To the gatherer of eclectic information, the 2019 Digicon Conference, which took place at the University of Virginia, served as an ePortfolio educational space. My time at the conference was spent listening and absorbing as much as I possibly could about how and for what purposes the Digication platform (ePortfolio) was being utilized by other schools. Two themes prevalent throughout the three-day conference that grabbed my attention were the use of ePortfolios for pedagogical purposes and for programmatic assessment depositing.
The utilization of ePortfolios for pedagogical and assessment depositing purposes represented a challenge for most schools, I noticed, because the success of both operations seemed to hinge on two major factors: institutional support and faculty being on board to use the platform. While the focus was on these two major points, less emphasis was placed on the end users, our students, who stand to benefit the most from using the platform. This is an area that I feel requires the same time and drive that are being devoted to addressing administrative support and faculty buy-in efforts, to ensure that students’ needs are met.
Impressively, at LaGuardia Community College, the epoch of ePortfolio culture that aimed to address programmatic assessment needs has shifted its focus to develop new strategies that support our students’ ePortfolio needs. Starting with the First Year Seminar, designed to support freshman or transfer students in their transition to college life, students create and develop a Core ePortfolio that they use to document and track their academic growth as they move toward graduation. Students creating ePortfolios can receive help, should they need it, from student peer mentoring programs such as, the Student Success Mentors and Peer Advisors, to technical support from the Student Technology Mentors and ePortfolio Consultants at the college. The CTL’s creation of these support structures has had a tremendous impact on helping students understand themselves as learners and growing professionals through the use of ePortfolios.
Addressing students’ needs demands just as much time and energy as improving assessment depositing processes and faculty buy-in. To effectively address our students’ needs, there has to be a large involvement of faculty with ePortfolio, specifically with the ePortfolio creation process itself. Faculty involvement with ePortfolio depends not only on the type of support available for them to learn the technology, but also in understanding how the Digication Platform is capable of providing much more than other Learning Management Systems/Learning Tools Interoperability services such as Blackboard, Canvas, Sakai or Moodle can offer. One advantage that comes with using the Digication Platform is that ePortfolios can be customized into personal websites that can be presented to potential colleges and employers or they can be used for documentation and reflection on learning experiences.
There also has to be a remodeling of the type of assignments that are produced by departments or faculty members for ePortfolio use, to place more weight on the creative and pedagogical aspects of the ePortfolio rather than focusing solely on the fulfillment of an assessment goal. These assignments are crafted in a way that isn’t “assessment centric”, but in a manner that demonstrates reflective practice, not only in the context of what students are learning in the classroom, but in how it applies to society and their environment. Dr. Jessica Boehman, a professor of Art History and Fine Arts at LAGCC, places equal weight on both the creative and pedagogical aspects of the ePortfolio, which has resulted in more engagement and creation of exemplary ePortfolios from her students.
Ultimately it comes down to educating faculty on the technology beyond its technical and assessment uses, which will lead to more faculty adopting ePortfolio as a teaching tool. Once faculty understand how to use the platform, and specifically use it as a tool to engage their students in meaningful learning, a gateway of ideas on assignment creation that specifically aim to take advantage of the multimodal capabilities of ePortfolio will be possible.