Kingsborough a Finalist with Distinction: 2013 Aspen Prize For Community Colleges

Kingsborough Community College just received a “Finalist with Distinction” at the Live Broadcast of the 2013 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence

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“ePortfolios and Faculty Development: Charting the Impact on Teaching, Learning and Campus Culture” – Pace University

During my time at the AAEEBL ePortfolio World Summit 2011, one of the stand-out sessions that I attended was Pace University’s: “ePortfolios and Faculty Development: Charting the Impact on Teaching, Learning and Campus Culture.” What I found really interesting about the session was that it didn’t focus on one particular aspect of their ePortfolio program. In fact, it covered many different pilots including student life, career services, and assessment. In this post, I’m going to cover Pace University’s faculty development practices and their career services pilot.

The Pace Presenters: Dr. Jim Stenerson, Samantha Egan, Dr. Linda Anstendig, Chiara Travia, Dr. Ravi Ravishanker, Dr. Beth Gordon Klingner

The Pace Presenters: Dr. Jim Stenerson, Samantha Egan, Dr. Linda Anstendig, Chiara Travia, Dr. Ravi Ravishanker, Dr. Beth Gordon Klingner 

Teaching Circles
The session started out with an overview of faculty development practices for the preparation of implementing ePortfolios in the classroom. Through an application process, 40 faculty members were selected to participate in a “teaching circle“, which focused on basic technical skills for their ePortfolio platform (Mahara), as well as developing eportfolio assignments and eportfolio rubrics. They conducted a post teaching circle survey, held a follow-up meeting, and conducted classroom demonstrations for students. What I found interesting about Pace’s approach was that they didn’t require those who participated in the teaching circle to use ePortfolios. There was a small stipend to go through the teaching circle and a follow up stipend for those who chose to use ePortfolios in their classroom. I thought it was great idea to introduce faculty to ePortfolios and allow them to get their feet wet before they decided whether or not to use eportfolios the following semester. There was a great quote from one of the faculty members that resonated with me: “I’m in love (with ePortfolios), but I’m not quite comfortable with the relationship.” Based on the feedback from their survey, future teaching circles will have a heavier focus on technical skills building. They have also built some terrific ePortfolios resources on Pace’s Center for Teaching, Learning and Technology website: Even though the resource website has a heavy focus on tutorials for Mahara, I found the links for faculty at the bottom very helpful. So helpful, in fact, that I had to tweet about it!

Twitter post

Career Services Pilot: Employer Feedback
I was excited to hear about Pace University’s career services pilot because I don’t think there’s a lot of research (right now) on the impact of ePortfolios on employment. Also, after conducting my senior capstone on the Impact of Web 2.0 Tools on Employment, I was really interested to find out what has changed (and what hasn’t) in the past two years. 

The University invited employers from various economic sectors for a focus group session — breakfast included. Nearly all of the employers didn’t know what an ePortfolio was, but after viewing student examples 90% said they would look at an eportfolio when considering a candidate for employment and 78% thought it made a great addition to a resume.

When answering the question: “Which pages would be useful in making a hiring decision”, the participants valued professional preparation/resume pages (30%) and co-curricular/extracurricular pages (21%) above everything else (see pie chart below). I wasn’t surprised that the employers weren’t as interested in the other pages: introduction, academic materials, recommendation, showcase, rubrics, and other. While these pages are important for students to develop both academically and professionally, I’m sure hiring managers simply don’t have the time to look at every page in a prospective employee’s ePortfolio. One of the participants explained that the extracurricular/co-curricular activities pages are valuable because they show the student’s ability to multitask and interface with clients.

Career Services Data

If you weren’t able to attend the AAEEBL World Summit, but would like to find out more about the sessions I would recommend checking out the #AAEEBL11 hashtag on Twitter and looking out for additional updates on the AAEEBL website as well as the ePortfolio group/blog on the Commons.

