E-Portfolios: Next Steps

First it was Robert Biral from the Honors College who had questions about electronic portfolios during last week’s WebCT workshops. Then along came Mary Cox who is part of a group in Engineering/Math looking for “an e-portfolio program.” Then, of course, there is Education’s current implementation of its e-portfolio system, TaskStream. A couple other mentions of the topic from various faculty this summer have me wondering if this is the year for e-portfolios, and, if so, what LRG’s role might be in this.
One idea that seems to be consistent is that “we need a software program that will help us do e-portfolios.” Now, as we know from experience, too often the process of finding a solution to a given problem starts with the question “what software?” instead of with the more important questions: what are you trying to do? how do you define or perceive what you are trying to do? how will it be implemented? who will implement it? what are the hoped for outcomes?
The topic of e-portfolios can be particularly murky. Is an e-portfolio a way for students to conceive of, coordinate, reflect on, and build upon their own learning? For example, would an e-portfolio allow them to gather all course materials together (syllabus, course notes, papers, projects, etc.) in a way that they could refer to them from course to course and begin to understand the connections. Is an e-portfolio seen as a place to store “best examples” for assessment purposes, both their own and their professor’s or even their colleges for accreditation data? Or is it a place for students and even faculty to display their accomplishments to the rest of the world, the so-called “super resume” model?
In terms of use, would an e-portfolio project be adopted across department? across a college? or is it seen as an integral part of a student portal system? Would students be expected to use it on a course by course basis or across all courses?
As various constituents grapple with this topic, can the CTL/Acad Comp or LRG as a whole, assist in the process? Would a round-table work? I’m envisioning something slightly more formal than a tea, with invitations to those in Education who have already implemented an e-portfolio system.The purpose would be to give participants a chance to refine their ideas about what e-portfolios are, about what IT options exist, and to consider how they would actually implement an e-portfolio program. Our role would be as facilitators, not solution experts!

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