On our campus, we piloted two types of eportfolios. The department of Liberal Studies piloted TaskStream since they serve a large population of education and early childhood development majors and because the Charter College of Education and College of Business and Economics have been using TaskStream. The Honors College piloted Google Sites. In the end, the pilot project would allow for a comparison of a closed eportfolio system and an open eportfolio system. However, the TaskStream pilot in Liberal Studies was abandoned because the system was not flexible enough to accommodate the types of section-to-section customization of assessment rubrics and benchmark assignments that would allow faculty to assess both the effectiveness of their courses and the effectiveness of the program at large. Darren Cambridge (2010) discusses a similar conundrum in Eportfolios for Lifelong Learning and Assessment. While eportfolio systems that could collect student samples and help faculty aggregate data across a large institution exist, reporting on those systems is somewhat futile because of the current speed of technological advances, Cambridge argues. Since eportfolios focus on process--on student development and educational attainment--
What is needed is a way to use technology to more strategically direct attention in order to see patterns across many portfolios without isolating their contents from the context of the portfolios which they are a part. (p. 190)
In a sense, then, the eportfolio platform should work against the fractured self of postmodernism to remediate evidence of “learning, the articulation of identity, and the assessment of performance” (p. 190). Remediating the eportfolio interface should involve limiting our awareness of the interface and allowing readers to focus on the materials that students present--in essence, the practice of reading eportfolios is equally as important as the practice of making sense of the data, as doing so forges a connection between students, faculty and curriculum (For a discussion of remediation, please see Bolter and Grusin, 2000).
The first year of the Honors College eportfolio pilot included 26 incoming first-year students. The students were tasked with creating their sites and uploading a set of initial artifacts and reflections intended to familiarize students with how to use eportfolios rather than to effectively reflect upon and showcase scholarship, which would come during the second half of their education. In this section, then, we will outline the process in which we administered the eportfolio pilot.
While a wealth of eportfolio scholarship exists, most of it focuses on why eportfolios are effective or on ways that students can use eportfolios. Locating scholarship dedicated to administrating eportfolios is a difficult task, yet it is important, as we discuss in Existing Structures. Nonetheless, in Balancing The Two Faces of ePortfolios, Helen Barrett (2011) identifies and delineates three levels of eportfolios: Collection, Collection + Reflection & Peer/Teacher Feedback, and Selection/Reflection + Direction + Presentation & Self/Teacher Evaluation, A fourth level that we might add, also from H. Barrett (and Garrett) (2009), as well as Cambridge (2010), is the Lifelong Digital Archive. The structure that H. Barrett outlines gave our pilot a shape to assume as it developed. Thus, while H. Barrett advocated that secondary school students move from Collection to Presentation & Evaluation in one year, we structured the pilot in a way that would allow for improvements to be made after each step was completed. The pilot was structured to move students from Collection to Presentation and Evaluation in four years.
Here, it is important to note that our eportfolio pilot was approved shortly before an accreditation visit by the Western Association of Colleges and Schools, and one potential area of emphasis for the university was educational technology. Further, the Honors College had just accepted its first class and the director wanted all students to work on eportfolios. Given the brevity of the timespan between beginning the pilot, the WASC visit, and the arrival of the first Honors College cohort, it was not possible to spend a year to develop a clearly-defined eportfolio plan and then implement it.
Bob Barrett (2011) outlines a four-step sequence that educational institutions can follow when implementing eportfolios: Needs Assessment, Design and Development, Implementation, and Evaluation. B. Barrett’s commentary expands upon Michael Day’s (2011) eportfolio implementation reflection, though it is quite important to note that Day and his colleagues took three years to design, implement and evaluate an eportfolio system.
B. Barrett's (2011) plan for implementing eportfolios merits examination because it advocates for clearly identifying institutional needs and developing a clear implementation plan before deploying eportfolios. In the paragraphs below, we will summarize B. Barrett's plan for eportfolio implementation while adding pertinent information that reflects our experience.
To conduct the Needs Assessment, Barrett asks eportfolio administrators to address four issues:
- How would eportfolios augment a student's educational needs and career goals?
- Does the curriculum currently require projects and/or courses that will satisfy eportfolio needs or will new courses and new projects need to be created? Which institutional and/or departmental learning outcomes will eportfolio assessment measure?
- Did the administration formally support and agree to fund the creation and implementation of an eportfolio program?
- When is it possible to reasonable implement the eportfolio program?
During the Design and Development stage, the eportfolio administrator should work closely with department administrators and faculty to decide which courses and which assignments in courses will best augment eportfolios. Types of acceptable artifacts should be identified. Then given the instructional needs, repository needs, and faculty preparation, the eportfolio software should be selected.
Before the Implementation stage, guidelines (one set for faculty and another for students) for the eportfolio requirement and an evaluation instrument should be created. Given administrative buy-in, the eportfolio administrator should "record observations and feedback" from students (B. Barrett 2011). The administration should work with the eportfolio administrator to notify students of the requirement as well as advertise meetings and workshops.
Evaluation. The eportfolio administrator and/or faculty should administer an evaluation of the eportfolio program. While a standard course evaluation format might work, it would be preferable to develop a survey specifically tailored to the eportfolio program. Additionally, the eportfolio administrator and department administration should collaborate to develop an assessment tool for the learning outcomes that the eportfolio will measure. In instances where students create eportfolios over a long duration of time, students should receive formative feedback as they assemble their eportfolios.
The next section, Implementation, explains how we implemented eportfolios on our campus.