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New Faculty Resource ePortfolios–NEFDC workshop

Lehman College introduced a Teaching & Learning Commons this past year to bring together faculty, students, and staff around teaching and learning activities at the College.  In our first year, we have been working with the new faculty to provide a more comprehensive orientation to the physical and virtual campus than in previous years; we are introducing new faculty orientation seminars and workshops as part of this process.

This fall, we met for informal group discussion with representatives of resource programs in

–Teaching and Research
–Campus & IT
–Student Support & Student Life
–Governance, Assessment, & Strategic Planning

As a support for the discussions, I designed a portal/development ePortfolio for the new faculty on Digication. The ePortfolio includes tabs for each of the above areas with links and pdfs to College resources; there are two additional tabs for tracking professional development and service so that each faculty member can upload the department expectations for tenure and promotion along with his or her research, teaching, and service activities. The aim is to hybridize the ePortfolio as a resource tool to make Lehman more accessible to faculty and as a development platform for new faculty to begin pulling together their plans and materials as they advance in their academic careers.

At the recent New England Faculty Development Consortium in Worcester, Massachusetts, on November 19, I presented a workshop on the ePortfolio as an opportunity to share work in progress and to facilitate other administrators and faculty in developing their own resource ePortfolios. Trent Batson, Executive Director for AAEEBL, was one of the workshop participants, and we had a good mix of new and mid-tenure faculty as well as college/university administrators. Except for myself, the audience was New England based, representing institutions from New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Vermont.

I used a small group facilitation approach to the workshop and asked participants to define faculty success in their first activity. Participants were then assigned into groups of twos and threes to apply their definitions to one of five dynamics—goals, process, time, communication, and resources. We collected the main ideas from these discussions on a whiteboard and made connections between the dynamics, the definitions, and the institutional needs we were bringing to the discussion.

This was a great opportunity to talk about the importance of morale in the current economic and political crisis, which then led back to the importance of connecting faculty to resources and opportunities to develop further capacities and community within and across institutions.

We then looked at a PowerPoint illustrating plans and implementation of Lehman’s new faculty resource ePortfolio and integrated what we were seeing with our previous discussions. The group was interested to see the Digication template as well as the sample I had created from my own professional history. Trent Batson pointed out that the ePortfolio was largely a portal rather than what he considers to be ePortfolio as pedagogy—we then discussed the development and service areas of the ePortfolio and their contrast and complementarity with the resources. Batson then referred to the workshop format and activities (think-pair-share, jigsaw, punctuated assessment, and short written reflections), saying “This is ePortfolio!”

The group moved into discussions of their own goals and plans for resource ePortfolios at their institutions and came up with principles for implementation as well as a few new projects to explore. Sue Castriotta from Keene University, tweeted throughout the session (#NEFDC) and provided a link to our brainstorm board.

The response was overwhelmingly positive—I came away having heard and experienced the desire for interactive sessions that involve participants in teaching and learning and that encourage immediate application and feedback. This may be the future for faculty ePortfolio work—reminding us that we are all students engaged in what engages us.

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AAEEBL Conference SlideShows

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“Integrating Integrative Learning in the ePortfolio,” and “Translating Vision to Practice: A Program-Centered Model for ePortfolio”

The AAEEBL conference had something for everyone. Since our active ePortfolio program at BCC is only three semesters old, I found it especially valuable  to learn from speakers whose institutions have been “at it” for a long time. Two sessions I attended really drove this home and left me with much to think about as the summer begins hurtling downhill toward the new academic year. Listening to these experienced practitioners talk about aspects of their ePortfolio programs reminded me of my racquetball-playing days, when I always enjoyed competing against players who were just a little bit better than me. I usually came away from those games with a new idea, a new strategy, a new technique.

