E-portfolios and employability: a literature review
Over the past two decades ePortfolio has caught practitioners and researchers’ attention for the multiple benefits that it offers to learners and citizens living in a knowledge-based society.
According to the literature and multi-country experiences, ePortfolio emerges as a flexible tool, with different functions depending on the intended purpose and selected audience (Giovannini & Moretti, 2011; Ravet, 2007). Many authors have pointed out its advantages in promoting reflexivity (Yancey, 2009; Barrett, 2010), a deeper learning (Buzzetto-More, 2010), the acquisition of employability skills (Temple & Temple, 2003; Fisher et al., 2010) and a better process of recognition and certification of competencies and qualifications (Perry, 2009; Cameron & Miller, 2014). However, as some authors suggested (Rhodes et al., 2014; Bryant & Chittum, 2013), more rigorous ePortfolio research is needed, especially into the areas of predictions ePortfolio makes based on learning and achievements.
Objectives and research questions
The purpose of this study is to investigate the international landscape of ePortfolio research, in order to determine what evidence exists for the impact of ePortfolios on employability. In this contribution we refer to employability as a continuum between the job seekers’ acquisition and enhancement of employability skills, and the socio-economic context itself (as opposed to a conception of employability as individually centered).
Given these premises, it seemed relevant to analyse which empirical evidence has so far supported the assumption that ePortfolios can actually foster the personal and professional development of individuals, on the one hand promoting awareness in job seekers’ own resources, on the other hand allowing the transparency of these towards employers. In order to approach this issue, we started by examining the existing literature (including reviews) on ePortfolios and employability.
Despite the presence in literature of reviews about ePortfolios in general (Butler, 2006; Bryant & Chittum, 2013), we could not find any on ePortfolio and its implications for employability. This given, we came to the decision to conduct a systematic review, including not only English-language contributions, but also extending to French, Italian, Spanish and German ones, in order to draw a more complete picture of the issue.
This study is part of a larger research project called "Educational Achievement, Social Inclusion and Cohesion", which involves several Italian universities and in which one of the authors of this paper is the scientific director of the research unit at the University of Bologna (Giovannini & Baldazzi, 2016; Giovannini et al., 2016).
The study was conducted by adopting the systematic literature review methodology in the field of education and social sciences (Gough et al., 2012).
Our selecting criteria included empirical studies (both qualitative and quantitative) about the relationship between ePortfolios and employability and involved any kind of publication (such as journal articles, book chapters, conference papers…) since 2000.
Articles for this review were located firstly through keyword searches (“e-portfolio/eportfolio/electronic portfolio”, “employability”, “employers”, “employment”, “career”) in different languages (English, French, Italian, German and Spanish), secondly through citations of previously located articles and well-known books, and finally by locating articles from the JEP (Journal of EPortfolio). Our search was conducted by querying the main inquiry databases, such as “PROQUEST”, “ERIC” and “EBSCO” and the search engine “GOOGLE SCHOLAR”.
After the screening and mapping of the articles, the research results were analyzed, grouped in thematic categories and narratively described.
Conclusions. Outcomes and findings
The early results of our analysis indicate that most of the research about ePortfolios and employability focuses on students/job seekers’ and employers’ opinions about ePortfolios and its relevance for job seeking purposes. The results of the empirical studies are not homogeneous, however they present recurring themes, such as the importance for the employers to choose what to view in an ePortfolio, and the ease of use, both for employers and for job seekers (most studies focus on university students as a research sample). Furthermore, many stakeholders appreciate the benefits brought by compiling an ePortfolio, increasing as it does the awareness of one’s resources.
Finally, as it is generally the case for studies on ePortfolio (Bryant & Chittum, 2013), a research gap emerges for the effects of ePortfolios on employability, skills acquisition and general self-awareness.