This past week I participated in a panel on ePortfolios at the Student Success Assessment Summit. Also on the panel were representatives from Owens Community College, Bowling Green State University, and the University of Cincinnati. The use of ePorts is a growing and fascinating area of education.

The first question that must be answered by any institution that is considering using ePortfolios is why. What is the purpose and expected outcomes? According to these experts this first question ends up guiding the rest of the development and design work; it provides direction and focus for the personnel who work with the students on constructing and organizing their work; and finally spending some time answering this question is crucial for student buy-in. Don’t fool yourself, student buy-in, either coerced or natural, is the ball game. My own preference, and that of my school, is students first, so our student buy-in is achieved naturally and normally.

The next challenge seems to be design. What is the look, feel, intuitiveness, and display of the ePortfolio. This is an issue that has an infinite number of potential responses so the answer is not obvious. Our ePortfolio seems clunky in construction, but is clean and simple in design. I have seen others that look like FaceBook and some that are glorified webpages. Despite the lack of “we’re there!!” that is present in the design process, keep in mind that the medium is the message. Our ePort has simple, easy-to-view colors and looks nice. It is not infinitely flexible, and will probably never look like a webpage. That’s fine because our focus is on capturing student learning. We don’t want lots of web craziness getting in the way.

The final message is what is the focus for the student. For BGSU, the ePort is necessary for graduating from their Masters of Education program, therefore it is designed, primarily to get them a job. Some students have used it beyond that, of course, but the purpose is deliberate and purposeful. Our students enter their ePort design as a Gateway requirement and an advisory graded assignment. This certainly helps motivate them and provides a direction for the students. Beyond that, however, is our design principle. Our ePorts are designed to display learning and growth over time. This means that the display mode is constantly changing and that we are also trying to accurately display whole student growth and development. We have just rolled out our electronic evaluations and teacher reflections. These are wonderful and they should give the student more feedback and support on their publication of their ePortfolios.

This wave of education is incredible and I am so excited to be coming into this profession at the exact right time!! Please check out my ePortfolio (link) to see how we do it at The Charles School!!

Thanks for reading and enjoy your summer!!