Visibility of Labor

One of ten Digital Ethics in ePortfolios Principles

The labor required by students, educators, and administrators to create, develop, implement, support, and evaluate ePortfolios should be visible, sustainable, compensated where appropriate, and counted toward evaluation and advancement.


Learning is invisible labor. Constant shifts in technologies, strategies, rhetorical knowledge, technical skills, genres, and professional expectations require ongoing efforts by all stakeholders. The ability to develop, implement, create, support, and assess ePortfolios requires faculty and staff to have multi-disciplinary expertise that should be recognized and rewarded by their institutions. In addition, the intellectual and affective labor and personal risk required of students to learn and employ new platforms, genres, and compositional practices when designing and creating ePortfolios should be recognized and rewarded.

Stylized person with a star


  • Making visible the value of iterative, long-term ePortfolio developmental processes as students bridge from academic to career environments, such as
    • earning credit for an individual course;
    • demonstrating progress toward completion of institutional requirements (e.g., General Education);
    • earning a credential, badge, certificate, or degree from a program or institution; or
    • demonstrating digital literacy skills to future employers.
  • Acknowledging the cognitive load, emotional labor, and personal risk that accompanies ePortfolio pedagogy and creation by supporting this work with dedicated physical space, public recognition, and professional development.
  • Addressing the disproportionate impact of cognitive load, emotional labor, and personal risk on students belonging to minoritized and historically underrepresented populations and responding to that by considering access, intentional modeling, and other forms of additional support.
  • Recognizing, rewarding, and, where appropriate, compensating students who support ePortfolio creation through group projects and peer-to-peer learning, including tutoring, mentoring, and creating ePortfolio resources.
  • Recognizing ePortfolio practitioners as subject matter experts in scholarly research by creating visibility tied to advancement so that ePortfolio administration, research, and service may support promotion and/or tenure, especially if a program’s assessment relies on ePortfolios.
  • Identifying ePortfolio studies and administration as a scholarly and professional field that professional organizations, institutions, and departments must prepare new practitioners to engage with.
  • Conducting institutional analyses to better understand who engages in ePortfolio-related work on campus, what training and support are offered to those individuals, how they are recognized for their efforts, and what gaps in labor and recognition exist.
  • Increasing awareness of time and effort for designing and integrating ePortfolio implementation, evaluation, and assessment.
  • Creating sustainable support for those designing and maintaining ePortfolio initiatives, which must constantly adapt to institutional histories, shifting contexts, professional expectations, new technologies, and changing regulations.
  • Addressing varying levels of pedagogical agency across faculty of different ranks, while increasing buy-in and maintaining consistency and coherency across a student’s experience as an ePortfolio creator.


Scenario #1

You are a student required to complete an ePortfolio in your capstone course. The process of curating, reflecting, and displaying your work for a professional audience is new and takes significant time and energy. To make the value of this experience more visible, your professor suggests that you include a description of the process on your resume and in other job materials. Additionally, your university provides a certificate of completion that outlines the skills demonstrated in your ePortfolio, such as critical thinking, written communication, digital literacy, and more. Now that you have the resources to display the value of ePortfolio creation, you can tangibly connect the capstone assignment to your professional goals and relay that connection to your audience.

Scenario #2

You are a High Impact Practices (HIPs) coordinator working with colleagues across your institution to develop an ePortfolio initiative as part of your institution’s commitment to HIPs. You are working to build a coalition with directors of the Writing Program, the Undergraduate Research, Career Services & Internships, and the Community Engagement Center. Your office is responsible for helping faculty identify appropriate ePortfolio systems, providing ongoing training for ePortfolio implementation, and running a center that supports students who are creating ePortfolios. Upper administration is exploring how to most effectively show their commitment to this process. You recommend that they start by providing a week-long paid training, a year-long series of scheduled meetings to bring stakeholders on board, and stipends for faculty who implement ePortfolios. In addition, you suggest that they incentivise ePortfolio research as part of the scholarship of teaching and learning.

Scenario #3

You are an educator required to incorporate an ePortfolio element into your course design. To do so, you take part in professional development offered by the university, which provides time and space for you to become familiar with the critical underpinning of ePortfolio pedagogy, the technology involved, and related instructional design components (such as assignment design, support, and evaluation). Your institution recognizes this additional effort by providing a certificate of completion, which your department considers in connection to promotion and other incentives. Furthermore, as you become more confident and proficient in your ePortfolio efforts, your department asks you to mentor educators new to the experience. Recognizing the time and emotional labor this might entail, you request that the department compensate you through mechanisms such as stipends or course releases.


Labor: At its core, labor is work done in exchange for something of value. Much of what is described here might be best defined as “immaterial labor”, which Hardt and Negri (2004) describe as work that creates “immaterial products” such as “knowledge, information, communication, a relationship or an emotional response” (108).

Digital literacy: “The ability to use information and communication technologies to find, evaluate, create, and communicate information, requiring both cognitive and technical skills.” (ALA, 2013)

Emotional labor: The effort to manage either one’s own or others’ feelings. Such efforts often take place within a professional environment, so that an individual must ensure emotions conform to the expectations of the situation.

Cognitive load: To study, measure, and explain the amount of working memory required to engage in or complete a defined task.

High Impact Practices (HIPs): Evidence-based teaching and learning practices recognized by the AAC&U as benefiting all students and in particular those who are underrepresented in tertiary education. ePortfolios were added as the eleventh HIP in 2016, where they were considered a possible “meta-high impact practice” (Watson, Kuh, Rhodes, Light, & Chen, 2016).


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