based on the USCIS 100 questions.  The badge system would be extremely helpful in monitoring the progress for a highly mobile population.  It would also strengthen the link between classroom practice and CASAS etesting/gains.

Again, the key is empowering the students.  Although we quiz each other endlessly about our representative government in groups and pairs, when it comes time for the Citizenship interview, an applicant/student must speak for his/her-self.

Thanks Jennifer! I am discovering the same thing about having too many teacher-created resources for my citizenship students and finding that students become overwhelmed - I like your suggestion and I am hoping to use it in connection with one of the EL Civics Additional Assessments based on U.S. Government.


Are you talking about CASAS EL Civics COAPPS 40 or the other CASAS assessment such as CIT?  Either way, I think student created reources could generate a tremendous amount of excitement in connection to CASAS and creating an ePortfolio fo CASAS COAPPS 40.4 would create a tremendous amount of excitement.  For more info about the CASAS/Citizenship link, please see my presentation from the CASAS Summer Institute: Resources and Strategies for the USCIS Citizenship Interview Part 2

Another suggestion: September 17 is US Constitution/ US Citizenship Day.  Collaborative class eProjects and/or Mini-ePortfolios could be developed in connection to the celebration if the school is hesitant to pursue a fully developed citizenship COAPPS.  At the very minimum, there should be a US Constitution Badge/Mini-credentials for Adult ESL students.

If a staff planned and hard enough, badges/Mini-credentials could be associated with each CASAS COAPPs...

Hi David,

I am going to attach a few links to Google Sites that some of my students have created.  I work with CTE students and I believe that it is important for them as part of their job portfolio to create an online portfolio.

As they go through the job search process, most if not all information they are submitting to employers is online and employers are asking for links to their online portfolios like LinkedIn or Facebook.  I am having them create Eportfolios so that they learn how to post their resume, references, and certifications.  they can use this site as way to store all their necessary job search information but also they can email the link to a employer or network to help them in the search process.

These are works in progress and we are in the beginning stages with these two links that I am sharing with you.  I wanted students on their own to try and use the site to create a profile upload a picture, resume and copies of their certifications if they had them.



Hi Suzanne,

You wrote "employers are asking for links to their online portfolios like LinkedIn or Facebook." This is very interesting. It comes as a surprise to me. I am wondering if that is unique to your area of California or if it is common now for adult learners who are seeking jobs to be asked for their online portfolio. If it is commonplace, this is a tremendously important reason for adult basic skills programs to help students to create work-related online portfolios. Can you tell us a bit about the students who are creating these online portfolios? I believe that CTE stands for Career and Technical Education, so are these students taking occupational training courses? Is this a simultaneous model in which they purse English language or high school equivalency skills and knowledge while they also take occupational training courses?

David J. Rosen

Technology and Learning CoP Moderator


Whether employers are asking to see them or not, we know that over a third of employers will do a screening of a potential employee's social media sites. Part of digital literacy is being aware of this while posting, liking, following, etc.



Thanks for raising this point about employers' increasing social media awareness.  Do you have any suggestions or recommendations for instructors when discussing social media with learners? Is it something we should be discussing with learners, even if we don't cover the technology in class?



This is definitely a topic that needs to be at least touched on in both employability and technology classes.

I work with a wide range of adult learners (some who have and many who haven't been online) and don't do a specific segment on Facebook (there are SO many examples of what NOT to do there)...  I do mention that just as you want to look good for your interview and you want your resume to look polished, it doesn't do much good if your Facebook page scares employers away.  This is a personal choice issue, but just as the neck or face tattoo is a personal choice, it will limit your future employability.  

For some students that I get (those with technical or professional backgrounds) as well as my colleagues, I encourage them to at least establish a presence on LinkedIn.  In describing LinkedIn, I tell them that it is sort of a Facebook for adults...

Hello Marshall,

Thanks for your comment about using Facebook and Linkedin. Do you also provide your students with guidelines on _how_ to used LinkedIn to develop a professional-looking online presence? If so, can you share those with us here?

If others have guidelines that they give to students on how to use LinkedIn, or a separate Facebook page, to build a professional-looking online presentation ePortfolio for employment purposes -- please share the guidelines with us.

