ePortfolios Help Clayton State University Assess Student Learning and Program

By Martha Wicker,
Director of the Center for Instructional Development,
Clayton State University

Clayton State University's core mission is to provide superior career-oriented studies that will prepare its students to succeed in the world of work in the 21st century. A member of the Georgia University system with an enrollment of approximately 5,700, Clayton (www.clayton.edu) required its students to bring a laptop to campus as early as 1998. Now Clayton is introducing ePortfolios to campus, adding additional value to the students' use of their computers and providing a mechanism to document the outcomes of their education. Currently, we are using the portfolios in our department of Dental Hygiene and In the Department of Teacher Education.

To help assess student learning and program outcomes, the University is using iWebfolio's (www.iwebfolio.com/login/index.jsp) electronic portfolio management system in Dental Hygiene and Teacher Education. iWebfolio is a Web-based solution that enables our students to store and present evidentiary files documenting their educational and professional growth in a personalized, flexible portfolio. iWebfolio also helps faculty members, departments, and schools meet institutional and accrediting goals, review student work, and provide feedback. SunGard SCT offers the solution through a strategic alliance with Nuventive.

Sharable assessment of student learning is becoming increasingly important in response to a combination of forces including accreditation guidelines, demands from prospective employers and alumni, and competition for recruitment. Prior to implementing iWebfolio, Clayton State used various forms of portfolios. However, the assorted methods fell short in one way or another. For example, there was not enough structure and the assignments were not linked closely enough to competencies. In contrast, iWebfolio has a reporting capability that helps us match competencies with individual assignments.

Other features of iWebfolio that awere attractive to the university include its consistent structure, Web access, links to program outcomes, electronic feedback, cost, off-site hosting, layering and download capabilities, and data mining potential.

Today, our Department of Dental Hygiene uses iWebfolio to document students' attainment of program outcomes as they progress toward their goal of professional accreditation. Students complete assignments, projects, and case studies, and then upload their completed work to their electronic portfolios. Students receive faculty feedback and can view the rubrics used to measure each outcome. The resulting portfolio enables students to track their growth as professionals during their junior and senior years.

Students in middle grade teacher education in the Department of Teacher Education submit a course portfolio containing samples of assignments, lab activities, lesson plans, and reflections that demonstrate their proficiency in the GA-International Society of Technology in Education (GA-ISTE) standards. These portfolio applications are essential to exposinge our students to the use of e-portfolios not only to validate student competencies, but also to demonstrate their merit for teaching.

Upon graduation, our students will possess a completed portfolio that not only demonstrates proficiency in major core competencies, but also serves as a solid tool for marketing themselves. 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 to CD a browseable version of their portfolios. This capability enables students to make the portfolios available to more than one prospective employer at a time, Prior to using iWebfolio, the University's Center for Instructional Development was responsible for providing these CD-ROMs for each student upon graduation.

Overall, electronic portfolios are playing an important role in performance assessment and program review, and In providing evidence of student achievement for accrediting agencies.

Clayton State University Recommendations for Success

Based on its experience, Clayton State University offers the following advice for other institutions planning to initiate an ePortfolio project:

  1. Secure faculty and administrative buy-in. The University'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.
  2. Include all constituents in the template-building process. After selecting the portfolio package, Clayton State University hired an assessment consultant to provide software training to the core group of faculty who were selected to build the portfolio templates. The University continues to simplify portfolio templates to improve ease of use.
  3. Provide ample training, particularly in the area of multiple delivery formats, for faculty and students. The University'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.
  4. Provide access to online support. The University's support includes online step-by-step instructions for faculty and students posted by its Center for Instructional Development. The University showcases portfolio samples to other departments and continues to meet regularly with departments participating in the project.
  5. Communicate the portfolio cost and requirements in advance.
  6. Utilize student technology fees or institutional funds to reduce cost to students.
  7. Make the portfolio an academic requirement carrying substantial weight.
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