Because courses at CUNY SPS are fully online, we already incorporate different kinds of social pedagogy: discussion boards, team projects with wikis, blogs, and social media. Our challenge is figuring out how ePortfolio fits into this mix: what can students do better with ePortfolio than they can with these other tools? And how to we build ePortfolio into a course, rather than “bolting it on”? For us, ePortfolio’s advantage is that is exists outside of Blackboard and can be viewed by an audience beyond the instructor and classmates in an individual section. Continued student ownership of the ePortfolio means that students will be able to look back on their coursework and make connections between courses that might not otherwise have been noticed. Our challenge has been thinking of ways to foster social interaction and an authentic audience within a fully online environment where in-person classroom presentations are not an option.
A Catalyst for Change
One of the things that we didn’t really consider when we first drafted our scaling up story is how much ePortfolio has been a catalyst of change in the way that our courses are taught. Our ePortfolio workshops are based around taking a failing or challenging assignment and making it better with ePortfolio. In some instances, faculty completely changed the scope of their assignment or replaced it with a new one. Since most of our programs are fully online, members of our faculty rarely get the opportunity to meet face-to-face. Simply getting faculty together for our ePortfolio workshops has been helpful in terms of generating camaraderie, enthusiasm, and new ideas.
We have learned that there is a tension between course-based ePortfolio implementation and program ePortfolios. Course-based implementation will draw faculty into the program and affords opportunities for pedagogical innovation at the course level, but it may make it more difficult for students to leave with a single showcase ePortfolio, containing samples and reflections on coursework across the entire academic experience. We envisage linking ePortfolios via an academic or program ePortfolio, which will serve as a central hub, connecting all ePortfolios that a student creates, and we have created online resources to assist students with this process. Capstone ePortfolios tend to be a “backward glance,” collecting artifacts from coursework at the end of the program, rather than being built piece by piece, from the beginning of the program. Getting ePortfolio in on the “ground floor” of the student’s academic journey is difficult, but important.
Our trajectory has gone from an initial focus on student-created showcase ePortfolios; to instructor-guided course-based ePortfolios, focused on reflection and integration; back toward a single student ePortfolio that can also be used for program assessment. The Catalyst site resources from the many C2L campuses that are already using ePortfolio for assessment will help us make this shift.
Sustaining the ePortfolio Program
It’s amazing to think how much we have grown in the past couple of years, from building an ePortfolio team to support our students to offering ePortfolio faculty workshops. It’s hard to imagine that our project would be where it is today if it hadn’t been for our participation in Connect to Learning, where we have learned a great deal from both the C2L leadership as well as our C2L colleagues. We are are committed to ePortfolios and are looking forward to working in ways that will deepen the project and embed it in our institution.