David J. Rosen

Technology and Learning CoP Moderator

Hi Suzanne,

I think you bring up a very interesting point with Linkedin. Although, I am still pondering how it can be used as a student learning portfoilio (and I'm sure someone has tried it in their classrooms already), I do think it is an important professional networking tool where students can manage their professional identity. I have not delved into Facebook or Linkedin with my students as I am still teaching about plagiarism.

Is anyone using Linkedin with their students?

Sharon R.

Hi Everyone,

I teach in two different programs that cover employment preparation -- including resumes, cover letters, interviews, etc. I introduce students to LinkedIn and get them started, because LinkedIn is an important networking tool as Sharon's mentioned. LinkedIn has several features that allows one to share one's (summative) work. Yet for that purpose it's good, but not ideal.

LinkedIn Pros:

LinkedIn seems to make progress in becoming a better showcase for participants' work as well as for networking. Especially if one feels comfortable enough to publish through LinkedIn's "Pulse". It's like publishing through a blog, but it is integrated into the LinkedIn platform and thus draws the attention of followers and others on LinkedIn who can become future employers.

LinkedIn Cons:

It feels like a duplication of effort to publish about one's work in both LinkedIn and an ePortfolio. I think the main difference between the two is that the ePortfolio is more personalized and private for one's audience and LinkedIn is for a broader, more networked audience. If that's the case, how do others explain the differences to students between an ePortfoliio and LinkedIn, and the need to create one or the other or both?

At the end of the day to me it depends on purpose. Is the purpose to showcase incremental steps in attaining a learning goal? Then I think the ePortfolio wins. But at some point the learner may / will want to create a LinkedIn account for networking and job searching possibilities. So at that point does LinkedIn prevail?

What are your experiences?

Jackie Taylor

Moderator, Evidence-based Professional Development and Science COPs


Hi Jackie, and others who have used Linked in as a presentation portfolio,

Suppose a teacher decides, as you suggest, Jackie, to use two different platforms, one for a formative/learning progress portfolio, another for a summative/presentation portfolio. Assuming that many or all students will be interested in having a summative portfolio once they see examples of what they can do for them (e.g. help them with getting U.S. Citizenship, getting a job, advancing on a job, or getting accepted for a training program or apprenticeship), and assuming that "backward design" might be useful in this situation, that is, looking at what is required for the presentation portfolio (perhaps a resume, short videos demonstrating certain work-related skills, writing samples of various kinds, a professional looking slide show or screen capture presentation on a relevant topic, etc.) would it make sense to design the learning progress portfolio so that it would be easy to transfer polished parts to the presentation portfolio later?

If so, what would the design issues be? For example: what would be the parts of a presentation portfolio that should be included in the learning progress portfolio?  Could all of these be hosted on LinkedIn, or would they need to be hosted elsewhere, with links in the Linkedin presentation portfolio? Does Linkedin allow someone, in this case an adult learner, to control who can access the presentation portfolio site?

David J. Rosen

Technology and Learning CoP Moderator


Thank you for sharing these examples of student work with e-portfolios. Like David, I'm assuming CTE stands for Career and Technical Education. If so,  I wonder if students in competency-based CTE programs might use their portfolio to link to the career/industry certification requirements? 

The National Occupational Competency Testing Institute (NOCTI) has a list of assessments for which it administers job ready assessments.  Many entry level careers are also represented by associations or certifying bodies which list the competences required by employers, or states, for employment in a given field. For example, Certified Occupational Therapy Assistants are required to pass an exam, with specified domains, which must be demonstrated by examinees in order to become certified.

What are your thoughts on referencing the CTE-related competences in learners' e-portfolios? Do you think including this information would serve the dual purposes of setting goals with learners in these CTE programs, and demonstrating career competences?


Mike Cruse



Greetings, everyone!

I am delighted to partake in this week’s topics!

I have been using student learning portfolios in my ESL classes for many years. I started out with paper-based portfolios, then blended (paper and digital) portfolios and finally students have transitioned to online portfolios. I began with Weebly (an educator account gave me 40 student accounts) and now students are working in Google drive. Currently, I use one email with multiple student folders including group work folders. As students become more familiar with google drive, I give them their own student email from our district. Not everyone is ready for it so the process is gradual and individualized.

The greatest advantage I see with e-portfolios is: organization (for both student and teacher)! Students have work that they can retrieve from google drive and build upon, modify and/or review. It saves time from having to look through a binder for at-home assignments or yesterday’s classwork. And the soft skill of organization is an important skill to learn for our students. Students also proudly share their work with other students, family members and teachers. Recently, our school district (Fremont USD, Fremont, CA) issued student gmail accounts to all students. The rationale behind doing this is so students can “carry” their work with them throughout their years in the district. I have been piloting this with a few of my students. The student gmail account does have limitations and does not include all the features of a traditional gmail account.

