Thursday, August 23, 2012

E-Portfolio Resources for Unity College

What is an E-Portfolio?
Here is a definition established by the National Learning Infrastructure Initiative (NLII, 2003):
An electronic portfolio is
  • a collection of authentic and diverse evidence, 
  • drawn from a larger archive representing what a person or organization has learned over time
  • on which the person or organization has reflected, and
  • designed for presentation to one or more audiences for a particular rhetorical purpose. 
(quoted from Barret and Wilkerson, "Conflicting Paradigms in Electronic Portfolio Approaches.")
Barbara Cambridge, also cited by Barrett and Wilkerson, (see Electronic Portfolios: Why Now?), notes that e-portfolios provide a means for deeper learning, which learning is marked by being developed over time, being self-directive, being reflective, integrating multiple skills, and being life-long.

The tension with e-portfolios is designing them to serve multiple purposes. Barrett and Wilkerson explore the tension between positivist approaches -- where learners primarily align artifacts to meet external measures (instructor rubrics, institutional outcomes) -- and constructivist approaches -- where learners, over time and through reflection about what they choose to put in their e-portfolio, give shape and meaning to their experience and their learning.

In addition to those approaches, e-portfolios often have multiple audiences: fellow classmates at moments of peer review and shared reflections; course instructors for course assessment; departments for curricular assessment or faculty development; institutions for outcomes and institutional accreditation and assessment; and people beyond the academy -- potential college supporters and donors, potential employers, graduate schools and more.

In short, an e-portfolio can be many things, and working with them can be a challenge to start because understanding the tensions and finding best practices takes time and experimentation. But e-portfolios increasingly essential.

Why E-Portfolios and Why Now?

Trent Batson, founder and director of AAEEBL discusses e-portfolios with Campus Technology Magazine  at

Key quote from Batson:
It's funny, portfolios have been used in the skills-based fields--writing, art, music, and so on--for many years, but they tended to be looked down upon in academia outside those disciplines. Now, with the focus on student-centered 21st century learning, everyone is talking about skills. Sure, you have a degree in history, but what did you do to achieve that? What can you do with those skills that you learned while earning that degree? 
The beauty of e-portfolios is that they can enable learning theories that have been developed through intense study over the past 30 years of how humans learn using cognitive science, traditional psychology, and anthropology. It's important that we're now switching to an approach that's appropriate for adult learning. At the base of this research is the idea that learning is based on experience. Until now, we have not allowed students to have much in the way of experience; instead, we expect them to listen to someone who has had experience.
Batson's discussion turns on the belief that over time e-portfolios will become as or more important measures of learning than traditional college transcripts. Because e-portfolios are centered also on artifacts -- actual examples of student work and accomplishment -- they serve not only as the basis for assessing learning but also as the basis of showcasing it. For students, who will be life-long learners, the e-portfolio offers potential graduate schools or future employers or possible clients or new and old friends or near and distant family better understanding of who that student is as a thinker and person. Well designed e-portfolios do not just assess, they celebrate and promote, learning.

But as Batson notes, using e-portfolios requires one to rethink teaching. That's what today's workshops will focus on:

How do e-portfolios change my teaching?

Here are further resources to help us explore that question.

Google Sites Examples of E-Portfolios

Hawai'i Tokai International College:  

Clemson University:
   How students select work for inclusion:

Resources from Around the Web

The Online Learning Record by Peg Syverson. Peg's work seeks richer insights into student learning than can be gotten from tests and most traditional uses of paper portfolios. See for example Peg's description of the five -- and a sixth she adds -- dimensions of learning:

Principles and Practices in Electronic Portfolios: A CCCC Position Statement
Published in 2007 by CCCC Taskforce on Best Practices in Electronic Portfolios, this statement outlines suggestions for best practices in e-portfolios in composition courses, but much can be gleaned for using e-portfolios in any course. The site/statement offers extensive links to institutions that offer good e-portfolio models as well as bibliography (with links as well).

LaGuardia Community College e-Portfolio:

ePortfolio Resources -- AAEEBL
The Association for Authentic, Experiential and Evidenced-Based Learning, founded by Trent Batson, an e-portfolio pioneer, offers links to international e-portfolio resources.

From Bedford/St. Martin's . . .
Teaching Central. This is from our catalog page. From here you can request for free an exam copy of any professional resource book or use any professional resource web site we provide. For example, we offer the  following titles on e-portfolios:
In addition to the above titles, there are books on teaching writing to students with disabilities, ESL, assessing writing and more.  Please add what you need to your personal professional resource library.

(First published on May 31, 2012, with updates on August 23)