Student Secondary Use of ePortfolio Data: A Need for Digital Ethics Guidelines

Misty Kirby, Chrsitine Slade, Christine Brown-Wilson, Terri Downer, Bernadette Fisher, Zarrin Siddiqui, Stephen ISBEL, Lynn McAllister, Alison Miller

Research output: Contribution to conference (non-published works)Paper


Background: An ePortfolio is a digital tool, often used for assessment purposes, in which students may share responses, within a closed environment, with educators. However, ePortfolios are also used as personal learning spaces, allowing students to share with others, at their discretion. EPortfolios can also be used to showcase students’ professional identities through social media. This practice could result in unintended ethical consequences (Brown Wilson et al., 2018).The Issue: Placements, often supported by ePortfolios, are central to health care and education degree courses and involve multiple, potentially vulnerable groups (eg. students, the clients they care for, their families and carers) (Fawns & McKenzie, 2010). Current ePortfolio literature discusses ethical issues, such as privacy and protection of data in an online environment (Poot & Austin, 2011). However, discourse about privacy, repurposing, consent and confidentiality of secondary use of students’ and others’ data, is limited (Slade et al., 2018).Our international, multi-university research project investigates how to assist educators to guide students’ ethical decision making, in ePortfolio practice with vulnerable groups. Preliminary results reveal that students tended to not perceive any unintended consequences from ePortfolio use. University teaching staff report concerns of privacy and confidentiality of those in vulnerable groups, but most state they are primarily focussed on introducing ePortfolios to students.The Investigation:A Mixed Methods design was employed to survey staff and student participants recruited at partner institutions, as well as focus groups and interviews of staff to identify participant experience and beliefs pertaining to privacy and security of ePortfolio content.Intended Outcomes:Increased awareness of the problem Development of guidelines for educators and stakeholders Guidelines, which will go out for public comment to support digital ethics, are being drafted from the findings of this study and from our published systematic review of the literature. Universities, public health services and accrediting peak bodies will review and adopt these guidelines to protect the privacy and confidentiality of members of vulnerable groups. Further research will support best digital ethics practices, to support students’ decision-making processes when using ePortfolios.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Event42nd Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia Annual Conference - University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand
Duration: 2 Jul 20195 Jul 2019


Conference42nd Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia Annual Conference
Abbreviated titleHERDSA2019
Country/TerritoryNew Zealand
Internet address


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