Empowering Learners & Making Connections: Institutionalizing an ePortfolio

Concurrent Session 4

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Résumés and transcripts show a degree, courses, and grades, they don’t tell the whole story.  There’s more students can share about their knowledge and competencies. Bay Path’s ePortfolio incorporates the curricular and co-curricular as well as advising and other student services to help students articulate who they are.

Sponsored By

Presenters

Dr. Jennifer Duffy received her Phd from Boston College in higher education administration and has since been teaching online. Currently, she serves as an associate professor of research and the director of faculty research at Bay Path University.
Peter A. Testori, MS, Assistant Dean, Learning Resources & Executive Director of Hatch Learning Commons, joined Bay Path University in 2010. He leads a team focused on delivering library services, teaching and learning with technology including instructional design, online learning, and other innovations in digital learning. Mr. Testori holds a master’s degree in counseling with a specialization in student development and higher education from Central Connecticut State University. He continued his graduate studies in instructional technology and design at UMass Boston and is currently pursuing his doctor of education specializing in higher education administration at Northeastern University.

Extended Abstract

Introduction:

Bay Path University undertook a project with the purpose of broadening the use, application, and portability of Bay Path University’s ePortfolio.  The institutional goal was to create a vehicle for students to more deeply understand, articulate, and represent their accomplishments that are not adequately captured via the traditional academic transcript and to be able to easily share this information digitally with employers and others.  Using Bay Path's Institutional Learning Outcomes (ILOs) as the framework, the institutional e-Portfolio serves as an on-line assessment and credentialing mechanism that strengthens our institutional approach to assessment.  Leveraging curricular and co-curricular experiences, as well as the alternative credentials provided by Bay Path’s digital badging initiative, Bay Path aims to equip its students with the language and the evidence to communicate their value to external stakeholders. Bay Path now requires every student to create an ePortfolio, an online collection of written work, presentations, videos, digital badges – everything that showcases skills and experiences gained in and out of the classroom.

This discovery session proposal fits into the Accelerate conference themes because ePortfolios are driving quality online learning and advancing best practice guidance and innovation in learning for academic leaders, educators, administrators, and other online learning professionals.

e-Portfolio Project Description and Purpose:

Bay Path University has invested in creating an ePortfolio Center that includes student workstations and open space to allow for collaborative work aimed at meeting the needs of our students engaged in ePortfolio learning and planning for their futures. An ePortfolio helps organize students’ academic and extracurricular work and experiences, show connections between projects and courses, and reflect on how students have built skills employers seek: leadership, communication, creative problem solving, technical ability, and more. An ePortfolio lets potential employers hear verbal skills, see students’ technical repertoire, observe students’ writing, and understand how students’ experiences in and out of the classroom connect.

Bay Path University gives students the opportunity to have an edge in the job market and graduate school application process from when they first step foot on campus.  ePortfolios are electronic tools that document what students have learned and the skillsets they’ve gained while an undergraduate.  For example, a student can show efficiency in her technical skills which is a much sought after skill area for future employers. A student might also upload a video presentation from a course that illustrates her speaking skills and confidence.  In another instance, a student might write a blog capturing her study abroad experiences that highlight her speaking abilities.

A recent EDUCAUSE article (http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/erm1523.pdf) about credentialing in higher education clearly states the problem that we hoped to address through Bay Path’s ePortfolio project: “Credentials are at the center of a new debate in higher education, with rising expectations from both students and employers for more comprehensive credentialing that documents knowledge and skills...most colleges and universities have not begun to come close to meeting those expectations. The truth is, we don’t communicate a fraction of the educational experience that happens at our institutions: the leadership experiences and competency achievements that are a result of those programs. For employers, these are some of the most valuable skills and represent the type of information that they are looking for regarding potential first-time hires.”

The e-Portfolio, which at Bay Path is meant to “...cultivate habits of metacognition, reflective practice, and self-critique among students, and in some cases, to demonstrate student achievement of defined learning outcomes” (Susan Kahn, “E-portfolios: A Look at Where We’ve Been, Where We Are Now, and Where We’re (Possibly) Going). Through the e-Portfolio project, our goal is to expand the use of the e-Portfolio across the curriculum, enable students to demonstrate specific competencies that result in a badge, and to further validate achievement of learning outcomes at the institutional level. Completion of the e-Portfolio and selected digital badges will become a requirement for graduation and will provide a rich repository of new information to support institutional assessment.

