Assessment

Fresno State Increases Students' E-Portfolio Usage Through Competition

A university in the California State University system recently wrapped up a competition to encourage students to adopt the institution's e-portfolio platform. Fresno State began deploying Pathbrite, a cloud-based e-portfolio service from a company with the same name, in 2014. The implementation was taken up as a way to help students showcase their school work to their classmates, instructors and potential employers.

The e-portfolio showcase competition invited students to enter their digital portfolios in one of three e-portfolio categories: best course-based, best career and best overall. Prizes included iPad Air 2 tablets and gift certificates to the campus bookstore.

The university e-portfolio program initially surfaced last fall as part of DISCOVERe, a new tablet program in which more than a thousand students used tablet technology in 40 courses.

An e-portfolio is similar to a personal Web page; it enables students to upload photos, documents, Web links, videos, audio recordings and blogs. Faculty members use the e-portfolio service within the campus' learning management system, Blackboard Learn, to upload assignments, create rubrics and have students submit their work. Those assignments can be compiled and organized for larger-scale assessment of learning outcomes by department, college, program or the entire institution.

At the time of the original announcement, Dennis Nef, dean of undergraduate studies, noted that when students' work is made publicly available to faculty and other students, they're likely to put more effort into their work, "deepen their learning," "align their work ... with desired learning outcomes" and "become self-directed learners."

As Nef stated in his campus Web page, the intent is to "to improve our use of high impact practices, make learning visible, help in course redesign, assist in faculty development and be an important element in program reviews and preparing for our upcoming campus accreditation visit."

One instructor who has used the e-portfolio in a course is Associate Professor of History Melissa Jordine. She asked her students to create simulated museum exhibits based on the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. Typically, those students would have spent the semester doing research and writing a paper on a given topic and developing a museum-like posterboard or model exhibit, explained Jordine in a YouTube video about that initiative.

For each artifact included in the e-portfolio, the student had to describe the artifact, explain its significance to their topic and how it connected to other artifacts in the collection and include a citation. Students were also expected to write a reflection about how they put the exhibit together and used Pathbrite in that process.

For the first year, the use of the Pathbrite program has been free to students who used less than 2 gigabytes of storage space. In the future, they may have to pay a nominal fee for the service.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at dian@dischaffhauser.com or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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