Susan Kahn of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), and Candyce Reynolds and Judy Patton of Portland State University, respectively led sessions discussing aspects of their experience which, to me, fit the mold of players whose game is ahead of mine. Susan’s presentation took the broader view, narrating a tale of institutional failure and resurrection across departments and programs that she called “Translating Vision to Practice: A Program-Centered Model for ePortfolio.” More on that in a little while.  In a presentation entitled “Integrating Integrative Learning in the ePortfolio,” Candyce and Judy focused more narrowly on their work with freshmen in order to flesh out a very pragmatic understanding of “integrative learning,” a term which, for me at least, has always required some unpacking. Their presentation started with two key insights: first, that neither students nor faculty necessarily understand how to make integrative learning connections on their own; and second, that this quality is best understood as a “disposition,” a kind of posture or approach to learning which a student builds across curricular and co-curricular experiences, and which grows incrementally from making simple connections among ideas and experiences to synthesizing and transferring learning to new, complex situations. At Portland State, development of this disposition is initiated in a “Freshman Inquiry” class, and built upon institutionally agreed-upon learning outcomes, some of them internally driven and others drawn from the AAC&U VALUE framework.  With these guideposts in place (and of course, that in itself is a major accomplishment), the instructor’s work of designing portfolio projects, and the student’s work in completing them, follow a set of very sensible principles:

  • Assign developmentally appropriate projects
  • Build student input—with appropriate instructor guidance—into  choice of topic
  • Make the integrative nature of the project open and explicit
  • Include expectation of a presentation component
  • Make the assignment challenging but not so daunting that students are frustrated
  • Include a reflective or self-assessment element
  • Focus on process as much as product

These principles are themselves dependent on a deeper pedagogical premise: that consciously connecting assigned work both to discipline-based learning and to lived experience, and combining such work with reflective self-assessment over time, will enable integrative learning, or the successful transfer of skills, abilities, knowledge, or methodologies from one context to another. When freshmen at Portland State are asked to rephrase stated learning outcomes in their own words and to connect this thinking to their choice of ePortfolio artifacts, we can see the embryonic outlines of integrative learning. Examples of Portland State ePortfolios can be found here.

Susan Kahn’s presentation focused less on classroom practice than on institutional planning and faculty development. Her narrative began in 2004, when IUPUI’s first ePortfolio initiative crashed and burned. The program had been based on staged Gen Ed competencies and housed in themed freshmen learning communities. What went wrong? From the faculty perspective, the initiative was perceived as a top-down administrative fiat and a series of work add-ons. From an implementation perspective, the software (home-grown) was buggy and inadequate and, perhaps most critically, portfolio pedagogy and assessment were poorly understood. Susan’s conclusion struck me as a kind of thematic undercurrent, which I heard again and again during the conference: IUPUI’s 2004 project reflected a general failure to grasp the extent to which ePortfolios represent a radical and disruptive conceptual shift in how we understand teaching and learning. It’s a lesson all of us need to heed.

Susan then described IUPUI’s current and considerably more successful strategy. Academic units (departments, schools, or programs) apply for development grants. Their ePortfolio projects reflect fairly specific unit-based needs. They need not, for example, be formally linked to IUPUI’s “Principles of Undergraduate Learning” (one can imagine this alone alleviating “top-down” concerns). Projects pursue a two-year development cycle, with the first year devoted to unit-wide curricular and pedagogical preparation. The program provides intensive guidance and support, and faculty are encouraged to contribute to ongoing development of the Sakai software platform. The new strategy has yielded good results, in part owing to smart, strategic decisions about the initial choice of participants. Externally accredited, “assessment-friendly” programs have provided good models. About 20 such programs—undergraduate, graduate, and co-curricular—have been engaged to date.

Concluding her presentation, Susan identified three “success factors” in IUPUI’s redesigned ePortfolio program: buy-in from a critical mass of faculty or staff in a participating academic unit; careful but not obsessive planning; and true curricular integration (as opposed to tacked-on additional work). Doubtless these results flow from the practical strategies she had described. Faculty buy-in, perhaps the most important of all, never “just happens.”  

There was a lot to learn in these presentations, as there was throughout the AAEEBL conference. I don’t play racquetball anymore—as a friend of mine says when describing his exercise habits past a certain age, he prefers to move straight ahead—but there are still things to learn from players who know a little more about the game than you do.

