Dr. Shyam Sharma uses ePortfolio in a variety of classes in the Program in Writing & Rhetoric.
Why do you use ePortfolio in your courses?
In the signature writing course that we teach in the Program in Writing and Rhetoric, the Intermediate College Writing, the portfolio is required. We use it mainly for the purpose of assessment. In addition, individual faculty members add other objectives and uses, such as integrating visual elements, formative assessment and reinforcement of learning through ongoing reflection, writing skills for the web, etc.
In more advanced courses, I use the ePortfolio for helping students create professional profiles that they can use when they are ready to go on the job market or apply for graduate school. More advanced students also create and integrate multimodal artifacts, rhetorically analyze design and presentation of materials on the web, and learn some coding for troubleshooting.
What is the benefit of ePortfolio to students?
E-Portfolios allow students to see what they have done, think about their achievement, and show it to others. They also allow students to create the kinds of texts and artifacts that their life and work demands these days (beyond writing "papers," which are not really on paper in many classes these days). By using ePortfolios, students can develop the ability to think critically not only about printed words and how they express ideas but also about other, more prevalent, types of language in our time. They get the opportunity to translate their academic work into professional profiles, curating and managing their presence on the web in intellectually substantive and professionally purposeful ways. And ePortfolios can greatly enhance reflection, interaction with one another, publication of ideas for broader audiences, and so on.
What are the benefits to you?
As opposed to paper portfolios, ePortfolios allow me to access students' work from anywhere, any time; they also allow me to use students' work for teaching. I do teach my students to only publish what they want to publish and to update and reorganize their portfolios (so that what my colleague Cynthia Davidson calls "virtual dust" doesn't gather). But the fact that I can use student work as resource for teaching (without permission, because the authors published them) is significant. When students use ePortfolios, I also have the magical power of external audience to make students not simply think about me as "the" audience of all their work. And perhaps most importantly and frankly, it doesn't make a lot of sense to me if I only teach "writing" that doesn't involve writing for the web (instead of just on paper), writing for varied audiences (including audiences across national/cultural borders), and composing in multiple mediums (including in integrated, multimodal forms).
What advice would you give to other faculty considering using ePortfolio?
There is a theory about how to use technology most effectively in teaching, called the TPACK model. The model was an adaptation of Lee Shulman's idea of "Pedagogical Content Knowledge" made by Punya Mishra and Matthew Koehler, who added "Technology" to the mix. The idea is that in order to use technology meaningfully and effectively in education, teachers should design and teach courses by thinking up front about what technological applications should be used for executing their chosen pedagogical methods/strategies, as well as thinking about how the tools and teaching methods will together facilitate the teaching of particular content in their particular disciplines. I add a fourth term, student, to this model in order to highlight that in order to make the use of technological applications even more effective, we should involve students in the selection, adaptation, and "hacking" of those applications. For instance, if the objective of an assignment is to collaboratively produce a business plan, it is important that a teacher pick a collaborative application in advance, but it is not necessary that he or she pick Wiki or Google Doc or Digication. When students explore the affordances of the tools, make their own choice, and adapt/appropriate the functionalities to fit their needs, students can practically learn the idea that technologies are first and foremost tools (before they are environments, networks, etc). In the case of ePortfolios, the TPACKS approach as I call it serves as a framework for assessing, selecting, using, and adapting technological applications by involving students, considering the content and discipline, and serving the needs of our teaching styles (even personalities) and approaches.
Student ePortfolio Examples:
Rithy Huot Rithy is in the business leadership program, has been involved with five different school clubs, has worked as a teaching assistant, and is a student assistant for the College of Business.
Sonali Bahl "In studying both the biological sciences and modes of communication, I look to develop into a professional with the ability to not only understand theoretical information, but also to practically apply the theory and convey the results with my peers."
Sayid Yasin “My generation belongs to the technology age. It is due to this that I have chosen Health Care Informatics as my concentration for my major. The healthcare industry is becoming increasingly computerized with online medical records and prescriptions, and different patient record systems. I hope to be a major contributor toward technology in our future healthcare industry."
Suah Min Suah has a course eportfolio for her writing samples and for her class "Technology in Society."