Nearly two dozen faculty from a variety of disciplines participate in the ePortfolio initiative, make use of the DigiSpace as part of their teaching, or both. We feature just a few of these faculty below. What comes through their brief narratives is the way that ePortfolio is changing both their students’ experiences with learning and their teaching practice.
School of Nursing and Population Health
The School of Nursing and Population Health started using ePortfolio several years ago in a few select, non-nursing courses, as a means for students to reflect more deeply on their learning. I have long been interested in the contribution of writing to enhance the student’s ability to “think like a nurse”, to develop a professional identity, and to become a safe practitioner. The ePortfolio has been a wonderful medium to facilitate this type of reflective writing. My participation in the ePortfolio Faculty Learning Community (FLC) provided the opportunity to promote increased use of ePortfolio by many of my nursing faculty colleagues in multiple courses. The students’ reflections reveal a depth and breadth of exploration and achievement of course objectives that is not readily apparent in more traditional assignments. The students’ posts have evolved from lower levels of description in the earlier semesters to higher levels of reflection after several semesters of application across multiple courses. I believe this is due to more intentional instruction on reflective writing practices, with a reflective framework, and provision of prompts that guide students toward that level of reflection, as a result of collaboration with ePortfolio FLC colleagues.
The students’ reflections reveal a depth and breadth of exploration and achievement of course objectives that is not readily apparent in more traditional assignments.
I believe my own use of ePortfolio as a means to reflect on my teaching/learning practices, particularly during the pandemic, has further enhanced my effectiveness as a teacher and role model for students as they learn to navigate their sites, as well as a mentor for my faculty colleagues. I hope to see ePortfolio use expanded as students transition from student to professional nurse, sharing their sites with prospective employers to showcase their unique achievements.
School of Arts and Humanities
In 2018, the Education department moved to using UNE ePortfolio, program wide. In the past, students used a Google Site to showcase artifacts to demonstrate that they have met the Maine Common Core Teaching Standards as required by the state for all new teachers at the end of our program. This used to be a paper portfolio that students would share during their culminating PERB (Professional Educator Review Board) that occurs after their student teaching requirement. A few years ago, we moved to using a Google Site so that students could showcase this work electronically. As a program, however, we found a few issues with this requirement. First, we found Google Sites clunky and not easily personalized. Students were spending more time figuring out the logistics of Google Sites and less time on the substance. Also, it was not allowing students to showcase their work to an external audience (PERB is made up of area Superintendents, Administrators, teachers, and faculty) in a professional manner. Also, we felt that we were under utilizing the potential of the portfolio by just having students create this during student teaching and share this during PERB. One of our departmental principals is to create “reflective practitioners,” and we felt that we could be using the portfolio in more powerful ways to support this goal.
It is within this context that our department embraced the UNE ePortfolio platform. Now students develop their portfolios in one of their first major classes Technology for 21st Century Education. They set up their portfolio and also create pages for each of the eleven standards that must be met by graduation. Also in this class, they learn how to add artifacts, describe how these align with the standards, and reflect upon their growth as teachers through these artifacts. They are also learning digital skills to share, create, and communicate their learning through multiple modes of expression. Students have used podcasts, videos, websites, book creator as artifacts. In 2022, the department will have students add artifacts in several courses, which then leads to the culminating portfolio that can be shared at PERB. Using ePortfolio starting as first years and then throughout our program supports students’ ability to reflect over time, integrate their learning in our courses with their other classes, showcase their work, and provide a platform for our department to evaluate student learning across time. We are excited at the possibilities that ePortfolio offers to our students to enhance their learning over the course of their time at UNE.
Michael J. Cripps
School of Arts and Humanities
I have fully embraced ePortfolio as a component of my courses at UNE. Since the launch of ePortfolios in Fall 2016, I have embedded them as a component of both first-year and upper-level classes. As a writing instructor, I find that ePortfolio fits nicely into my courses. Portfolios have long been central to writing classes, and the digital age enables students to move their work online, to consider writing for an audience broader than the professor, and to treat the ePortfolio as a showcase of their best work. In my writing classes, ePortfolio gets students writing more and investing more of themselves in their work as they start to shift their sense of learning.
I consistently find that my students are doing amazing things in ePortfolio, and by the junior or senior year, many of them are also amazed by what they’ve been able to accomplish.