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“Questions about the Texts of Our Students’ Lives”

Presentation by Kathleen Blake Yancey

We have perhaps Trent Batson – or serendipity – to thank for this bookend from Kathleen Blake Yancey, Florida State University, whose presentation returned tangentially to Darren Cambridge’s opening theme.  My guess is that it’s Trent and by no accident this session opened with a hearty applause for his work in putting the AAEEBL conference together.   Kathleen’s session offered some real resolutions to the aggregative-integrative/individualist-collectivist tensions raised in Darren’s opening bookend, alongside new lines of inquiry at the interface of ePortfolios, cognitive-cultural change and communication as narrative self-presentation.

Kathleen draws from a wealth of experience in working with students – she kicked off with an aside on how much she enjoys spending time with students and their work.  So I liked her right away and knew I wanted to get and keep one of those mid-center mid-row seats.  As an English professor, this experience with students has been embedded in an experience with the paper portfolio.  What do we learn from paper portfolios, she asked?  These are the raw materials through which we connect assessment with learning.  And, in the next breath she became sociological:  if a portfolio is a text, the context is the framework from which it emerges.

Portfolios are embedded in four important contexts:  college assessment, a discipline, the vernacular, and the interface.  These four contexts provided the spine for her remarks on ePortfolios in the 21st century.  And these nodes represent a change from the earlier work.  At the beginning of the ePortfolio movement, she noted, the mantra was: Collect, Select, Reflect – Process, Connection, Assessment.  Process was an outcome that precipitated making connections and assessment.

In the 21st century the conversation we are in a different place, partly as a result of experience and research on teaching and learning – how people think and learn – and partly as a trickle-down diffusion of 20th century epistemology.  Either way, the vanguard scholarship of teaching and learning is now focused on communities of practice, media, interactivity, reiteration, identity, spaces and layers.

Two sets of activities have emerged as keys in the newer dialogue: archive and curate//aggregate and search.   Are we in Darren’s aggregate-individualist cell here, with more elaborate bolstering of consciousness of as aggregated curio integrated through reflection?

On the practical level, if ePortfolio pioneers envisioned portfolios as isolated texts in multiple contexts, portfolios as new sites for school work, portfolios-in-use for program assessment (program evaluation) with real word samples, and portfolios as repositories of reflections, today SoTL researchers are zeroing in on Portfolio+ Text + Context.  The question becomes which context and how the context impacts the text – this is a core sociology of knowledge problem.

Kathleen underscored through repetition the four nodes axial to this discourse — the spine — and then provided details on each – save the interface:

  • Outcomes
  • Disciplinary Knowledge
  • Vernacular
  • Interface


These are embedded in a network of associations.   And the audience has changed.  Using a quote from Clay Shirky (also the author of Here Comes Everybody), Kathleen found a great quote articulating his shift as a student at Yale from writing for the professor to writing to elicit conversation.

Disciplinary Contexts

This was perhaps the most engaging and forward thinking part of the presentation, as Kathleen “stumbled upon” with pedagogical examples the most vexing and unresolved problems in 20th century epistemology:  the Platonic “categories” are dead.  Post-analytic Jacques Lacan writes about the question we learn to avoid on the school bench…  What is a text, where did it come from and who is its author?  As the physicist knows, what we know and perceive depends upon language within a disciplinary frame and our level of access to its refined technologies.  Academics and professionals think through a discipline.  Kathleen’s phrase was “using tacit practice as a platform for expertise.”  What are the component parts of a performance? Can these be uncovered through reflection? At the end, during the brief question and answer session she returned to these ideas, referring to “discipline-specific thought patterns.”  Worth probing here – at the level of the classroom – are questions regarding integrative learning, English writing and relationships between discipline-specific language and styles that require the speaker-hearer/reader-writer to step back and write as the “objective reporter/analyst.”

