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ePortfolios – an introduction August 26, 2013

Posted by aquillam in teaching.
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Earlier this month, I attended a workshop on ePortfolios. They seem like a great tool that can serve many purposes. Here is my brief introduction to them.

What is an ePortfolio?

An ePortfolio is just like a regular portfolio, but in digital format. It is a repository for organizing and showcasing work, and presenting a cohesive narrative. If that sounds a bit vague, well, it is. ePortfolios serve many different purposes, and the purpose partially determines what the portfolio is.

What would I want to use an ePortfolio for (purpose/goal)?

An ePortfolio can do a lot of different things. It can simply be a convenient way to organize classwork. It can be a resume or CV. It can be a way to assess whether students are achieving program goals, AND whether classes are fulfilling the expected program goals.

You might create your own ePortfolio to:

  •      track progress in a class
  •      track progress in a program
  •      plan for employment or advancement
  •      demonstrate advancement
  •      enhance collaboration with peers.

You might require a portfolio of your students to:

  •      track progress in a class
  •      track progress in a program
  •      evaluate the value of your class to a program, and determine if it is fulfilling the program requirements you think it is fulfilling
  •      make assessment of progress or advancement more uniform
  •      enhance collaboration among students
  •      help students recognize the connections between in-class work, out-of-class work, and life experience.

 

Why would I want to use an ePortfolio?

The MPortfolio team evaluated classes that used portfolios, and found that the classes that used portfolios had higher levels of engagement and students showed greater gains in knowledge and abilities. The gains were independent of gender, race, or ethnicity. Gains were achieved with minimal use, though the greatest gains were seen in classes that used the portfolios consistently throughout the semester, and classes that used peer facilitators to help students with the portfolios. Portfolios normally require reflection, which in turn make the students more mindful of their goals, and their advancement.

How do I get started? (this is aimed at faculty considering portfolios in class)

Visit the MPortfolio site for ideas http://www.mportfolio.umich.edu/

Decide what the scope of the portfolio will be. Is this for a single class? A whole program? Should it span semesters Should it accommodate previous classes and experience?

Decide what the goal of the portfolio will be. Is it primarily for assessment of the student’s work in a class, or in a program? Is it for assessment of the program, or of the class? Is it meant to illustrate development or progress? Is it a tool to make connections across classes or with life outside of class? Should it increase peer interaction? Should it be the start of a resume or CV? If you have multiple goals, it may help you keep on track if you prioritize them.

Based on the goal and scope, determine who the audience will be. Just you and the student author? The whole class? The world at large? A mix? (e.g. you want to include a blog that the world can read, but also homework problems only you and the student can see.) Your answer to this question will help determine which tool(s) to use. For example, pages in Google Sites can be granted on a page by page basis, but WordPress may be easier for the student to maintain after graduation.

You don’t want the portfolio to become an added burden to the students, so take a look at the assignments you have given in the past or were planning to give. Are they appropriate for inclusion in a portfolio?  Are they easily adapted to include a reflection component? Do they build on one another? Is there an alternative that would fulfill both the goals of the portfolio and the learning objectives of the original assignment? This is a great place to get help from instructors who have used portfolios, or from the student mentors.

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