An ePortfolio climate focuses on critical and creative thinking, effective communication, high-impact practices and reflection.
When astronomy student Danielle Wickingson learned that ePortfolios are required for all general education classes, she didn’t understand why and was unenthused at first.
“Above all, the thing I like the most about my ePortfolio is seeing how I’ve grown since my first semester. The difference is astounding,” says Wickingson.
Adam “Eli” Spikell didn’t think he’d be required to build a website to showcase his higher education experience.
“I had an open mind about it because I came to school to do work and try new and interesting things. As a tool to gauge how others would view my college experience, ePortfolio caused me to think critically about my learning,” says Spikell.
After an intensive two-day ePortfolio faculty Bootcamp held on Aug. 12 and 13, ePortfolio coordinator Kati Lewis shared experience-based learning for Bruin consideration.
“Spirit is where ePortfolio begins, but it’s more involved than that,” says Lewis.
Lewis used her classroom as a learning lab where her English 1020 students created magazine-style ePortfolios as part of their coursework.
“ePortfolios make an argument for a student’s learning for whoever looks at it, showcasing the value of a collective experience and high impact assignments,“ says Lewis. “ePortfolio is about connections and foundations; not hoops.”
Using a content set-up that works, Lewis advised that ePortfolios counter potential issues of grade inflation because they guarantee work and not just a grade.
Accounting instructor Bob Burdette came through his Bootcamp training with an enterprising notion that ePortfolios encourage students to do their best work.
“This semester I will strongly encourage it for the first time,” says Burdette.
Research done by SLCC faculty suggests that a Bruin ePortfolio stands out over traditional resumes. As such ePortfolios present an opportune way for Bruins to demonstrate skill in an age of short attention spans.
“We decided ePortfolios were essential,” says assistant professor of Spanish Jonathan Stowers. “The Regents, are still trying to implement what we’ve done throughout Utah higher education.”
Organized by semesters of General Education experience, ePortfolios track student development and provide evidence of progress.
“In states where ePortfolios are the norm, all the research showed that not only did students connect their generals, but they also became more employable after graduation,” says Stowers.
In a 10-year General Education review conducted in 2004 by the Northwest Commission of Colleges and Universities, SLCC did not directly assess learning outcomes.
“This is a big problem for a tax-supported institution accountable to its legislature, its community and its citizens,” says SLCC ePortfolio director and pioneer David Hubert, who is also a political science professor.
Faculty led by Hubert piloted ePortfolios in several courses to gain experience using multiple platforms.
In 2008-09, Hubert proposed curriculum changes to include ePortfolio in all general education courses. The proposal was approved and implemented in the summer of 2010.
“Skeletal at first, ePortfolios are essentially co-curricular works in progress that create deeper learning connections as they happen,” says Hubert.
Had Bruin faculty not responded, the Commission could have threatened to revoke SLCC accreditation. An alternative to ePortfolios might have been standardized tests.
“Every SLCC program underwent a process of re-writing program-level learning outcomes to correspond with college-wide learning outcomes,” says Hubert.
In other words, each department must teach effective communication, but that means something different to a history major than it does to a nursing student.
“SLCC uses ePortfolios as a tool to meet expectations for the documentation and assessment of student achievement of college-wide student learning outcomes through our general education program,” says accreditation liaison officer and assistant provost Barbara Grover.
As a reflection of quantitative literacy, student ePortfolio development provides opportunity to represent academic brand identity. Hubert evaluated ePortfolio as a chance for Bruins to think about themselves as professionals.
Exceptional Bruin ePortfolios earned tuition waivers for signature achievement.
SLCC is part of The Connect to Learning Project that links 24 colleges and research universities in a networked inquiry on the impact of ePortfolios.