No Final Exams? Use Portfolios To Capture the Year of Learning

It’s becoming increasingly likely that some schools may not re-open before the end of the school year. So what can schools do instead of having a traditional final exam?

Digital Portfolios can achieve the same goal as your exam: to demonstrate what your students have learned in your course. The portfolio can honor and reward the hard work your students have done this year – and incorporate the home-learning activities that are happening now.

Let’s take this in 3 steps.

Step 1 — Make a list: What goes into your portfolio?

A final exam is supposed to assess the key skills and knowledge that students have learned throughout the entire course. So, as a starting point, make a list – what are those key skills and knowledge? At the top of the list, write “My final exam assesses” and just write what comes to mind.

It can help to prioritize the skills more than the knowledge.

For example, an English teacher might list the following skills:

My final exam assesses:

  1. Ability to read and understand a text
  2. Understanding key ideas in literature, such as theme, plot, characters
  3. Ability to write in different genres

Simply put, a digital portfolio is a collection of student work. To design the portfolio, look at the list you just created.What assignments could go along with those skills?

Next to each skill, you can make the list of assignments. NOTE: the assignments can include BOTH the assignments you gave in class AND home-learning assignments that the students can do now.

Skills Assignments
1. Ability to read and understand a text • Responding to MLK’s Letter from a  Birmingham Jail In Class
• Commenting on the News Home Learning
2. Understanding key ideas in literature, such as theme, plot, characters • Shakespeare unit In Class
• Dissecting “The Lottery” In Class
• Response to a Library Book Home Learning
3. Ability to write in different genres • Short Story In Class
• Research Paper In Class
• Narrative on “How Things are Different Now” Home Learning

You’ve now designed the structure for your portfolio! Essentially, what you’re asking the students to do is to collect items from the right column.

You can give students choice in what they submit – in the example above, the student could submit any one of the responses to literature to meet Skill #2. Alternatively, for some skills, you may want to see a breadth of skills; for Skill #3 above, the student might need one submission for each of the genres of writing you’ve addressed (such as narrative, fiction, persuasive).

The key here is the portfolio can come from assignments that are already part of your class. You can refer both to assignments that are in your gradebook from the first part of this year, or any of the home learning assignments that are coming up.

Now, because the portfolio is digital, you potentially could add requirements that you wouldn’t normally have on a traditional exam. For example, you could add an “oral presentation” requirement, and ask the students to refer to a presentation done earlier in the year or to record on an online chat now.

Step 2 — Collect the Evidence

Now that you’ve thought about what you want in the portfolio, it’s easy to set this up. In Richer Picture, you can set up a digital portfolio as a “tour,” as shown below.

Sample Portfolio in Richer Picture
Sample Portfolio in Richer Picture

The Tabs along the top correspond to the different sections: Understanding Text, Key Ideas in Literature, the different genres of writing –  Narrative, Report ,Fiction – and an Oral Presentation.

Students can upload their work into the portfolio, and give you a record of what they have achieved.

Step 3 — Review the Portfolio

To assess the portfolio, you can set up a rubric.

 Entry Percentage of Final Portfolio Grade
Understanding Text 15%
Key Ideas in Literature 15%
Writing: Narrative 20%
Writing: Report 20%
Writing: Fiction 20%
Oral Presentation 10%
TOTAL 100%

You do NOT have to re-grade the student submissions; you could use the grades that you issued earlier. (So, if a student received an 80 on the Understanding Text entry earlier in the year the student’s score would be 80 x 15%).

There are, of course, lots of variations on this theme. You can add more of the home learning assignments, and have the students truly personalize their portfolios to show more about themselves.

Please feel free to add your own thoughts! If you’d like to get started, check out our free trial version or drop us a line at !


Personal Entries: How To Capture Home Learning Moments

With students spending lots (and lots!) of time at home, they are probably looking for things to do. Families are getting creative; kids are learning to cook or helping more with younger siblings or finally picking up the musical instrument.

So even if they are not in the classroom, students certainly are learning new things – and those things are probably connected to standards!

So how can they show what they’ve learned?

With Richer Picture, students can create a portfolio of “personal entries.” These is an easy way for students to document what they have learned on their own.

Adding a personal entry is as simple as adding a post on social media. (If you have a Richer Picture account, click on “My Work” and then “Add Entry.”) For each entry, the student can include:

Upload the Student Work  – In a personal entry, a student can upload something about what they’ve learned. Maybe it’s a photo of something they’ve made in the kitchen, or a description of a book they’ve read. It could be or a link to a virtual field trip they’ve taken, or a video describing how they have divided the chores in the house with their siblings. This “artifact” can be in any format – a piece of writing, a Google doc, a presentation, an image, audio or video.

Select Standards from a Checklist – Then, the student can link that entry to the school’s expectations. For any school, Richer Picture contains a list of what all students should know and be able to do; this can be the set of standards from the state or district, or it can be the school’s “portrait of a graduate.” In any case, the student can simply go down the list, and select the expectations that they have demonstrated.

Add a Brief Comment – Finally, students can add a little commentary. They can give a summary of what they’ve done, and provide a brief reflection on how the artifact is a good demonstration of the selected standards.

Link to Class – Students can connect an entry with any of their classes just by selecting the teacher from the drop-down list.

You can see an example in the image below:

Personal Entry in Richer Picture

Students can add entries at any time. At some point, you can ask the students to take their best learning and assemble a tour of their work, to show all the standards that they have met.

Learning can take place anytime, and anywhere – the Richer Picture portfolio can let your students show what they have accomplished, even when they are having fun!