But I do have one question that has nagged at me since I started digital portfolios: privacy. How are educators handling student privacy?

My class technology policies include:

-students need to sign a picture/video release form

-student pictures and videos used in portfolios can only be taken at school

-use of first name, last initial, or only initials

Can anyone comment and/or share their practice?

When I used Weebly, I did have the accounts password protected. And eventually I deleted every student’s account so I don’t have those examples to share. That particular year, my students created a career eportfolio in which they shared their goal/objective, skills they had, skills they wished to acquire, their work experience, and a resume for some students.

Sharon R.

Great example, Sharon! I see great value in using Google Drive for this work since so many post-secondary institutions use Google apps and email. I'm sure that your using them in class teaches valuable skills that will be critical for your learners down the road. Very practical! 


Hi Sharon,

I agree with you that we need to focus more on understanding the issues of privacy and safety of our adult learners, especially now that many teachers are getting more comfortable with working online and having online presence. 

You and our California colleagues know that OTAN has been offering resources on these topics for a few years now.  During the most recent Technology and Distance Learning Symposium, the keynote was Merve Lapus of Commonsense Media Education, highlighting their Digital Citizenship Curriculum.

OTAN shares the work of Karla Frizler in online workshops and conference presentations about the two newest California EL Civics objectives (47 & 48), focused on helping ESL students develop effective online communication skills and identify strategies and resources to effectively use the Internet safely.

For two years, OTAN has also provided opportunities to teachers to become more acquainted with and knowledgeable about their own privacy settings under their social media and online accounts as a step towards communicating that information to the adult learners we serve.  This is done though an online workshop and a collection of resources.

Finally, I would like to suggest that this school year we put forth a group effort to communicate the strategies you use when you take your learners online.

-students need to sign a picture/video release form

-student pictures and videos used in portfolios can only be taken at school

-use of first name, last initial, or only initials

Thank you for asking that question: How are educators handling student privacy?

~Branka, OTAN

Thanks, Branka, for the resources! I will review Karla's materials and your wikispaces. I think that the definition of student safety encompasses student privacy of work that is shared with the teacher and in the classroom. Modeling a positive online presence and protecting students' privacy is an important aspect in Teacher PD.

Sharon R.


This rich and interesting discussion will end late Friday. We're a little over half way now. Perhaps you are a participant who has meant to ask a question or comment, but you haven't yet. Please do it now! We want to hear what you think, what your experience might be with digital badges or other micro-credentials, and with online portfolios. We also want to hear from those who don't have this experience but who have joined the discussion to see what this is about and perhaps are now considering trying out one or both of these innovations. Post your questions. What do you think you might need to know.

I believe there are many people who have joined this discussion who work outside the field of adult basic education, perhaps in community colleges, career pathways organizations, intermediaries, public advocacy organizations, in digital badging efforts and elsewhere. What are your thoughts? What do you think is important to consider in implementing online portfolios and micro-credentials?

We eagerly await your comments and questions!

David J. Rosen

Technology and Learning CoP Moderator




Yesterday's discussion was a great start! Thanks to everyone who has contributed so far. I appreciate our guests giving us information about the OTAN ePortfolio project its influences and strategies, the authentic examples of teachers ePortfolio work with students, as well as some interesting questions to think about based on their experience using ePortfolios with their students.

Others participating in the discussion who have experience with ePortfolios, please feel free to join in with your experiences and questions.

Let's continue to post questions and replies to yesterday's questions and comments, but let's also now focus on three additional ePortfolio topics:

  • Advantages over paper-based portfolios,
  • Challenges in implementing ePortfolios, and
  • Professional Development for Teachers and Administrators needed to Implement ePortfolios Effectively.

Using the LINCS "Search" feature, I gleaned through some of the earlier online portfolio LINCS discussions. I was looking for advantages of ePortfolios over paper-based portfolios, and for challenges in implementing ePortfolios. I am interested in hearing more about our guests' and others experiences that exemplify or contradict some of these advantages, solutions to the challenges, and also your questions.

