Empowering Learning Diversity: Applying UDL Principles to ePortfolios

Empowering Learning Diversity: Applying UDL Principles to ePortfolios

By: Kellie Ferguson, Faculty Developer of Integrative and Experiential Learning, and Ellen Hogan, Faculty Developer of Instructional Accessibility  

Perhaps you’re familiar with ePortfolios, recognized as a High-Impact Practice by the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) as a powerful and effective teaching tool for students. And maybe you have heard of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) as a framework for learning that acknowledges the diverse background of students and strives to give students equal opportunities to succeed. At first glance, these pedagogical tools may appear unrelated. But they actually intersect in multiple meaningful ways! In this blog post, we will explore the ways in which the flexibility of ePortfolios allows for the implementation of multiple means of engagement, representation, and action/expression, aligning with UDL guidelines and enhancing the learning experience for students.

UDL and ePortfolios

The UDL guidelines established by CAST.org offer a roadmap for implementing UDL, emphasizing three key principles:  

These principles can extend to many aspects of the learning experience you create in your course, from course content and presentation of materials to the design of individual assignments and activities. Using this framework is a great place to begin examining course elements like assignment variety, student agency and autonomy, communication with students, and overall accessibility within the design and facilitation of your course.   

If starting to navigate the application of UDL in your course feels a bit overwhelming, consider beginning this work by bringing an ePortfolio assignment into your course!  

ePortfolios are a practical way to incorporate the UDL framework into your course due to their adaptability, variety, and flexibility. Because ePortfolios are “designed to house a collection of multimedia materials, learning artifacts, and reflections created in diverse contexts, ePortfolio technology lends itself to processes of connection, integration, and meaning-making” (Enyon & Gambino, 2017, pp. 39). They provide students with various opportunities to engage with course materials and express their understanding of the content in different ways. Additionally, the “ability to explore student ePortfolios provides instructors with easy access to formal and informal means of assessing the learning that is happening in their classrooms” (Penny Light et. Al., 2012, pp.18). So, no matter where you find yourself in your UDL journey, ePortfolios can be a complement to the work you are doing.  

Digication: DU’s ePortfolio Platform

At DU, all faculty, staff, and students have access to an ePortfolio platform called Digication. Through Digication, users can add content through videos, audio, text, uploaded files, chart and tables, equations, and embedded media. Photos, audio, and video can also be captured directly through Digication. The look and layout of an ePortfolio can be customized in Digication, allowing students to represent themselves and their work however they would like! Additionally, Digication syncs with Canvas, making it easy for students to access their ePortfolio work and for instructors to view and grade assignments. 

In Digication, students can create their own ePortfolios from scratch. If you have something specific in mind for your course, a template can always be created and shared with students.  From here, sections can be broken down into individual assignments, allowing for the opportunity for the scaffolded building of ePortfolios and for students to receive direct feedback from the instructor as they work towards completing their ePortfolios. Including a template can also encourage your students to create digitally accessible content for their ePortfolio audience. 

Now that you know a little bit more about ePortfolios, Digication, and UDL, let’s explore some ways to use ePortfolios that fit within CAST’s UDL framework!  

Providing multiple means of engagement 

Students have multiple ways to engage in the ePortfolio experience. Consider giving students a choice in the types of reflection they engage in, the topics they choose to focus on, the materials they choose to showcase, the methods they use to develop their ePortfolio content, and even in deciding the purpose behind their ePortfolio (for instance: is it useful to showcase their academic growth? Display work in a professional context?). 

Providing multiple means of representation 

Using ePortfolios offers the opportunity for scaffolding and diversity in instruction. The multimedia elements of an ePortfolio allow you as faculty to develop your ePortfolio curriculum to include multiple ways of representation, i.e. showing past student examples, grading with rubrics, using video resources, including checklists, breaking larger projects into smaller, scaffolded assignments, building out templates, and more! 

Providing multiple means of action and expression 

ePortfolios offer students lots of different tools and mediums to articulate their learning, enabling them to generate written or audio reflections and incorporate visual elements, like video, images, presentations, or diagrams, to demonstrate their growth. The flexibility in expressing learning can extend to empowering students to choose artifacts that they feel best showcase their proficiency in achieving your course learning outcomes. 

All in all, the implementation of an ePortfolio assignment in which you emphasize flexibility and student choice, couple it with the diverse array of multimedia tools and options available, and tailor the high impact elements to fit your own course learning outcomes, positions ePortfolios as a wonderful starting point for embarking on your own UDL journey. Research findings suggest that the use of the UDL framework in ePortfolio assignments not only enhances the enjoyment of the learning experience for students as they get to choose their own learning path, but it also increases student engagement, persistence, and peer interactions (Cloonan, 2022). 

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 kellie.ferguson@du.edu or book a 1:1 consultation. 

If you’re interested in learning more about UDL and accessibility in your course, contact Ellen Hogan, the Faculty Developer of Instructional Accessibility, at ellen.hogan@du.edu or book a 1:1 consultation. 


AAC&U (2023). High-Impact Practices. https://www.aacu.org/trending-topics/high-impact 

CAST (n.d.). The UDL Guidelines. Cast.org. https://udlguidelines.cast.org/ 

Cloonan, L. (2022). A critical evaluation of the integration of a universal design for learning approach into a module using an ePortfolio: A student perspective. All Ireland Journal of Higher Education, 14(3). https://ojs.aishe.org/index.php/aishe-j/article/view/679 

Enyon, B., & Gambino, L. M. (2017). High-Impact ePortfolio Practice. Stylus Publishing, LLC. 

Penny Light, T., Chen, H. L., & Ittelson, J. C. (2012) Documenting Learning with ePortfolios. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.