“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: http://pace.edu/ctlt/eportfolios/tutorials. 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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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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“ePortfolios Enhance Learning, Assessment and Job Applications”

Benjamin Stephens from Clemson University spoke about the form and function of ePortfolios for outcomes in the undergraduate psychology program. In 2006, Clemson University implemented an ePortfolio program that requires all undergraduates to create and submit a digital portfolio demonstrating Clemson’s general education core competencies.

Students collect work from their classes and elsewhere, connecting (tagging) it to the competencies (Written and Oral Communication; Reasoning, Critical Thinking and Problem Solving; Mathematical, Scientific and Technological Literacy; Social Science and Cross-Cultural Awareness; Arts and Humanities; and Ethical Judgment) throughout their undergraduate experience.

Benjamin discussed the difference between general education ePortfolios vs. resumes explaining that ePortfolios may assist supervisors in becoming more aware of an applicant’s knowledge, skills and abilities. A study was conducted by Clemson in which recruiters from a career fair and students rated four types of applications for the position of career counselor: paper resume, web resume, ePortfolio and interactive resume. Resumes were seen as more easily understood than ePortfolios and ePortfolios which included resumes were viewed more favorably. ePortfolios and interactive resumes were rated as having the most impact on the job outcome. While ePortfolios and interactive resumes had the same amount of information, participants rated ePortfolios as having the most information out of the four types of applications.

Interactive resumes seemed to be a better fit when used to apply for a job — a middle ground. That is not to say that ePortfolios aren’t necessary because the hyperlinks from the interactive resume link to different parts of a a student’s ePortfolio. Benjamin explained that he plans to survey employers to get a better understanding of how ePortfolios can best be utilized in the hiring process.

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“How ePortfolio Transformed Our Students, Faculty and Program: The BC SEEK ‘Benchmarks for Success’

Presentation by Martha Bell, Sharona Levy, and Longfeng Gao

This was a session focused much more on ideas and strategies (and successful ones!) than on technologies. Martha Bell, Sharona Levy, and Longfeng Gao of Brooklyn College explained how they are using a very specific eportfolio program that they call “Benchmarks for Success” to work with their SEEK students (who are admitted to Brooklyn College, but without the kinds of academic preparation that most Brooklyn College students have).

The program, which started with paper portfolios and has now switched to “e,” has been phenomenally successful–some key indicators–not all attributable to the eportfolios, but they have certainly played a role in all of these.

  • 100% of SEEK students pass the CPE (this is amazing–a figure that, Sharona was kind to point out ;), even the Macaulay students at Brooklyn can not equal).
  • Huge increases in retention and graduation rates.

    All members of the program (including office staff-who are often overlooked) participate in developing and evaluating the benchmarks.

  • Focus on specific benchmarks (success in early accomplishment of the speech assessment, financial aid expertise) that the program needs to know about but which may not be precisely academic.
  • Clarity on program goals and ideas about outcomes.
  • Students see the task as effort, and it is difficult, but they also (sometimes later on) see the value.
  • Graduates of the program work to do evaluation.
  • Even the Middle States evaluators (!!) mentioned the program in very positive terms.

The program works with very specific benchmarks or goals for the students–a whole wide range of goals–things like decorum and appropriate address, using a syllabus, seeing the importance of tutoring, pre-writing and drafting, reading and annotating–a large collections of essential skills they want students to achieve. And they’re all spelled out clearly for students, and then students, in their eportfolios, provide a written response and a piece of evidence for each of these benchmarks.

It’s all required, and all evaluated (by those graduate students).

The session was excellent–very interesting to me for a couple of reasons. First is that at Macaulay, our eportfolios are not as goal-driven or structured. These eportfolios at BC SEEK are like a contract–every student sees exactly what they have to do, and they must fulfill that contract. Ours allow students to set their own goals and determine their own purposes. It was good to see the contrast, and to think about the different needs of different groups of students. I wonder if SEEK students could also benefit from more of the creativity and open-ended approach we promote, and if our students could benefit from more of the direction and distinct structures of the Benchmarks for Success.

I was also interested to see that the Benchmarks, in the way they’re set up and in the types of evidence that students provide, also include a good deal of what I’ve seen as so exciting and inspiring in Sharona Levy’s work in the past–the idea of annotation as a way to think (particularly in reading) more deeply and critically.

These eportfolios focus on “transportable skills”–which students need to succeed in all their classes.

A fascinating session and I think there are models here that should definitely be shared with other SEEK (or similar) programs–as well as programs of different types.

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Helen Barrett stresses the importance of reflections in a presentation scheduled for tomorrow in Mumbai: 

Blurring the Boundaries: 
Social Networking & ePortfolio Development  

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