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2006 Campus Technology Innovators: ePortfolios

2006 Campus Technology Innovators

Innovator: Minnesota State Colleges and Universities



2006 CT Innovators: Minnesota

MnSCU’s WASKO: Building a unique ePortfolio
infrastructure to serve all Minnesota residents
and students—even at competing universities.

Challenge Met

The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system recognized that electronic portfolios were becoming a critical component for learner support and assessment, and set out to create an ePortfolio infrastructure to serve MnSCU faculty, staff, alumni, and students.

The effort, called “eFolio Minnesota” quickly grew beyond the higher ed community, expanding to provide services for all students (K-20) and residents statewide. To date, more than 50,000 registered users have participated in the eFolio system. Says Paul Wasko, director of eFolioMN, “To our knowledge, we were the first, and still one of the only, statewide ePortfolio infrastructure available in North America.” He notes that eFolioMN has achieved significant impact with initial implementation resources of less than half a million dollars. Some of the project’s accomplishments:

  • Support of Minnesota students and residents at no cost to the indiviual user, promoting lifewide and lifelong learning
  • Deployment of web-based multimedia tools that support the needs of the individual learner—placing power in the hands of the individual
  • Adoption of eFolioMN by other colleges and universities—even those that compete with MnSCU

How They Did It

From the start, says Wasko, the project’s goal was to potentially serve all Minnesota residents and students. “We selected workgroup members from a number of public and private organizations, reflecting the needs of the various constituencies,” he notes. “Everyone involved with eFolioMN subscribed to the principle that the need of the individual learner would drive the ultimate project design.”

The selection of technology architecture for the project was driven by a request for proposals (RFP) process, defining critical project assumptions along with key deliverables. Says Wasko, “At the time of the RFP, functionality, scalability, and ease of use were critical components, since portfolio standards had not yet been developed nationally or internationally.” The eFolioMN team settled on a solution from Avenet. Avenet’s eFolio system provided a flexible platform for building a broad range of portfolios well-suited to MnSCU’s focus on the needs of the individual user.

Next Steps

Building on the success of individual portfolios within the eFolioMN project, MnSCU is expanding into the development of institutional ePortfolios to meet the accreditation needs of institutions. While both individual and institutional portfolios serve as an online showcase of work toward particular goals and competencies, institutional portfolios typically need to comply with more stringent reporting rules set by an accrediting body. Institutional portfolios can require higher levels of security, bandwidth, data backups, and feedback; and often, administration of content is handled by multiple people, requiring varying levels of access. To meet all of these challenges and better adapt the ePortfolio technology for institutional use, eFolioMN is implementing additional software functionality, such as improved feedback tools and view settings that are customizable by type of viewer (e.g., views for accrediting organizations vs. the general public).

eFolio Minnesota is also exploring a new business model with Avenet, intended to make the technology more accessible and affordable to colleagues outside of the state. The goal: to create an eFolio consortium with other campuses/systems from across the US, to continually bring the latest in eFolio technology to higher education. The consortium will be a user-driven co-op model, rather than a proprietary vendor model, meaning savings and more input for member institutions.


“Define your project and key assumptions,” advises Wasko. “Recruit a solid project team and set of sponsors. Pick your development partners carefully. Be willing to personally own the problems—and share the successes.”

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