Building Bridges with ePortfolios for First-Generation College Students

Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 2018


Association for Authentic, Experiential, and Evidence-Based Learning


This research explores the role of ePortfolios in easing the transition from high school to college for first-generation students, as adapting to college can be challenging for this vulnerable student population. Although these students are entering post-secondary education in ever-greater numbers, their graduation rates are not commensurate because they are not being retained. This is especially troublesome because in times of growing income inequality, and changing workplace needs, a college degree is more essential than ever. First-generation students are most at risk for abandoning their college programs during or at the end of their first year; therefore, successfully adjusting to the first year at college is crucial, since the outcome of their first college classes informs their decision on whether or not to persist into their second year. This study focuses on first-generation students’ work in their composition course, a required course during their first term on campus. Drawing on an analysis of student ePortfolios created for that course, this research shows that ePortfolios can provide students with tools for telling their stories, mediating myths of deficit, showcasing their skills, integrating their learning, and encouraging self-efficacy. This research suggests that ePortfolios work synergistically with other high-impact practices to help bridge the gap between high school and university for first-generation students to enable them to begin viewing themselves as successful scholars who engage actively and effectively in the campus community.