Why is an ePortfolio important?

As potential employers and graduate admissions offices sift through resumes and applications ePortfolios give insight into Bay Path University graduates’ talents and abilities leading to their hiring for first jobs upon graduation and acceptance into graduate and professional schools.     

What does an ePortfolio look like?

For example, one of our Neuroscience major's organized her ePortfolio to showcase her conference poster, her honors thesis, her interview with a neuroscientist, and her internship. This ePortfolio paints a rich picture of a student ready to pursue a successful future in neuro research – most immediately as a Ph.D. student in the University of South Dakota’s Biomedical Sciences Program.

What are students saying about ePortfolio?

"The ePortfolio allowed me to see and reflect on my development. I've always had good grades and academic ethics, but I've grown so much over the years as a person, from being shy and reserved to being willing to speak my mind, go out of my comfort zone, and present publicly... I put together my ePortfolio in a way that reflected me as a person." – Crystal, Bay Path University Student, Business Administration Major

Crystal’s ePortfolio includes the goals she set for herself in her classes, her resume, and her presentation of an internship experience as assistant manager at a local restaurant. Crystal says she started the internship with "Imposter Syndrome" but quickly realized "I DO belong here. I CAN contribute to saving costs, improving waste management, increasing efficiency... I AM a confident, intelligent businesswoman."

What are faculty saying about ePortfolio?

“ePortfolio is a way for students to express their development and work over time. Students may add anything they’d like to it, or it may be required. Students should be proud of the work they add to it; it can show their development over time, or how they connected with their community.”

“An ePortfolio is a place to upload all of your work... Not only does it organize student work, but it lets students reflect upon learning and skills and see how they have improved.  Students will post in ePortfolio every year, and be able to see the progression and advancement towards reaching their goals. ePortfolio can also be a place where student learn their strength and weaknesses, so they can better themselves and plan for the future.”

Digital Badges:

The development of portable e-Portfolios utilizes badges to validate a student’s knowledge, skills, competencies, and experiences that can be easily shared with potential employers and others – linking to Facebook, LinkedIn and other platforms – is gaining traction in higher education. As defined by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, “Digital badges are an assessment and credentialing mechanism, housed and managed online. Badges are designed to make visible and validate learning in both formal and informal settings, and hold the potential to help transform where and how learning is valued.”.

What are Badges?

“Micro-credentials” in the form of digital emblems – each representing a mastered skill. They can be added to online résumés, LinkedIn accounts, and more.

Who Uses Badges?

They began at prominent organizations like IBM, Intel, and the Smithsonian. Now leading universities also award them.

How Do Badges work at Bay Path?

Each badge comes with requirements that can be fulfilled in a variety of ways, including coursework, experience in campus organizations, and experiences with off-campus work and internships.

  • Students can work toward as many badges as they want and choose one of three achievement levels for each badge. For example, a student may achieve proficiency, solid mastery or exceptional mastery as she works toward a badge.

What Do Badges Mean to Employers?

Bay Path created badge requirements with input from business leaders so that when potential employers see a badge, they know it means real workplace skills. For example, the Technologically Resourceful badge means the student has all the following skills:

  • A Bay Path student is able to effectively and responsibly use information by utilizing various modes of technology to support, foster, and connect learning across the entire educational experience

  • A Bay Path student is able to effectively and responsibly use information by utilizing various modes of technology to support,foster, and connect learning across the entire educational

Conclusion:

In conclusion, Bay Path’s ePortfolio and Digital Badges help our institution provide an education that is:

·         Highly personalized in which each student’s unique strengths, needs, intentions, passions, and potential are intentionally and fully leveraged

·         Relevant with a focus on interdisciplinary learning that is readily adaptable to contemporary and emerging issues

·         Committed to empowering students to take ownership of their lives and learning by engaging them in transformative, purposeful leadership opportunities

·         Based on an abundance of experiential opportunities that foster self-discovery and career and life preparation

·         Dedicated to providing global, multicultural perspectives that promote an understanding about one’s place in the world and enable one to be ready for whatever challenges the future will bring

·         Portable though the development of flexible, adaptable skill sets essential for lifelong success