A Brief History of ePortfolio at UNE
The UNE ePortfolio initiative began in the fall term of 2016 with a set of English courses. At UNE, Blackboard is the usual platform for digital course work, but because this new English course required students to engage with the platform over the course of two semesters, a different model was needed. The course was also designed to include significant reflection and sharing of student work. The use of ePortfolio in WordPress continues to be a good match and allows the possibility of further development as students continue through their time at UNE. As of spring 2018, approximately 900 undergrad students have created an ePortfolio.
In conjunction with the launch of ePortfolio, the DigiSpace was created. The DigiSpace is a computer lab staffed by work study students called digital literacy consultants. The consultants assist peers with digital needs, including using a high-definition video camera and green screen to create iMovie videos, customizing and building ePortfolio, and creating audio podcasts with Audacity software. This assistance is typically delivered one-to-one in Decary 051, but consultants are also available for classroom visits to assist professors with ePortfolio development and other digital projects.
In 2016, two consultants staffed the lab for a few hours each week night, but as of 2018, the staff of consultants has grown to seven, who offer drop-in hours every weekday as well as on Sundays. The DigiSpace Coordinator Jen Gennaco, who is also an adjunct associate lecturer for the English Department, coordinates staffing and classroom visits in addition to providing faculty support. In 2017-2018, the DigiSpace staff made over 20 visits to classrooms and assisted 175+ students with digital projects and ePortfolio customization. In this UNE News feature, digital literacy consultants and students shared their opinions on the benefit of this peer-to-peer support.
What is an ePortfolio, and how is it used?
An ePortfolio, short for electronic portfolio, is a Web site where a student crafts his or her professional digital identity based on their college experience. Students design and maintain the ePortfolio by displaying course work, reflecting on learning, and demonstrating their content knowledge and digital skills. ePortfolio allows students to add and revise the site throughout their years at UNE.
The content of an ePortfolio is defined by its audience and purpose. Some ePortfolios include only polished (or “showcase”) pieces while others are used for a variety of course work. Structurally, ePortfolio allows for use in multiple courses and to display co-curricular learning. An ePortfolio may include different types of projects and course work, such as blogs or journal entries, podcasts, video projects, audio projects, text-based projects (essays, projects), and presentations. It may also include pages dedicated to a resume, internships, work experience, or co-curricular interests. Students design their ePortfolios on the content management system WordPress and customize it using templates and other tools.
How are ePortfolios organized?
As with many Web sites, UNE ePortfolios offer a number of features, but the basic structure includes post and pages. Posts are typically shorter responses that may be categorized by course or tagged for content, skill, or medium (such as podcast, video, etc.). Posts also include a commenting feature, so they welcome discussion (similar to social media posts). Pages are typically used for more static content, and they are often feature reflections and work samples. They may also be used to highlight skills or organize an ePortfolio. Pages can be nested to create an organizational structure.
Because ePortfolio is versatile, students choose the interface and customize by adding pictures, background design, and layout of the site. WordPress offers a number of templates to standardize the font and style of the site. Users may also add special features by adding widgets. Some examples are links to other sites, a calendar, and word clouds from tagged posts.
Why incorporate ePortfolio?
When students embrace ePortfolio, they are not only developing their digital skill set but also becoming more aware of their own learning. When well developed, ePortfolio creates an avenue for long-term reflection on content knowledge and skills. Based on the findings of the Connect to Learn (C2L) Project (a national community of 24 teams from higher-education institutions) suggest three major benefits of ePortfolio initiatives done well:
- Advance Student Success
- Support Reflection, Social Pedagogy and Deep Learning
- Catalyze Learning-Centered Institutional Change
Essentially, higher educational institutions that adopt an ePortfolio approach create more integrated communities of educators and learners. Students think more deeply about their course content and skills, are more engaged in their learning, and become better at self-assessment. Faculty and staff better understand the student experience, and cooperation across the institution increases. To learn more about institutions who were involved in the C2L project, click here. Click here to learn more about the Catalyst Framework, which is the guide to high-impact ePortfolio practice.
