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Online personal learning environments: structuring electronic portfolios for lifelong and life‐wide learning

Helen C. Barrett (Researcher and consultant at, Puyallup, Washington, USA)
Nathan Garrett (Graduate student at Woodbury University, Burbank, California, USA)

On the Horizon

ISSN: 1074-8121

Article publication date: 15 May 2009




The purpose of this article is to outline a vision for digital stories of development, or online personal learning environments, which may eventually replace what we currently call “electronic portfolios” in education.


This is a conceptual article that provides a lifelong, life‐wide perspective on electronic portfolios based on the authors' research, focusing on some of the issues that need to be addressed to make this vision a reality.


Based on the concept of “lifetime personal web space,” this online archive of a life's collection of reflections, memories, digital artefacts and memorabilia, both personal and professional, has the potential to change the current paradigm of electronic portfolios, mostly institution‐bound, and focus instead on the individual or the family as the center for creating a digital archive, which can be used in a variety of contexts across the lifespan, from schools to universities to the workplace. Finally, this archive can be used to develop personal histories and reflective narratives to preserve our stories for future generations. A possible scenario is followed by the challenges faced when developing this service for widespread dissemination. This is not a formal research paper with analysis, discussion or results. The paper is meant to provide a vision or future direction for electronic portfolios that could be stored in the internet “cloud” for a lifetime and beyond.

Practical implications

This paper encourages individuals as well as institutions to explore new ways to construct electronic portfolios in the Internet “cloud” so that the owner of the portfolio has access across their lifespan. This paper could also be used by Web 2.0 developers to improve the development of tools, making them more useable and accessible across the lifespan, from early readers to the elderly.


This paper provides a future vision of the potential for cloud computing to be used as a lifetime store of memories and digital memorabilia, as well as a broader vision of the electronic portfolio process across the lifespan.



Barrett, H.C. and Garrett, N. (2009), "Online personal learning environments: structuring electronic portfolios for lifelong and life‐wide learning", On the Horizon, Vol. 17 No. 2, pp. 142-152.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2009, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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