Volume 18, February 2024
E-portfolios as Learning Tools for Applied Double Bass Study; a Research-Based, Practice Oriented Approach

by Mark Elliot Bergman

2. E-portfolios

Introduced into the higher education landscape in the early 1990s, e-portfolios "have become standard artifacts which students collate, archive, reflect on, and present outcomes of their studies" (Dunbar-Hall et. al, 2015, p. 140). Their use, now ubiquitous across the higher education landscape, is employed by educators and learners from a vast array of disciplines. Most colleges and universities now utilize e-portfolios as a learning tool (Jensen and Trever, 2014). While content varies, curation and reflection are at the heart of the e-portfolio's functionality as a learning tool. Learners collect artifacts and reflect upon them. As Rickard (2008) observed, "the reflection provides evidence of learning alongside the trajectory of developing performances" (p. 35). This approach has special resonance for learners in applied music. Computer-based portfolio (e-portfolio) technology provides advantages for musicians collecting and curating audio recordings and filmed events. It also provides advantages for reflecting on these artifacts for the purposes of iterative improvement. Furthermore, an e-portfolio allows the curator to merge multiple aspects of their professional identity in one place (performer, teacher, composer, sound engineer, luthier, publisher, scholar, etc.).

Writing in general terms, Hill (2008) described a portfolio as "an organized collection of artifacts (examples of work), documenting a person's skill and growth" (p. 61). Electronic portfolios include digital artifacts curated as part of a blog or website and can be particularly helpful to musicians working in a multimedia environment. They also provide some significant advantages over paper portfolios, especially in the arts. Roberts, Maor, and Herrington (2016) noted the value of e-portfolios "in artistic fields as a means of showcasing skills and abilities through work samples and documentation of performances" (p. 22). Other advantages include employing hypertext links, easily modified content, easy distribution, and the opportunity to showcase technology skills (Hill, 2008, p. 66).

In an educational context, curation should include the "purposeful collection of sample student work, demonstrations, and artifacts that showcase student's learning progression, achievement, and evidence of what students can do" (Berkeley Center for Teaching and Learning, 2022, para. 1). Educators (including music educators) were among the first to recognize the pedagogical and andragogical potential of e-portfolios in the arts. As Dunbar-Hall et al. (2015) noted, e-portfolio usage "has been tracked as more frequent in specific discipline areas. Research indicates their prevalence in degree programs for professional accreditation, such as health education and teacher education" (p. 144). The Penn State Music Education program, for example, "requires the design and development of electronic portfolios as part of the educational development of its students. The portfolio process is a framework for helping students see the connections between their music, education, and music education coursework (The Penn State School of Music, 2022, para. 1).

Curation and reflection are also important for applied instrumental studies. For learners studying an instrument, composition, or conducting, an e-portfolio will include artifacts of and reflections upon the learner's developing craft.  The University of Utah (2014) describes artifacts to learners as

"a critical aspect of your learning portfolio. An artifact is anything that can provide evidence of your education and experiences. This will likely be primarily coursework, including essays, projects, presentations, or anything else assigned to you in class. For co-curricular experiences, you will likely include more media-driven artifacts, such as video and photographs.  Reflection may also be used as an artifact" (para. 3).

The National Association for Music Education (2022) articulated the educational value of curating artifacts for music students in stating, "for the sake not only of assessment but also instructional quality, schools should . . . provide recording devices and other technology to facilitate the collection, management, and scoring of students' music work" (para. 3). Learners curating artifacts can upload recordings and videos to online repositories (like YouTube or Vimeo) and collect hyperlinks as part of a digital database or e-portfolio. Many free sites allow for building an e-portfolio with little or no technical training, including WordPress, Weebly, and Google Sites. The portfolio provides a repository for learners to see and hear their growth through their course of study. "Because student work samples are collected over time," noted Kim and Yazdian (2014), "student portfolios demonstrate growth and progress that individual students make" (p. 222).