Starting this summer, you’ve got one more thing to do as a student here at SLCC. The school is introducing ePortfolios as a course level requirement for all general education courses, beginning summer semester.
This news raises a myriad of questions among students. How long does it take to set an ePortfolio up? Do I have to do one for every class? What are the benefits? Can I include work from previous classes? These are just some of the burning questions students have. SLCC’s Dean of General Education, Dr. David Hubert has the answers to these questions and more.
Hubert said an ePortfolio is essentially just what the name implies, an electronic portfolio with multiple pages. It’s basically like creating a highlight reel of a student’s best assignments, extracurricular activities, and the student’s thoughts and reflections about them. The general purposes of ePortfolios are to enhance student learning by aiding information retention, and to act as Gen Ed reform by changing the way students think about general education. The goal is to show the tie between Gen Ed and a student’s major choice.
Anyone who has ever had the college experience knows it’s not easy. The course load alone can be overwhelming at times, with assignments, studying, presentations and more to do, any additions to that load can seem intimidating.
“The creation and maintenance of ePortfolios is actually fairly easy, especially for this generation of students that are familiar with Myspace and Facebook. These platforms are essentially built along those same lines. They’re intuitive and easy to use,” Hubert said. “I’d say the setup process takes about an hour, and in terms of maintenance, about twenty extra minutes per class.”
There are three platforms that SLCC directly supports for students to set up his or her ePortfolio. “One platform is WordPress, which people are familiar with because it’s a blogging site. Of the three platforms, WordPress is the most difficult to learn. It’s not as intuitive. The others, Yola and Weebly, are really intuitive and are like building a puzzle,” said Hubert. “You drag in the pieces that you want, and then insert your own content. For many students, this will be very easy.”
In the Student ePortfolio Handbook, available at slcc.edu/gened, there’s an outline that describes the features of each platform, and gives valuable information about the perks of Yola, WordPress, and Weebly.
SLCC offers online tutorials for students to help them choose a platform to build their ePortfolios upon, and guide them through the process of creating one as well. Students can view these tutorials as often as they like, and there’s a specific tutorial for each of the three highlighted platforms. The tutorials are found on the web at slcc.edu/gened. Hubert does the voice work for these tutorials, and speaks very clearly. The information is delivered efficiently, and is easy to understand, making the process much simpler.
There are also on-campus workshops available to students. These workshops are free of charge, and are one-credit courses. The workshops fall under the Learning Enhancement course category. Going forward, Computer Information Systems (CIS) 1020 courses will also include the ePortfolio material. Hubert is already hard at work as an instructor for the ePortfolio courses.
What are the benefits of ePortfolios? Not only do ePortfolios help students retain information from courses and help them understand the purpose of general education, they act as visually enhanced resumes for students that are applying for scholarships, internships, and competitive employment opportunities.
“Another advantage students have in creating excellent ePortfolios is that if years down the road that student needs to request a letter of recommendation from an instructor, the instructor can see not only what the student has done in their particular course, but can see how the student has done overall. Therefore, the teacher is far more likely to go out on a limb and write an exceptional letter of recommendation for that student,” Hubert said.
“Too many students see Gen Ed as a set of unrelated courses that they want to get out of the way. We really want to help them get out of that mindset and see that Gen Ed is the foundation for whatever major they choose. It broadens their knowledge and deepens their skill base, regardless of their major choice. That’s why we’re focusing on Gen Ed courses versus major courses,” said Hubert.
Certain majors may require an additional portfolio, such as Occupational Therapy, Visual Arts, and Education majors. For these classes, instructors will ask students to add in another page in addition to the Gen Ed page. “Pre-teacher education majors, for instance, would document their work specifically in their education courses on the new page,” said Hubert.
Students can also upload audio, images, and even video to their ePortfolios, further enhancing the attractive power these portfolios can possess.
“The level of involvement of ePortfolios in courses will vary between instructors. Some instructors may say that the ePortfolio inclusion is 20 percent of the grade, and another instructor may not use them as much,” said Hubert. “We didn’t want a one-size-fits-all for our faculty with ePortfolios. The idea is to have students at least doing a set minimum, and then using ePortfolios beyond that if desired.”
Hubert is enthusiastic about ePortfolios. “We’re really excited about this, and think it is going be a great asset for students. SLCC is the first institution in Utah with the ePortfolio Gen Ed requirement. Other institutions in the state are watching what we do. We’re the largest school in the state, so that makes sense.”
The process is easier than one might think. “I fully expect that 10 years from now ePortfolios will be the norm,” said Hubert. This is an important skill to have, and will certainly give students an edge going forward.