ePortfolios: Assessing Student Learning and Program Outcomes
- By Martha Wicker
Clayton College and State University’s core mission is to provide superior
career-oriented studies that will prepare students to succeed in the world of
work in the 21st Century. To help track progress against this mission, the university
is using an electronic portfolio management system to assess student learning
and program outcomes. This assessment is becoming increasingly important in
response to a combination of forces including accreditation guidelines, demands
from prospective employers and alumni, and competition for recruitment.
Clayton State is using electronic portfolios in four areas: the School of Business,
Department of Dental Hygiene, Department of Teacher Education, and the Department
of Information Technology. The university is using iWebfolio, a Web-based solution
that enables students to store and present evidentiary files documenting their
educational and professional growth in a personalized, flexible portfolio. It
also helps faculty members, departments, and schools meet institutional and
accrediting goals, review student work, and provide feedback. SunGard SCT offered
the solution to us through a strategic alliance with Nuventive.
The need for a comprehensive electronic portfolio program was highlighted when
the School of Business began seeking AACSB accreditation. One of the primary
criteria for this accreditation is curriculum content and evaluation, which
requires a comprehensive assessment plan. Based on preliminary feedback that
the School received, a student portfolio project was added to the curriculum
to demonstrate student competencies.
Although accreditation is an important goal, we also wanted to implement portfolios
to provide our students with an effective employment tool and to assess the
university’s program outcomes. However, many of the portfolio systems
we explored were designed primarily with teacher education in mind, and it was
difficult to modify them for use by other disciplines. A key reason we selected
iWebfolio is its template flexibility: individual departments can create their
own templates and develop their own assessment rubrics. Other important features
include its consistent structure, Web access, links to program outcomes, electronic
feedback, cost, off-site hosting, layering and download capabilities, and data
Supporting Programs and Departments
In the School of Business, the Performance Evaluation Portfolio Program (PEPP)
is designed to demonstrate students’ business knowledge and skills and
in turn help the School meet its mission of providing quality undergraduate
education in business administration to traditional and non-traditional students,
leading to successful careers. PEPP is comprised of assignments that link the
required courses in the BBA curriculum and enable students to demonstrate how
they use information to make and communicate business decisions. Assignments
include software applications, marketing proposals, financial analysis, economic
analysis, marketing plans, Gantt charts, and forecasting.
Each semester, as students progress through their required business courses,
they submit draft versions of their PEPP assignments for faculty review and
The faculty can sort submitted portfolios by course and section, view
submitted assignments, and provide feedback based on a rating scale or rubric.
Based on faculty feedback, students make revisions and then submit the final
version of their PEPP assignments in iWebfolio. Upon graduation, students possess
a completed portfolio that not only demonstrates proficiency in major core competencies
but also serves as a valuable marketing tool for career initiation or enhancement.
Students can make their portfolios available to prospective employers by sending
them an e-mail containing a hyperlink to their online portfolios. Students also
have the ability to directly download a browseable version of their portfolios.
Prior to using the new system, the Center for Instructional Development downloaded
student files from the course management system and created CD-ROMs for each
student upon graduation.
The Department of Dental Hygiene documents students’ attainment of program
outcomes as they progress through the major toward the goal of professional
accreditation. Students complete assignments, projects, and case studies that
demonstrate their mastery of program outcomes, then upload their completed assessments
to their electronic portfolios, utilizing a template that links the assessments
to program outcomes. Students receive faculty feedback and can view the rubrics
used to measure each outcome. The resulting portfolio enables students to track
their growth as a professional during their junior and senior years.
Our students in middle grade teacher education in the Department of Teacher
Education are required to submit a course portfolio containing samples of assignments,
lab activities, lesson plans, and reflections that demonstrate proficiency in
the GA-International Society of Technology in Education (GA-ISTE) standards.
The Department plans to convert the senior teacher education portfolio to an
iWebfolio template that students can begin using in the fall. These portfolio
applications are essential to expose our students to the use of e-portfolios
not only to validate student competencies but also to demonstrate their merit
The Department of Information Technology initiated its portfolio requirement
for all IT majors in 1998 for three primary reasons: (1) professional self-awareness,
including goal-setting and long-range planning; (2) personal growth and learning
through self-reflection and project debriefing; and (3) demonstration of skills
and accomplishments. Today, students are using the ePortfolios to document professional
development activities, create resumes, document significant accomplishments
throughout their coursework, and highlight employment skills.
Previously, the students were responsible for creating their own Web-based
portfolios, which were submitted for review during their capstone course. The
Department now has a consistent, template-driven interface that links portfolio
activities and assignments to program competencies while also permitting students
to submit their artifacts as they progress through the IT program. Students
also have the option of creating a customized splash entry page, demonstrating
their Web development skills.
The progressive submission of electronic portfolio components has prevented
loss of important portfolio components and ameliorated the burden of compiling
all components during the capstone course. By the time students graduate, they
have a solid tool for marketing themselves and providing potential employers
an electronic resume.
The electronic portfolios continue to play an important role in performance
assessment and program review, providing evidence of student achievement for
accrediting agencies. For these reasons, we plan to roll out the application
to other departments and expect to have approximately 3,000 students using the
system by 2007.
ePortfolios: Recommendations for Success
Clayton State offers the following advice for other institutions planning
to initiate a portfolio project:
- Include all constituents in the template-building process. After selecting
the portfolio package, Clayton State hired an assessment consultant who
provided software training to the core group of faculty representing each
department who were selected to build the portfolio templates. The goal
is to continue to simplify portfolio templates to improve ease of use.
- Provide ample training, particularly in the area of multiple delivery
formats, for faculty and students. Clayton State’s Center for Instructional
Development trained the student support staff, provided workshops for faculty,
and presented in-class orientations for students. Student mentors also play
an important role.
- Provide access to online support. Support at Clayton State includes online
step-by-step instructions for faculty and students posted by the Center
for Instructional Development.
- Utilize student technology or institutional funds to reduce cost to students.
- Secure faculty and administrative buy-in. Clayton State’s assessment
consultant provided the rationale for electronic portfolios and assisted
the department heads and faculty with the process of formulating learning
outcomes and selecting matching assessments to include in the portfolios.
- Communicate the portfolio cost and requirements in advance.
- Make the portfolio an academic requirement carrying substantial weight.