Advantages ePortfolios have over paper-based portfolios

  • Many millennial adult learners thrive in a digital environment.
  • Many businesses are realizing some efficiency in using technology, especially as part of the hiring process.
  • There are many tools (Wikis, Blogs, Google Drive Tools...) that allow adult learners to store collections of their work and present their accomplishments professionally in a digital environment.
  • Learners don’t have to fear losing their important work if they save it online
  • The digitized evidence of their learning in their collections demonstrates learners’ accomplishments to themselves.
  • Learners find it convenient to upload evidence of learning (images, audio files, videos) from their smartphones. This motivates them to capture their accomplishments.
  • Learners can create work-related portfolios with evidence of learning in job-finding skills such as writing a cover letter and resume and interviewing, and work-ready soft skills, and they can share a link to their portfolios with prospective employers.
  • Employers are finding out much more about learners through these digital portfolios than any transcript might convey. 
  • Employers and admissions people may value demonstrations of accomplishments, and evidence of thinking or learning, when evaluating a potential applicant. "What can you do?" or "How did you do that?" become much more important than "What did you get for a grade?" or "What courses did you take?"
  • Learners adapt to these transitional student portfolios at a much higher rate, with much more engagement than with more traditional paper collections and models.

Do you see other advantages of ePortfolios?

Challenges in implementing ePortfolios

  • Teachers’ and learners’ lack of reliable access to Internet technology
  • Lack of support to help teachers become comfortable with the skills and processes available
  • For many learners there is difficulty in transferring skills learned from one platform to another, and as teachers we make it difficult by focusing our teaching of digital tools on only procedures.  “…practice and memorize where each button is and which menus contain what. In contrast, teaching learners about word processing and the basic operations that are in all word processors, then having them experiment with that conceptual understanding in multiple products prepares them to take the core essential understanding of word processing and apply it to any interface much more easily than the procedural instruction.” (Thanks to Ed Latham)

What do you see as some challenges to overcome if teachers or programs are to use online portfolios well?

Professional Development teachers need to implement online learning portfolios

  • Do teachers need professional development or training in how to help their students use online portfolios? If so, what have you found works best? If you are a professional developer and you do this kind of training, tell us from your experience what you do, what works and what you would recommend for other states that want teachers to implement online portfolios.

Finally, a suggestion to guests and others: please end each post with your name, so it will be clear to all who is posting. Thanks.

David J. Rosen

Technology and Learning CoP Moderator


Hi, David and everyone. Thanks for the useful suggestions posted so far!  I would like to add one more example of a portfolio approach in ABE. Many of you may know that Minnesota has recently launched an alternative to the GED, the MN Adult Diploma. The diploma is offered currently in pilot sites across the state and will be available statewide in the near future. Essentially the Diploma uses a portfolio approach. An online venue - Learner Web - is used by (and with learners) to catalog their success demonstrating competencies in the required skill areas.  Here's an image of the list of broad competency areas (note there are several sub-competencies within each).  Sub-competencies are based on CC CCRC standards.

Learners can upload evidence at the top level or can satisfy each individual sub competency.  Either way, the following means by which to prove it are: documentation of successful completion of a course, GED score, Accuplacer score, or artifact from work experience. After something is submitted it is evaluated by an advisor at the ABE site and either confirmed or contested.  

I have been involved in training staff to use LW for this work. We have relied primarily on in-person meetings and individual calls/tech support as needed. Though there have definitely been some tech issues to sort out, the pilot appears to be going well, as nearly 500 (sub)competencies have been completed so far in the pilot.

For more information on this work, please see the MN Department of Ed website:


Hi Jen,

Thanks for calling our attention to the MN Adult Diploma and Learner Web in the context of online portfolios.

For those who are not familiar with Learner Web,  it was developed at Portland State University, in collaboration with several Learner Web regions around the country, including Minnesota, and it is used in several states, including California, Texas, New York, Louisiana, and Minnesota, among others. It is a blended learning model, used in adult education programs, libraries, workforce development programs, career centers, and in other settings. It has a feature called a Workspace, which is an ePortfolio. Learner Web is mostly used by adult basic skills and English language learners, including those pursuing digital literacy or health literacy or career pathways skills and knowledge, but there are some Learner web sites designed for professional development for teachers or volunteer tutors. For example, there is a LINCS national Learner Web site for adult literacy professional development. This site can be accessed free by anyone.

