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ePortfolios: Assessing Student Learning and Program Outcomes

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 mining potential.

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 feedback. 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 for teaching.

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.

Continuing Value

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.
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