If you would like to have your students use ePortfolio, the easiest first step is to use it for blog or journal entries. The interface looks similar to social media sites, and students would simply create posts as responses to assignments or as journal entries. Students could add pictures to their posts or hyperlinks to Google Docs or youtube presentations as well.
Another possible structure is to have students share one or two projects in ePortfolio. This would be accomplished by adding a page and cutting and pasting the assignment onto the page or by sharing the Google Doc link to the assignment.
To begin the process, email Jen Gennaco to request ePortfolios or to learn more.
Below are some sample ePortfolios that illustrate varying levels of engagement with the platform. To learn more about faculty uses and impressions, please visit Faculty Voices.
As professors embed ePortfolio in their courses, some have also begun collections of course work. To see a sample of showcase-style collections, visit Jesse Miller’s Food for Thought, which incorporates projects completed in his English Composition course, or visit Amy Amoroso’s Finding Words, which showcases essays written for her Narrative Medicine course.
One or Two Course Adoption, Mostly Text-Based
Some student sites will include only one course. The site is organized as a course site, including informal and formal writing. Students have chosen a theme (template) and some have customized to include their own pictures as headers. The following are a few samples.
Lily used her ePortfolio for ENG 110. It includes blog posts and longer samples of writing. It was created in the first semester of our use of ePortfolio and only uses posts (as opposed to pages). Clicking on the graphic in the upper left corner will open a menu to access other posts. When reflecting on her ePortfolio experience, Lily said, “ePortfolio is a program where you can keep all of your work in one place that showcases the important work that you have completed. It is also a way for the instructor or peers to have easy access to your work at all times. Using the system has allowed me and my peers to have a place where we can keep all of our work to look back on and be able to share it with others…Not only that, it showed me the improvement that I had made within my writing.”
Kenneth’s ePortfolio was also created during UNE’s first year of ePortfolio use. Kenneth’s ePortfolio includes two courses that are linked: ENG 122/123. Kenneth’s ePortfolio is structured around course learning outcomes and samples to demonstrate growth in those outcomes (seen as pages listed to the right) and posts in response to readings and class work (main text of site). Kenneth reflected on the use of ePortfolio in this way, “I’ve learned how the website works and how to make a website to work and look like I want it to. With college I think the use of the ePortfolio is used during all four years. But with the future it could be used if I have my own business and I need to make a website for it. I could use that to distribute a background of me and some of my work. Mainly this ePortfolio is a way that I can show how my work has evolved from the begin of the semester to the end of it.”
Victoria’s ePortfolio was created in her ENG110 course in the second year of the ePortfolio initiative. She has customized her site by choosing a theme that includes a picture with each post. Her post Big Data Project is in the form of a short audio presentation. Her ePortfolio reflects the work she completed for the course and is organized by course learning objectives.
Two or More Courses, Customized, Levels of Organization, Multi-Media Projects
Jessica’s ePortfolio includes some customization (her pictures) and use in multiple courses. She has included nested menus that are based on samples and include reflection statements about her learning in her English courses. Her Public Speaking course includes videos shared through youtube.
Kaylee’s ePortfolio includes multiple courses and the use of nested menus as well as categories and tags to organize the ePortfolio by course. By using tags and categories, Kaylee’s professors and classmates can view only posts related to their course by clicking on the course number in the post. Kaylee’s ENG 110 pages also include reflections about her learning and transfer of her skills. She presents written samples as well as pictures to demonstrate her learning.
Customized Beyond Course Work, Levels of Organization, Multi-Media Projects
Lara’s ePortfolio includes an overview of her course work and a professional section, including resume and personal statement, as well as pictures of her original art work. Lara developed her ePortfolio almost entirely on her own after being introduced to the project in November 2017. Since she began it during her senior year, Lara’s ePorfolio is designed primarily as a showcase but was also used for a spring 2018 course (Narrative Medicine). Thus, she elected to password protect the content related to her course (since that may not be as polished).
Bailey’s ePortfolio was also developed to showcase her overall experience. Bailey also included internship experiences and an overview of her course work.