Jen, I have some questions about the MN Adult H.S. Diploma program:

  • It sounds like it is a blended model. If so, can you tell us about the pilot sites. Are these adult secondary education programs in community-based organizations, libraries, adult schools, community colleges, elsewhere? What kinds of activities are done face-to-face, and what kind are done online?
  • Some competency-based adult diploma programs are only or primarily assessments. Others are instruction and assessment. Which is this?
  • You have used the term "artifact" from work experience I presume as evidence of learning. Could you give us a couple of examples?
  • I am guessing that in addition to learning the skills and knowledge needed to attain the content competencies, adult learners need to learn the competency-based approach (probably new for most learners), the digital learning skills needed to use and navigate the online presence, and how to use the workspace to develop a learning progress -- and presentation -- portfolio. Would that be correct? How is this initial learning handled? Primarily in the face-to-face learning component at least until learners are comfortable and competent in competency-based learning and digital literacy skills?

I know there is at least one other competency-based high school diploma model, the CASAS National External Diploma Program. I believe this also has an online learning portfolio component. Does someone here want to describe that for us? Does anyone know if there are other adult or external diploma programs that have, or are, an online portfolio?

David J. Rosen

Technology and Learning CoP Moderator


I just sent a message to a few CASAS staff who are the leads on the National External Diploma Program, and I hope they can join us and give us more details.  From what I know, there is a project that CASAS has been working on for a number of years that can be described as a soft skills portfolio and is now available under Workforce Skills Certification System

~Branka, OTAN


Thanks for asking!

The National External Diploma Program® (NEDP) is a viable, alternative assessment system to earn a high school diploma for adults and out-of-school-youth.  The NEDP requires candidates to actively demonstrate what they know through standardized performance assessment tasks. The NEDP goes beyond typical standardized multiple-choice tests in that candidates analyze a variety of textual information, apply knowledge and skills, and write extensively to address issues and solve problems relevant to adults with employment and postsecondary education goals.Th

In complex, highly integrated performance assessment tasks guided by the Common Core State Standards (National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and Council of Chief State School Officers, 2010), the NEDP requires candidates to actively demonstrate their knowledge and skills on competencies needed for real life and success in college and careers.  Because it is self-directed, the NEDP also develops self-efficacy skills in candidates that are needed for ongoing success in career pathways.  A national panel of subject matter experts representing high schools, colleges, business and industry, and the community validated the NEDP competencies for importance in successful postsecondary training and workforce success. 

The NEDP performance-based assessment system is ideal for adult candidates who may not do well on typical high-stakes multiple-choice assessments, to demonstrate their “actual” knowledge, skills and abilities. A distinguishing feature is the ability to make multiple attempts to demonstrate a competency, rather than completing a multiple-choice test in a specific time period. The performance assessment system offers opportunities to demonstrate learning for individuals in underserved populations, such as English Language Learners (ELL) and individuals who have disabilities. In addition, there is increasing support that performance assessment increases high quality learning.

Design of NEDP Assessment

The NEDP assessment process consists of two distinct phases.  In the first phase, the Diagnostic Phase, a certified NEDP Advisor evaluates the adult’s basic skills in reading, writing, and mathematics.  An evaluation of an individualized job skill is also done at this time.  If the candidate does not meet the NEDP eligibility criteria based on basic skill test results, the Advisor prescribes which skill areas need to be improved.  Candidates study on their own or with the help of instructors and return for retesting in the basic skill area.  When skills on all diagnostic instruments have been successfully demonstrated, the candidate is ready to enter the next phase known as the Generalized Assessment Phase.

In the Generalized Assessment Phase, the NEDP candidate demonstrates mastery of competencies in ten content areas that consist of simulations of real-life tasks. Examples include:

  • Interpreting written passages in a short story to explain what they reveal about the characters;

  • Analyzing a household budget and creating a pie chart to show percentages exceeding budgeted amounts; and

  • Comparing and contrasting political and economic features of foreign countries to determine impact on relations with the U.S.

Performance tasks for each competency are completed in the web-based software in approximately a two-week time period. Successful completion is demonstrated in proctored assessment sessions administered by a certified NEDP Assessor at regularly-scheduled appointments.   Proctored assessment components include audio recordings of oral presentations as well as written essays and extended responses to issues presented.