Kathleen’s next example came from Medical Education at Leeds:

A reflective account of any activity is in two parts – description and reflection.  The writer first describes a situation, which often includes how he or she felt in the context.  Therefore the writer must discuss the situation critically considering other interpretations of what was happening at the time, her thoughts on other actions she might have taken and the relationship to any reading or knowledge base that may be available.  Kathleen noted that this kind of reflection and the implementation of portfolios will require a shift in the culture of medicine.

Reflective practice requires a different mind-set from a standard scientific approach.  The reflective process is open and fractal with multiple specific outcomes that are closed and compartmentalized.  Thus, the successful implementation and use of ePortfolios in the Leeds School of Medicine, as an exemplar, will require the establishment and careful nurturing of a culture that supports and values the portfolio as an integral part of the educational experience.   The use of electronic portfolios for formative and summative assessments and as a learning tool will require educators to make adjustments, Kathleen argue.  These cannot be simply overlaid on the curriculum.

Vernacular Context

The vernacular context has so many possibilities and the hour was coming to an end.  Kathleen described a student whose “composing process” involves watching The Price is Right, playing online Scrabble, and coming up with an idea just in the nick of time.  She asks, “How does that describe composing at all?”

The Web Portfolio is multifaceted map of undergraduate studies.  Students combine and recombine what they learn.  The portfolio as a text is situated in and emerges from diverse contexts, some planned, some not.  Each planned context raises a set of questions impacting other planned contexts.  The vernacular as lived experience is incorporated even when it’s not invited.

We were out of time before we knew it.  Makes you want to read her work….

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“Creating her Sense of Self: Feminist Advising, ePortfolio, and Integrative Learning”

Presentation by Rebecca Reynolds and Abigail Lewis

This was a fascinating presentation (a good example of how great content can overcome not-so-great PowerPoint). Douglass Residential College is a women’s college with a long history that has recently been made a part of Rutgers. The women live together and have advising and support, but their classes and faculty all come from Rutgers–from the wider Rutgers community. Of course I saw analogies to Macaulay here–the challenge of being a separate program within a larger university and having students with dual identities.

There are also some specifics that they have been working out at Douglass, particular to the situation of being a women’s college, and this is where I saw some really unique and powerful intellectual analysis of the eportfolio activity–as something that has precise echoes in feminist and gender theory and feminist pedagogy. As the Douglass students navigate their particular roles and develop their ambitions and progress in eportfolios, the work of doing that documentation (and presenting it) gives them opportunities to think about the conflicts and implications of gender in the world of higher education and beyond. The Douglass team uses these eportfolios to help with advising and counseling their students. But more importantly, the students have the opportunity to use the eportfolios themselves, as they progress, to integrate their personal growth and their academic growth.

Again, lots of parallels to what is happening at Macaulay, and I very much want to connect more with the Douglass folks.

(One take-away tidbit that I found especially thought-provoking: Douglass students have written in their eportfolios about the problematics of the idea of a mirror or the concept of reflection. For young women in particular, these may not be transparent terms or ideas, as they bring up connections to issues of body image and appearance which can have strong emotional and social resonances. This is not to say that those terms should not be used–but that we should be conscious of, and help students to articulate, the tensions in those terms. This is not something I had ever thought about–but something that I will think about from here on.)

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“Fostering Integrative Learning in a Senior Capstone Seminar”

Presentation by Susan Kahn and Karen Johnson

After Joe’s session, I walked to the opposite side of the Plaza level to hear nationally recognized ePortfolio professionals Susan Kahn and Karen Johnson from IUPUI, who are on the opposite end of the spectrum from Joe and Macaulay.  I would have just as gladly made a trip halfway across the country – one size does not fit all and these two bank on years of experience with rubrics and ePortfolios.  It’s not so much that the creative students can just take care of themselves.  But, as my colleague Rebecca Mlynarczyk often notes:  We can’t teach the students we wish we had; we have to teach the students we have.  Whether they come straight from the farm, a small town in Indiana, or from an immigrant neighborhood in NYC, first generation college students provide us with the most numerous and most challenging teaching and learning problems.

