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What is It?
According to An Overview of E-Portfolios, an ePortfolio is “a digitized collection of artifacts including demonstrations, resources, and accomplishments that represent an individual, group, or institution.” Students in the arts, architecture, and writing curriculum have been creating portfolios for years to demonstrate their learning over time and to showcase their best performances, papers, and designs. In recent years, programs across the curriculum are requiring that students demonstrate key compentencies, and ePortfolios have proven an excellent way to map and review these competencies.
Web-based portfolios enable students and faculty to create and link web pages and upload electronic or digital files to web sites. Today’s ePortfolio systems are more sophisticated engines for learning outcomes assessment, review of work and reflections, and showcasing evidence of development and competence. Contemporary ePortfolios are based on dynamic, database driven online software that helps students, faculty, departments and universities collect, organize, reflect upon, and assess learning and accomplishments over time.
At their best, ePortfolios enable “folio thinking”, a term coined by the Stanford University researcher Helen Chen of the Stanford Center for Innovations in Learning:
“We believe that Folio Thinking enables students to become aware of, document, and track their learning and develop an integrated, coherent picture of their personal learning experiences from both inside and outside of the classroom.”
How Can I Use It in Teaching?
For students, ePortfolios enable
- Collecting and showcasing digital representations of evidence of learning and research
- Adding reflections to this evidence to situate this work in context and relate it to personal and professional goals
- Documenting progress and development in a department or program
- Obtaining feedback or comments on ePortfolio showcases or presentations
- Creating a dynamic resume or vitae presenting professional skills and accomplishments with examples from curricular and extracurricular activities in
- Sharing academic progress with advisors
- Connecting the disparate experiences in and out of the classroom throughout their academic years to a “bigger picture” of learning and progress
- Collect, Reflect, Present
- ePortfolios are ideal tools for students to use to collect evidence of their academic, professional and extra-curricular (community service) work over time. Through templates and forms, students are encouraged to reflect on the meaning of their learning experiences and growth of expertise and knowledge and invite feedback and comments.
- Finally, students can then present and showcase their work to select groups through the permissions feature in ePortfolio software. They can choose to show different versions of their ePortfolio to different audiences based on the context. In this way faculty, advisors, parents, peers, employers and graduate school admissions staff can view the ongoing and culminative work of students.
- See an example from the University of Washington’s Freshman Interest Group Program and Rochelle Martin’s cumulative music ePortfolio.
- ePortfolios work well to have students document the growth of skills and knowledge from freshman to senior year and beyond. For example, freshman writing assignments often show a different level of skill and maturity than senior theses. ePortfolios support a student collecting their writing over time and then demonstrating how much they have learned by comparing and reflecting on changes in their skills and understanding. Example from the University of Washington’s Expository Writing Program.
- Students can collect all facets of a research project (data, digital media, links to online resources) and with an ePortfolio presentation, showcase their research augmented by reflections on the context and challenge they experienced. Because any kind of media can be used in an ePortfolio, students can expand the context of the traditional research paper to include media, drafts, and feedback from peers and faculty. Example is from Ohio State University’s Summer 2006 Research on Research program.
- ePortfolios help students present their activities, experiences, and learning outside of the course-centric framework of higher education. ePortfolios support the kind of integrative learning and holistic understanding of how these activities strengthen student professional, disciplinary, and personal skills and knowledge. Example is from David Persico’s New York City College of Technology (CUNY) Applied Math ePortfolio.
- Many ePortfolios contain a matrix that describes the goals and skills students should attain by the end of their academic experience. These matrices enable students, faculty, and advisors to keep the “big picture” in mind throughout the academic program. Students can upload artifacts to the matrix cells to demonstrate learning and proficiency over time. Examples is from Tufts Department of Occupational Therapy.
- Preservice teacher candidates at a number of universities and colleges are now systematically demonstrating their growth in skills and knowledge through ePortfolios. These students often include a resume; letters of recommendation; teaching philosophy statements,and evidence of teaching matched through embedded matrices with professional certification standards. Example from University of Washington’s Teacher Education Program.
For faculty, ePortfolios enable
- Collecting evidence in a growing database driven repository of evidence of teaching practices, student learning, and disciplinary research over time
- Sharing teaching practices and scholarly research in contextual, evidence-based reflective framework
- Showcasing innovative teaching, research, or professional activities to a global community of peers
- Modeling for students the role of reflection in lifelong learning and research
For departments, ePortfolios enable
- Showcasing of faculty and student research and activities to a public audience
- Ongoing assessment of evidence of student learning over time for internal and accreditation purposes
For universities, ePortfolios enable
- Accreditation processes to be more public
- Demonstration of student learning outcomes
- Encouragement of dialogue within and without the university
Resources for Learning More
- University of Alaska Faculty Portfolios – Making Learning Visible
- Electronic Student Assessment: The Power of the Portfolio
- Inter/National Coalition for Electronic Portfolio Research
- An Overview of E-Portfolios
- Demonstrating and Assessing Student Learning with E-Portfolios
- Transitioning from Paper to Electronic Portfolios in Beginning Composition
- The Digital Convergence: Extending the Portfolio Model
- Electronic Portfolios: The Triple Helix of Learning, Assessment, and Pedagogy
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