Mastery of all of the competencies as well as an individualized competency comprises the candidate’s final portfolio.  This portfolio is a tangible record providing evidence of the candidate’s mastery of all the competencies for the NEDP transcript and may be used by employers and colleges as they include extended writing samples, a resume, and demonstration of presentations using technology. All candidate portfolios are reviewed by a certified Assessor and then by a certified Portfolio Reviewer who conducts a “cold review” of the portfolio and ensures inter-rater reliability of the assessment. When the portfolio is determined to be complete and accurate, the candidate’s name is submitted to a school whose school board members have sanctioned the NEDP for eligible candidates in their community. The school board awards a high school diploma to the successful candidate.

Jane - CASAS

 Jane and others,

When you wrote, "The performance assessment system offers opportunities to demonstrate learning for individuals in underserved populations, such as English Language Learners (ELL) and individuals who have disabilities", I assume that you mean that ELLs would need to be working on their NEDP and that the system does not  offer a way for  ELLS to create portfolios for those not going for the NEDP.

This motivated me want to ask about other portfolio systems that might be in place for English language learners, aside from those mentioned in our discussion. The use of Google is great so that our learners can show their own work. But are portfolios created via Google or any other system "accepted" as proof of competency across California or any other state?  

I guess what I am having a hard time envisioning is how a student studying in say the state of New York creates his/her e-portfolio in one program and then moves to another city in the same state. During the intake assessment at the new program, he or she can show the e-portfolio to try to demonstrate competencies but I am guessing, since there is no transcript or recognition  e-portfolios via Google docs, sites, etc., that they will still have to take an assessment to be placed in the same level s/he was in previously. (Let's assume there is no micro-credentialing in place. And the state is not Learner Web state.) Are there other systems and platforms out there like what NEDP is using so our mobile populations can carry not only transcripts AND e-portfolios with them at least within states, if not between? Even if not yet implemented, does anyone see this as possible with Google or another platform? What are the challenges?


Steve Quann

Hi Steve,

Those are great comments and questions you posted regarding other platforms and their recognition, be it within one state or at the national level.

I can envision future iterations of tools used for data collection and reporting for adult education programs funded by the state or by federal funds.  These future iterations could contain a data field that would ask for a link to a learner’s public portfolio, no matter the platform, as a way to provide additional, qualitative information about the learner and her progress in our programs.  At the same time, I can see additional issues related to individual privacy and our learners giving us permission to share that data. 

At this point in time, I see ePortfolios as an activity that is isolated and contained within a shorter span of time and in interactions with one teacher and some fellow learners. I see it as a valuable practice for the future career and/or academic situations where the adult learner we serve is ready to create and share multiple portfolios, and with the power to make that decision on her own who to share it with. 

Thank you for making me think this through again. 

~Branka, OTAN 


Hi, David. I'll do my best to answer your questions:

It sounds like it is a blended model. If so, can you tell us about the pilot sites. Are these adult secondary education programs in community-based organizations, libraries, adult schools, community colleges, elsewhere? What kinds of activities are done face-to-face, and what kind are done online?

The pilot sites are Adult Basic Education programs. In Minnesota these programs are associated with the public school district/community education, though there are a number of CBOs who also serve as ABE providers. The diploma program is set up to meet the range of instructional opportunities already offered at the sites.  Any course or assessment used by the site can help a learner complete the list of competencies. If sites offer distance learning or hybrid opportunities, then that's what learners will do.

Some competency-based adult diploma programs are only or primarily assessments. Others are instruction and assessment. Which is this?

This is both.  A learner can make use of courses passed in high school, successful assessments, and/or ABE course work.  It is set up to be flexible and to align with any of the learner's successes.  Here's the explanation from the published information:

  • Prior Experience-Based Competency Verification (in a K-12 course, postsecondary course, or other approved experience)
  • Test-Verified Knowledge (in a quality standardized assessment for high schools, secondary credentials, ABE programs and/or postsecondary entrance exams as approved by the state ABE office and local ABE program)
  • ABE Course Completion (based on skills and competencies as defined in the standards; examples could include classes that combine academic, college and career content, like special adult diploma classes, GED preparation, Accuplacer classes, college readiness classes, subject-specific classes, FastTRAC programming, etc.)
  • Applied Learning (through a project or other method that is approved by the Commissioner and is included in the local ABE Adult Diploma Program’s approved application; examples might include projects based on EFF (Equipped For the Future) standards or National External Diploma Program.)

You have used the term "artifact" from work experience I presume as evidence of learning. Could you give us a couple of examples?

