The Needs Assessment for the pilot was straightforward. In August 2010, the pilot was approved and the Fall term began in September 2010, so there was little time for development. The first Honors College student cohort wold arrive soon.
First, we needed to decide which type of eportfolio program to build. Unlike the first-year writing portfolios, we planned to assess a series of courses in different disciplines in an attempt to assess learning over the span of a college career. Unlike the single-subject credential porfolios or the Charter College of Education's TaskStream portfolios, we did not plan to build the eportfolio program to meet the needs of an accrediting body. Nonetheless, Helen Barrett (2011) claims the primary function of an eportfolio is to ask students to critically reflect upon their educational experiences and choose supporting documents (assignments) that best evidence how and what they learned. To meet those ends, we defined three possible types of eportfolios to implement.
- Developmental eportfolios, or Working eportfolios (Helen Barrett, 2002) are typically works-in-progress that showcase a student's work over time. Students assemble developmental eportfolios over time, during their studies. Students working on developmental eportfolios should attend workshops to discuss progress and to receive periodic formative assessment feedback so they can refine and reshape their eportfolios before their final presentation. Developmental eportfolios often are in the collection phase and establish a means of communication between faculty and students.
- Assessment eportfolios evidence how well students meet course or program outcomes or some sort of evaluation benchmark. Students submit their eportfolios for evaluation near the culmination of a course or degree program.
- Showcase eportfolios, or Presentation eportfolios, present a finished product rather than a work in progress. They highlight the quality of student work in the program and might exhibit a student's major achievements during their studies. The ideal showcase portfolio couls be easily tailored into a product that students could share with potential employers and possibly continue to develop during their careers.
The interim director of the Honors College desired an eportfolio program that would be flexible enough to allow students to design elements of their eportfolios and would be easy to use as an assessment tool. To meet those goals, we opted to Pilot Google Sites, which offers an immense amount of flexibility and a file collection system where students could store assessment artifacts.
While working on the Design and Development stage, we decided that piloting a hybrid model of developmental, assessment and showcase eportfolios would best meet our needs, so the Honors College created one Google Site that outlines the purpose and goals of eportfolios and one Google Site that provides a model eportfolio belonging to the university mascot, the Golden Eagle. Both of these sites have been extensively used in both faculty and student training workshops. Since students had to first learn how to set up a Google Site for their eportfolios and then had to learn how to upload documents, the sample student eportfolio took on different shapes during each instructional workshop. If students needed to learn how to upload and reflect on documents, then the eportfolio coordinator walked them through that process by editing Golden Eagle's ePortfolio on the overhead as students followed, editing their own eportfolios.
By the time students graduate, their eportfolios will evidence how they meet the four Honors College learning outcomes: Knowledge Creation, Aesthetic Awareness, Community and Civic engagement, and Global Citizenship.
Initially, during the assessment phase, we decided to allow students to pick their own artifacts for each learning outcome. Since we expected a breadth of submissions for the four outcomes, we decided not to follow conventional eportolfio wisdom, which dictates that colleges should create an assessment mechanism before deploying eportfolios. Instead, after reviewers examine year-one portoflios, they will collaborate with Honors College faculty to create an assessment guide based on a mixture of course outcome definitions and what students decide to showcase. In essence, we are asking “How will students perceive the learning outcomes? Do we need to clarify those outcomes before assessing them?”
This challenge highlights initiatives on campus. While the university has drafted institutional learning outcomes and a new strategic plan, and while colleges and departments have drafted or are drafting student learning outcomes, most have not yet created assessment measures. In essence, the eportfolio project will help the Honors College stay ahead of the assessment curve on campus.
During the first-year of the pilot, eportfolio orientation was embedded in the first-year writing sections reserved for honors students; however, most honors students test out of first-year writing, so orientation was moved to Honors 101, the general education study skills and university citizen course required of all honors students. During their initial orientation sessions, students explored information literacy and digital literacy; then they created their eportfolio sites. Each term, students were asked to attend at least two workshops, each of which was themed. For example, the four six workshops offered during Spring term focused on the following themes:
- Creating Pages and Organizing the ePortfolio
- Review of Required Supporting Documents
- Drafting a Rationale for a Supporting Document
- Preparing the ePortfolio for Summer Review
The final component of the eportfolio pilot's implementation and assessment was a summer review. The eportfolio coordinator, interim director, and two students reviewed and scored eportfolios and then were to send formative feedback to students.
The next section, Reflection, discusses changes to the pilot after the first year of review.