People do not walk on the grass at IUPUI (Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis – pronounced oo-wee poo-wee).  This gorgeous downtown campus with 20+ schools serves 30,000+ students who are first generation college students.  Most students are professionally oriented, living in a “red state” – and one with low levels of educational attainment.  Part of the orientation to city life in Indianapolis means learning to live with others and to respect public and personal property.  Susan and Karen provide genuine assistance and expertise in this context, helping students adapt and adjust to the realities in what is perhaps best identified as Type I on Darren’s four-fold cell structure.

Susan and Karen represent the IUPUI English Department, with six tracks in the major.  The Senior Capstone, E450, serves all six tracks.  Desired outcomes for students include integrative learning and the articulation of this learning in terms that are meaningful to employers and other audiences.  The capstone seminar has two components:  Career/professional development and English in the world.  And, it prescribes two major tools:  the matrix and the web-folio.  The two components require students to take different views of course themes from the four-year experience.

In the Career component, students create a resume and a career reflection.  The latter consists of a reflection essay and samples of past work – the samples provide a focus for the reflection.  For the English in the World component, students create a reflection essay using samples of past work – the focus of the reflection essay – plus their senior project and an annotated bibliography.

I found their comments on “Preparing for Reflection” to be the most useful in the session.  This is a problem thematic that has recurred throughout the Making Connections seminar over the past three years at LaGuardia. What is a reflection?  Why reflect?  English at IUPUI uses a rubric to help students in the development of reflective thinking:  the ability to self-assess, awareness of how one learns (meta-cognition), and the development of lifelong learning skills.  The tools are somewhat familiar to everyone engaged in teaching first-generation college students in the paper world:  evaluating and responding to sample reflections, written and oral peer reviews of rough drafts and then, a final reflection that can be shared.  A key outcome of reflection is matrix thinking – becoming aware of the competencies and where one is in the matrix.  The web-folio intends to take students beyond matrix thinking.  It provides both students and site visitors with individualized, engaging, and visually exciting representations of student achievements.

Susan and Karen are authentic educators – they provided in this session real insight into their pedagogical innovations and struggles, fully cognizant of the inherent problems and challenges:  balancing the needs of stronger and weaker students, especially in terms of instructions and prompts; modifying concepts appropriate for traditional students so that non-traditional students see the value of their non-academic experience; and maintaining first-generation students’ pride in their educational accomplishments while helping them form realistic expectations for employment.  Practical suggestions in the presentation included having students begin the web site construction in the first two weeks; writing short reflections on individual artifacts before writing the final component; helping students understand the realities of the job market; providing support as students face confusion and fear; and increasing coherence through disciplinary learning.

E450, as Susan and Karen so openly acknowledge, is a work in progress.   Their work with students may sound much more pedantic (yawn) and far less sexy than Macaulay’s student guide on the side.  Yet, in my opinion, it’s reassuring to know that if an IUPUI graduate decides to get on a bus to NYC, chances are that when arriving at Penn Station, he or she will know:  which subway to take, the address of their local destination, what KSA will be required for the job to which they will be reporting; what to wear; and how to get there thirty minutes early.  This will be coupled with that old-fashioned Hoosier commitment to a work ethic – plus the memories of these two faculty members who cared enough to about them to teach them what they need to know to succeed in the new economy in one of the most vibrant cities in the world.  And, after all, the last two NYC mayors have been “reds.” The IUPUI student should arrive in the city that never sleeps with a high enough skill level to join or defect from the economic mainstream – perhaps even competing successfully with Macaulay alums in the “creative class” in cool neighborhoods.

