One of the more powerful features of electronic portfolios (ePortfolios) is their public character. Although ePortfolios need not be public – it is quite possible on almost all platforms to limit the viewing audience to selected individuals – many students and programs opt for a public presentation of materials. While this may be a new experience for some students, there are real benefits to moving the best pieces of student work outside of the physical walls of the university and the digital walls of the learning management system (LearningStudio, for this campus). Expanding the viewing audience allows not only family and friends of the student to view his or her work, but also includes other faculty and students in the same program as well as prospective employers or internship coordinators. Demonstrating what one has accomplished can help our students to build meaningful professional connections.
While it might be a bit late to start planning for an electronic portfolio for this semester, it’s never too early to start considering the idea for the Summer or Fall term. There’s a lot of buzz about ePortfolios, so I’ve tried to distill it down to the most helpful and informative resources.
First, here’s a very informative and reflective two–part piece on the origins and purpose(s) of portfolios by Joseph Ugoretz, the Associate Dean of Teaching, Learning and Technology at Macaulay Honors College, City University of New York. Naturally, you’ll want to make sure your eventual portfolio assignment reflects your course goals. In addition, you may want to think about what the long-term and short-term purpose of the portfolio is – for your students, you as a teacher, and possibly your program / department. I love the idea of an ePortfolio expo as described by the author. Sometimes, with digital projects, it’s difficult for the creator to know that people view and appreciate his/her work and growth. An expo is a wonderful way to showcase that work and provide opportunities for interaction (both with the portfolio content and among the students, their families, faculty, and valued community members).
Likewise, John Zubizarreta of Columbia College provides a nice portfolio overview with some practical suggestions for how to get started using portfolios and helping your students get the most of out of them. His suggestions all seem easily adaptable to a digital format.
Here is a very helpful article on ePortfolios in higher education. The article not only contains a list of dimensions that one might consider when evaluating portfolios, but also provides snapshots of how ePortfolios are used at institutions across the country, including Spelman College, the University of Michigan Medical School, and Clemson University. On that note, here is a link to Clemson University’s ePortfolio program; an ePortfolio demonstrating mastery in Clemson’s core competencies is a graduation requirement for all undergraduate students.
As you consider ePortfolios, you’ll also want to make sure you’ve thought through some of the thornier questions associated with their use. Issues might include: Should e-portfolios be private or public? If public, what are the benefits of that, and how can legitimate privacy concerns be dealt with? Will the department / program maintain a public listing of said portfolios? What will happen if students wish to change / alter the content after graduation and do so in a way that reflects poorly on the university, program, or other students’ portfolios?
The most common free higher education option seems to be Google Sites. Here’s a tutorial on getting started with portfolios and Google Sites. Another popular option is to use a WordPress blog and set that up as a portfolio. Since WordPress allows you to create pages, it has the ability to function much more like a website than an online journal. This tutorial on How to Create a Free Portfolio using WordPress.com is aimed more at individuals who have produced visual media, however, the process is the same if one has text-based files, so the directions here should provide a useful starting point.
Once your students have created portfolios, you’ll want to implement whatever plans you’ve made for the portfolios. If that includes some form of evaluation, here is a sample portfolio rubric. You’ll want to adapt this to the particularities of your course and subject, of course. Another way to think about digital portfolio contents is to view the portfolio process as a three stage event: student collects, faculty assesses, community views. From this perspective, one might include / exclude different artifacts at each step or write different, targeted reflections for each stage.
Related to ePortfolios, one might also consider mobile portfolios (mPortfolios). As the number of devices that we use to access educational content expands, it’s wise to think about how an ePortfolio might be viewed by others – now and in the future. Dr. Helen Barrett has put together the site above, and there are many helpful resources there.
Likewise, although it seems that a professional web presence is de rigueur for graduate students these days, I realize that’s not the case to an equal degree across all disciplines. This is a great piece on graduate students and ePortfolios.
If you’re considering (or currently using) an ePortfolio in a pedagogical or professional capacity, we’d love to hear from you!