E-portfolios used to more fully engage students
Lynnette Overby


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2:53 p.m., Oct. 21, 2010----Last year the Center for Educational Effectiveness at the University of Delaware awarded 13 academic programs instructional grants to support the development and implementation of e-portfolios designed to enhance teaching, learning and assessment.

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Grantees worked with IT Client Support and Services, the Center for Teaching and Learning, and the Office of Educational Assessment to design a customized programmatic e-portfolio.

Unlike other e-portfolio systems that tend to serve as an “electronic scrapbook,” representatives of the Center for Educational Effectiveness said these e-portfolios engage students in reflecting upon their learning and their achievement of programmatic and general education student learning outcomes.

Additionally, this e-portfolio system requires faculty and teaching assistants to provide feedback on students' reflections to develop students' ability to think about what they have gained over the course of their studies.

For undergraduate programs, the e-portfolio also offers a venue for the University, students and faculty to examine general education skill proficiency that is embedded throughout the curriculum.

The grantees were asked to develop an e-portfolio system that spans the entire program, is focused on integrative and reflective learning, and demonstrates student competency in achieving the program's student learning goals.

Center representatives said pilot data indicate that students perceived the ongoing opportunity to receive constructive peer and faculty feedback on their work and skill development most helpful, resulting in deeper learning.

For faculty and students, the structure of the e-portfolio provides an informative visual representation of the major's requirements, and articulates expectations for student learning from entry into the major through graduation.

An additional benefit for the faculty stems from being able to aggregate assessment results of student work to examine how well students are achieving the learning outcomes to inform curricular improvements.

This integration of technology combined with ongoing faculty feedback increases the engagement of student learning and supports UD's strategic milestone of greater University engagement.

This past summer the Undergraduate Research Program (URP) Summer Scholars program implemented an e-portfolio system designed to enhance students' ability to obtain the UD general education goals of oral communication, written communication, ethical reasoning, critical thinking defined as inquiry and analysis, and creative thinking.

Students were expected to target these goals through their weekly activities, written reflections, and feedback.

Students perceived that their skills in critical thinking had grown due to the feedback they received from their faculty and TAs via the eportfolio's “feedback button.”

Lynnette Overby, faculty director of Undergraduate Research and Experiential Learning, shared her experience using the e-portfolio.

“The e-portfolio project provided a wonderful opportunity for us to determine the impact of the 10-week Undergraduate Research Program Summer Scholars experience on student learning,” she said. “By focusing on the University general education goals, and using the Association of American Colleges and Universities rubrics as guides, we were able to construct a site that allowed students to view the criteria for a high level of competency in categories that included oral and written communication, inquiry and analysis, and creativity. The process of viewing the rubrics, responding to prompts, uploading artifacts, reflecting on their products, getting immediate feedback from the graduate program assistants, and continuing to revise, provided a powerful learning experience for the students.”

Overby said, “We will continue analyzing the data to determine the specific learning goals that were achieved through participation in the e-portfolio project. During the academic year, the students who were a part of the summer scholars program, and are now completing senior theses, will continue with the e-portfolio process. With the assistance of the Office Educational Assessment, a process was developed that with some revisions, will provide beneficial formative and summative information for the undergraduate students, the Undergraduate Research Program, and the University.”

To read more about how programs are using e-portfolios, see this month's edition of the Center for Educational Effectiveness' newsletter -- TLA: Teaching, Learning, and Assessment.