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“Open Source and Open Directions: The Macaulay Honors College ePortfolios”

Presentation by Joseph Ugoretz

Three sessions today, taken together, provided at least a moment of clarity on the various tensions inherent in the ePortfolio process and most especially mapping onto this process the eternal dilemma of “student-centered” versus “standards centered” orientations.  The first was by CUNY Online Baccalaureate colleague Joe Ugoretz, who provides maximum flexibility to  CUNY Honors students.  My favorite slide was one in which he shows a campus with folks literally creating paths in the landscape, a “controlling metaphor” for ePortfolios at Macaulay and their commitment to seeing where the students are going and then building digital structures – creating paths – that help them.  Joe views the ePortfolio less as a filing cabinet and more as a curio – not just a compilation of assignments, but something the student creates.  The student, in this model, is the “guide on the side.”

Another slide with the world’s largest Swiss Army knife reminded me of the old adage in medicine:  If you only have a hammer, everything looks like a nail.  Joe uses the impractical giant army knife as a metaphor for the need to provide creative students with lots of different tools that can be used in lots of different ways.  That’s the rationale behind their choice of WordPress – a rationale that may work better in the context of a Macaulay than a community college populated mostly by developmental students.  Nonetheless, I emerged from the session convinced that the expressive potential of the most creative and advanced students need not be – and probably shouldn’t be – constrained by structures designed to help less advanced students navigate through a basic skills matrix.

Joe’s vernacular speech is vivid and memorable. WordPress is free and open source:  free like free speech, not like free beer – free like a free puppy, not like free beer.  You have to take care of it, but this care takes place within the context of a creative WordPress Multi-User community with lots of able and willing volunteers for plug-ins.  There are now 10,000 such developers.

Examples ranged from student’s “active museums” to experiments with course sites, such as “Where Students Hold the Government Accountable for the Environment.”  The professor (maybe Joe will comment and fill in the name) for the site now runs it much like the CUNY Virtual Enterprise, where students take over a virtual company, with the work of the last cohort intact.  This sounds like real life, right after an election…  But I emerged from the session feeling much like a pianist who at last sees on the horizon a chance to play some jazz – maybe even a little rock ‘n roll – after years of struggle mastering technique through the thousands of Bach exercises that everyone who has ever played the piano has heard played badly a zillion times.

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Student Leadership, Reflection, and Assessment at Lehman College

In this session Gina Rae Foster, project director of Lehman College’s  grant-funded Supplemental Instruction (SI) program, described how Lehman’s ePortfolio platform (Digication) provides SI leaders (students who lead supplemental study groups for their peers) with the capacity to build program-based portfolios, which are then used for formative program assessment and reviews of their performance. More than simply providing the template for an individual portfolio, however, the Digication platform is also being employed to manage the SI program more generally. Resources and documentation of many kinds are being housed on program portfolios and made available to interested or relevant parties. Interestingly, this mirrors a phenomenon we’ve seen at Bronx Community College, where a number of co-curricular programs are beginning to deploy Digication ePortfolios as, in effect, a substitute for web sites. Similarly, some faculty have started to use ePortfolio to publish their credentials, their accomplishments and, in one instance, informational and organizational material for a scholarly conference.

Lehman’s curricular focus for this SI project is in the Business and STEM disciplines, where tutorial and instructional support is often a critical need. As the project has developed, it’s become clear that the full extent of activities required of SI leaders amount to the equivalent of a well-designed academic course (theory, practice, self-reflection, collaboration, assessment). Consequently an SI program goal is to move toward establishing this work—articulated and organized in ePortfolios—as a credit-bearing course for students. Gina’s expectation is that SI leader ePortfolios will be one persuasive form of evidence for the success of the program and helpful both in the curricular approval process and in moving the program forward in the future.

Clearly, there is great potential in this use of an ePortfolio platform. This sort of co-curricular and student support program is fertile ground for employment, transfer, and pre-professional application. Somewhat like the Brooklyn College SEEK program, Lehman’s SI program is exploiting this potential very effectively. It falls outside the standard academic model for ePortfolio utilization, but it’s definitely well worth considering. I would like to explore it in our Instructional Technology Tutor program at BCC. I suspect it could have great value for students whose work as peer tutors and technology assistants often generates compelling narratives of growth and change. These are the stories, after all, that often make the most compelling features of ePortfolios.

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