The website includes the following: "examples might include projects based on EFF (Equipped For the Future) standards or National External Diploma Program".  Another example that comes to mind for the competency domain "Career and Employability Skills/Career exploration" would be a job search plan and resume.

I am guessing that in addition to learning the skills and knowledge needed to attain the content competencies, adult learners need to learn the competency-based approach (probably new for most learners), the digital learning skills needed to use and navigate the online presence, and how to use the workspace to develop a learning progress -- and presentation -- portfolio. Would that be correct? How is this initial learning handled? Primarily in the face-to-face learning component at least until learners are comfortable and competent in competency-based learning and digital literacy skills?

Here are the steps outlined in the materials posted on the website:

Initial Counseling Session

  1. Identify student goals
  2. Assess student skills and experience to determine what competencies that may already be complete for the transcript based on prior learning competency verification
  3. Identify potential career pathway(s) and needs using career and postsecondary preparation assessments, similar to assessments used in Minnesota’s K-12 system
  4. Develop an individualized learning plan based on the student’ identified goals and skills

Instruction and Evaluation

  1. Implement individualized learning plan based on instruction and preparation on the competency domains.
  2. Post-test learners using approved assessments for Minnesota’s ABE programming
  3. Track progress towards diploma and goals
  4. Provide additional support services as needed

Graduating Counseling Session

  1. 1.Evaluate students’ work in Adult Diploma Program to ensure completion of necessary competencies
  2. 2.Create transitions plan to students’ future goals

We designed the Learner Web "portfolio" to be learner-centered.  The learner has to initiate uploading documents, and then all documents and activity are monitored by a facilitating advisor. What we've found is that many of the learners don't have the prior experience/digital literacy skills to initiate the activity and that the facilitators are driving the process in most cases.  We hope that as sites/advisors become more comfortable with the system themselves, then they will develop the capacity to teach learners how to be more actively involved. 

One final note. Digital literacy is part of the Career and Employability Skills competency domain. The state Dept of Ed has paid for all ABE sites to have access to the Northstar Digital Literacy Assessment and in most places, learners take these assessments to meet the competency.

Jen Vanek

I definitely believe teachers need training of some sort whether it be with webinars, in-house training or  mentors as they implement online portfolios.  For me it was the mechanics of using Google Docs.  I got myself into the never ending inbox that I didn’t know how to organize.  Another teacher gave me insight into how to use Google Drive to access and manage my docs through folders and creating shared folders for student work.  I spent evenings using Google to search for more answers.  Sometimes I didn’t understand that I was creating my own problems. 

I think a series of webinars:  introduction, implementation and evaluation would be great.  Assigning mentors, whether in-house or online would give the beginning teacher a source of guidance and support.

Debbie Jensen

I will try to respond to today’s prompts.

Additional to the list David provided:

Advantages over paper-based portfolios

  • When stored online, the ePortfolio collections or individual artifacts can be accessed from anywhere with the Internet connection.
  • When stored online, the ePortfolio can be shared publicly, or with certain individuals, or kept private.
  • In majority of tools, the written work can be edited, elements added or removed. The product does not have to be final and frozen in time.
  • When electronic, the portfolio can contain multimedia such as video and audio.

Challenges in implementing ePortfolios

  • When publishing and storing online, adult learners need to be aware of what is shared publicly and what is private.
  • It may take time and training for both teachers and learners to master the technology tool.

Professional Development for teachers and administrators needed to implement ePortfolios effectively

Debbie outlines a winning combination of training and support through webinars, in-house training and peer mentors, including introduction, implementation and evaluation. I am sure that any agency or state would be willing to implement this system under the condition that there are no other competing priorities. For those with fewer resources and less time – professional development can take place through formal and informal sharing of promising practices during conference and in online presentations, as well as through personal learning networks.

There is information available about so many platforms, tools and practices that the best results may yield from when the teacher and learners decide together about what tools work for them and for what purpose. 


Branka, OTAN

I agree that Teacher PD is essential for implementing eportfolios. I have gained my skills though webinars, face-to-face training, conferences and OTAN Academies. And implementation definitely has its share of trial and errors as I experimented with various strategies and found one that is successful for my group of students at this moment. 

On another note, portfolios are also embedded in some EL Civics assessments. I wonder if anyone has any experience implementing ELC Objectives/assessments in a digital format. We have generally opted for the oral and written assessments, but I see great value in an online portfolio for ELC.