Connecting and Reflecting: ePortfolios as a Program-Wide Assessment Tool

By Will Chesher

As revisions are being made to the Global Miami Plan, departments are considering ways to identify and assess student learning as they progress through a degree program. And many departments are considering portfolios, or the digital equivalent, ePortfolios. As a learning tool, portfolios provide a comprehensive artifact of student learning in a program, emphasizing connection and reflection. However, planning and implementing a program-wide portfolio or ePortfolio requires intention and reflection from the design stage through the final completion and assessment.

Bruce D’Arcus, an associate professor of geography, and Todd Stuart, an associate teaching professor and director of arts management and entrepreneurship in the College of Creative Arts, are both in the planning process of creating and implementing an ePortfolio requirement for students in their programs.

D’Arcus and a team of HCWE Faculty Writing Fellows from geography started planning an ePortfolio process for the urban and regional planning program. Their original plan was to roll-out this process program-wide in fall 2020, but they had to adjust their timeline because of the pandemic. Indeed, as D’Arcus notes, “I think it was the very day that the campus shut down, we did a focus group with students on how to actually implement it.” The team of faculty drafted a website to help students understand not only how to create an ePortfolio, but also to understand the purpose of an ePortfolio.

For Stuart, portfolios are a natural fit for his upcoming Arts Management and Arts Entrepreneurship major. Portfolios are a familiar genre for faculty and students in the arts, and so Stuart wants to incorporate an ePortfolio that would connect a student’s learning throughout the program. This ePortfolio could naturally transfer to a professional portfolio students can use when applying for jobs or graduate programs.

Additionally, both D’Arcus and Stuart recognize the importance of reflection and metacognition for student learning and for the teams designing the ePortfolios. Stuart notes, “One of the things I think that's missing...a lot of students don't see how things connect. So I think the portfolio helps them make connections and helps me talk to them about those connections.” At the program level, D’Arcus sees the ePortfolio acting as a touchstone for faculty and students: “We have a pretty distributed curriculum in our department...And so we thought that a portfolio could help us communicate to students as a faculty...why they're doing what they're doing in their classes, and how it might fit with their large, longer-term job prospects, learning, etc.” Therefore, the ePortfolio can act as a tool and a process for identifying how the learning students are doing in one class connects to their overall time in the program.

Finally, they both talk about how there have been a lot of discussions with other faculty in their programs as to why they are doing an ePortfolio. By identifying the purposes and processes, faculty and students in a program are able to view the ePortfolio as a valuable learning tool instead of busy work.

If you or your program are considering implementing an ePortfolio, talking with others can provide space to ask questions and reflect on the purpose and process for students and faculty. To help with that process, the Howe Center for Writing Excellence has planned workshops on ePortfolios this Fall. So keep an eye out for a sign-up coming later this summer or early Fall!