Connecting the Dots with ePortfolios Part 3: Using ePortfolios for Summative Assessments 

Connecting the Dots with ePortfolios Part 3: Using ePortfolios for Summative Assessments 

By: Kellie Ferguson, Faculty Developer of Integrative and Experiential Learning, and Stephen Riley, Director of Academic Assessment  

In our last blog post, we explored the ways in which your formative assessments can be incorporated into an ePortfolio project created in Digication. Now, we’d like to consider what creating a summative assessment in Digication might look like.  

Maybe you teach a writing course and want to add options, like video or audio responses, to give students more choice in how they showcase their learning for the summative assessment. Or maybe you teach a STEM course and are looking for ways to better document students’ processes and their growth as a part of their final assignment.  

Before we get into some examples of what these types of assignments might entail and how to assess them, let’s consider the benefits of using an ePortfolio as a summative assessment.   

Benefits of Using ePortfolios for Summative Assessment:

An ePortfolio summative assessment opens a window into a student’s growth and the development of their thinking over time. By leveraging scaffolded, formative assessments and moments for student reflection to build towards a final, comprehensive project, the structure of an ePortfolio assignment enables “faculty members [to] observe the learning that happens over the course of the term and ensure that learners have understood both the content and the process thinking specific to that discipline” (Penny Light, et. al., 2012 pp. 19). This can allow you, as the instructor, to consider the student’s journey from beginning to end of the term, their application of received feedback, and how they arrived at the point of their final assignment. Additionally, it can support and show a student’s ability to apply learning beyond the context of your class, also known as “transfer of learning.”    

The video below gives a quick overview of what transfer of learning means:    

Essentially, a well-designed ePortfolio assessment can better align the course’s summative assessment with the course content, while fostering genuine understanding rather than simply serving as an evaluation at the end (Mason, Pegler & Weller, 2004). Because an ePortfolio remains with the student and is used for future reflection, the potential benefits as a summative assessment increase. When a summative assessment is designed around reflective practices, ePortfolio assignments have been shown to increase self-efficacy in students (Lopez-Crespo et. al., 2021).   

Creating an ePortfolio assessment provides choice and flexibility, which are important characteristics for several reasons. This opportunity for choice meets the principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL). Utilizing UDL principles in your summative assessment enhances inclusivity and fairness by accommodating the diverse needs of your students. Because Digication has many different ways content can be added to an ePortfolio, students can demonstrate their learning in a way that aligns with their strengths.   

 Showcase of Learning: Summative Assessment Resources and Examples :

We’ve explored the various benefits of ePortfolios as summative assessment. Now, let’s consider how these projects have been implemented across disciplines. As you look through the following resources and examples, consider what prompts and content you might want to include in your own assignment:  

  • Here is an example of what a student in a science communication class was able to create in Digication. This example highlights the transfer of learning elements of ePortfolios, and shows how this student is applying what she learned to her future career.   
  • In another student example, an experience in a Spanish Internship course here at DU is considered, with the student reflecting on their progress, explaining their work and growth over the course of the semester, and demonstrating their ability to communicate effectively in another language.   
  • This assignment prompt from Purdue University gives a good overview of what a term-length, summative ePortfolio prompt might look like. Take note of the detailed instructions, the reflective components, and the two rubrics included as a part of this assignment.  

So, how do I assess a summative ePortfolio project? 

Although ePortfolios can be a wonderful way to assess student learning in your course, there are some challenges with assessment that it is important to be aware of. For one, the subjective nature of reflection can make it a difficult concept to assess. Another challenge involves allowing student choice—when students have the benefit of choice, it can be difficult to check their learning in a standardized way. In assessing ePortfolios, then, “a balance needs to be found: one that strives to help students appreciate the genuine benefits that they will experience by developing an ePortfolio that captures their work and personal reflections, but which also acknowledges that assessing ePortfolios is not merely “subjective” and can be assessed by objective standards” (University of Waterloo 2024).  

To address these challenges, we highly recommend assessing with rubrics. Rubrics are a fantastic tool that helps both instructors and students. Using rubrics can support an instructor by creating consistency in grading, saving time, and clarifying expectations for assignments. Students benefit from rubrics because they understand expectations and improve their work due to the clear feedback provided.  

There are various ways to create rubrics for grading, but the two major types of rubrics are analytic and holistic rubrics.  Analytic rubrics lay out criteria for score in rows and the scale for grading in columns. These rubrics often have descriptions of the levels of achievement that clarify the specific actions needed for each level of achievement.    

Here is an example of an analytic rubric:  

Criterion  Exemplary (4)  Target (3)  Progressing (2)  Beginning (1)  No Evidence (0)  
A Clear Thesis Sentence  The student wrote a clear, concise, and grammatically correct thesis sentence.  The student wrote a clear and grammatically correct thesis sentence.  The student wrote a grammatically correct thesis sentence.  The student wrote a thesis for the paper.  The student did not submit this portion of the assignment.  


In a holistic rubric, a level of achievement is given with a list of criteria under the level of achievement. The assignment is assessed based on whether all the necessary criteria for the level of achievement are met.  The instructor can give feedback through notes on each criterion that merits comment.   

Here is an example of a holistic rubric:  

To Earn a B on this Assignment  



A thesis that clearly introduces the main argument of the paper  



Uses three peer-reviewed sources to support main argument of the paper  


Regardless of which type of rubric you use, when you are developing a summative assessment that gives students choice, like in an ePortfolio, it can be helpful to create a rubric that can assess a wide variety of projects.  For example, if you have a student that submits a paper, one that submits a video, and another that turns in an art project, it will be helpful to have rubric criteria that can assess each of those submissions.  Therefore, it is imperative to design the summative assignment with clear criteria that are related to content and skills rather than specific forms. For such types of criteria, we have found a few resources to help you get started. These can be adapted for your assignments and diverse types of rubrics:  

  • AAC&U VALUE rubric: A rubric developed by the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) that is intended for institutional-level discussion and evaluation of student learning.  
  • ePortfolio Rubric: An example rubric developed by the University of Wisconsin-Stout that is intended for student self-assessment and peer feedback.  
  • ePortfolio Assessment Rubric: A grading rubric for measuring student mastery developed by Boston University, College of General Education and inspired by the AAC&U VALUE Rubric.  

For more technological or pedagogical support with ePortfolios and Digication, check out the OTL’s Digication and ePortfolio Resources page, or contact Kellie Ferguson, the Faculty Developer of Integrative and Experiential Learning, at or book a 1:1 consultation. For more support with assessment, check the OTL’s Assessment@DU page, or contact Stephen Riley, the Director of Academic Assessment, at or book a 1:1 consulation.  


 López-Crespo, G., Blanco-Gandía, M. C., Valdivia-Salas, S., Fidalgo, C., & Sánchez-Pérez, N. (2021). The educational e-portfolio: preliminary evidence of its relationship with student’s self-efficacy and engagement. Education and Information Technologies. 

Mason, Robin, Peglar, Chris & Weller, Martin. (2004). ePortfolios: An assessment tool for online courses. British Journal of Educational Technology, 35(6), 717-727. 

Penny-Light, Tracy, Chen, Helen L., & Ittelson, John C. (2012). Documenting Learning with ePortfolios. Jossey-Bass.  

 University of Waterloo. (n.d.) ePortfolios Explained: Theory and Practice. Centre for Teaching Excellence.