I have been interested in ePortfolio for more than fifteen years and helped launch a college-wide ePortfolio initiative at an urban university in 2008. Having advocated for a greater embrace of the digital in courses for two decades, I am very excited to be part of UNE’s ePortfolio initiative.
School of Arts and Humanities
I started using ePortfolios in my Research Methods course back in 2013, and while two students embraced the concept of presenting their academic work in a single, digital collection—even presenting their projects with me at the AAEEBL’s ePortfolio conference in Boston—, for most this option remained a marginally interesting but also technically challenging component of the course. Server troubles and an outdated version of WordPress hampered efforts to expand the blog, for me the centerpiece of the ePortfolio, by 2015.
Encouraged by the move to a different server and the wider launch of ePortfolio in Fall 2016, I embedded ePortfolio work into my Methods course. My Spring 2017 Methods section created and maintained an ePortfolio throughout the course. Thanks to faculty development work around ways to use the ePortfolio, I adapted my approach to Methods, in particular by requiring project framing statements and end-of-year-reflective statements. I have also begun to use ePortfolio in my English Composition courses. Although I recognize that we have work to do to more fully embed ePortfolio in the major, I also see a viable way forward, and some students do as well.
For me, the value of ePortfolio lies in the opportunity it gives students
- To see their work holistically,
- To draw connections between low-stakes, informal writing and their big projects,
- To construct an intellectual identity out of their various courses, and
- To see that construction as being itself an active, creative process, a practice of collection, selection, and reflection.
I incorporate ePortfolio into my English Composition courses to help students take greater ownership in their learning while building their digital skill set. I first used ePortfolio in 2016 when I was teaching College Reading and Writing. At first, I did not understand the value of an ePortfolio. I looked at it as electronic filing cabinet for student writing. I thought it would be fun for students to add a few personalized details, such as pictures, which would not have been possible using Blackboard. Then, after watching the ways that ePortfolio inspired students to customize the space and engage more fully, I realized that I was grossly under-estimating the value the ePortfolio. Students who were quiet in class posted thoughtful responses, and their reflections helped me to understand how they were applying their knowledge beyond the class.
School of Arts and Humanities
I’ve used WordPress with my students for years in a limited fashion—mostly as a place to house lower stakes journal writing, a move to reduce the amount of physical material I’d need to collect each term. Of course, I’d been aware of the possibilities using a real-deal ePortfolio might offer my classes, but I suppose there was an ongoing fear that students would view the electronic component as somehow ancillary, or as a tacked-on, nonessential part of the course. In 2016, however, I took the plunge and fully integrated ePortfolio into most of my classes. Although it was a challenge to get everyone on-board at first, after just two semesters of fully embracing ePortfolio as part of my teaching, I’ve both observed and experienced some real benefits.
- Access to/amount of student work—I’m able to keep track of the progress of student homework/journals/and formal writing WAY more easily. Too, I’m not sure I realized how much writing I was actually asking of my students. Some quick sampling from the past two terms reveals 10,000 plus words written during the semester (not counting revised drafts). While the novelist in me is impressed, this is certainly not to suggest quantity drives quality. However, how do writers become better writers? Writing, and writing lots.
- A greater sense of who students are—with a place for each individual student to create, evolve, and share their own digital identities, everyone in the class—including this instructor—is able to get a stronger sense of who each person actually is. This is especially true if a student is writing about some deeply important or long-standing tradition (we write food narratives and tradition/ritual is often a staple in this genre). What I’ve found this past year is that when students really embrace their ePortfolio, there is so much more than just words on a computer screen.
- End-of-term reflection and assessment samples both become easier to manage—ePortfolio provides a fuller picture for students to cast back and reflect on the work and progress they’ve made over the term—essentially, all of the work can be located there. With all of these various course artifacts so readily accessible, it is much more likely that students could recognize just how our coursework fits together, and actually be able to pinpoint moments of real growth over the term. When you can see draft after draft so easily, growth is pretty easy to spot. Additionally, with so much of our coursework organized and accessible, gathering department assessment samples at the end of the term is quite simple.
- Taking it to the next level! Next, I had my students explore some of they possibilities of how valuable end-of-semester reflective projects might be. Many students created really thoughtful works during the last week of so of our class. These reflective digital projects demonstrate a real engagement with how an essay, and the process of drafting an essay, can be elevated by embracing the digital.