ePortfolio Development and Support at the University of Calgary

The Educational Development Unit has recognized the value of ePortfolios, which are used for teaching, learning, and professional development at the University of Calgary.  Several of us have worked together since 2015 to develop a wide variety of tools, templates, workshops, and consultation strategies to help both teachers and students at the U of C use ePortfolios effectively.  Our collaborative team includes the following Educational Development Unit staff: Kevin Saito, Haboun Bair, Leanne Wu, Lin Yu, Ykje Piera, D’Arcy Norman, Patrick Kelly, and Robin Mueller.

ePortfolio Technology.  Using ePortfolios can be both conceptually and technologically complex.  In order to decrease the technological demands for teachers and students alike, we have developed accessible, user-friendly ePortfolio tools and platforms.  The Educational Development Unit’s technology integration team developed and supports a student-centered ePortfolio tool (eportfolio.ucalgary.ca).  This WordPress site leads student users through a step-by-step process that involves creating an ePortfolio website, collecting and organizing material on the site, and engaging in reflective practice as part of the ePortfolio.

ePortfolios in Teaching and Learning.  As an increasing number of instructors and departments begin using ePortfolio as a teaching and learning tool, they require support with respect to integrating ePortfolios as a seamless part of the students’ educational experience.  ePortfolios can be used at the course, program, or departmental level as a way for students to document their learning, explore connections between elements of course content, and reflect on how learning will influence their professional practice.  However, in order for ePortfolios to be most effective in terms of maximizing student learning, a significant amount of advance preparation is required by the course or program instructors.  Our team has developed several supports to assist instructors with the preparation and implementation of ePortfolios in their courses and programs.

As an initial resource for instructors who are thinking about using ePortfolios in their courses, we developed two documents that draw from research literature and outline (a) the purpose and rationale for using ePortfolios, and (b) the best practices involved in ePortfolio implementation.  These documents, in addition to an annotated bibliography, will be integrated into a Taylor Institute Guide that focuses on putting ePortfolios into practice in a variety of teaching and learning contexts.  As part of this guide, we’ll reflect on our own implementation of ePortfolios as an assessment strategy in the UNIV 201 (Global Challenges Inquiry) course, where students were expected to compile ePortfolios as a replacement for their final exam.  Students were required to find, select, and present evidence of their learning in the UNIV 201 course as part of the ePortfolio, and then use reflective writing to contextualize the evidence.

Haboun Bair and Robin Mueller have offered two ePortfolio workshops as part of the Grad Badge teaching development series; subsequently, we were joined by Lin Yu to offer more individualized consultation and support to instructors who are considering ePortfolios as part of their teaching practice.  A larger team—D’Arcy Norman, Patrick Kelly, Haboun Bair, Isadora Mok-Kulakova, and Robin Mueller—were approached by the MyGradSkills symposium to deliver an ePortfolio workshop that focused on the personal and professional development aspects of the tool, tailored for an audience of graduate students.  In her role as a liaison with Taylor Institute research assistants, Rachel Braun has also determined that many RAs are interested in ePortfolios for both employment purposes and to document their work in teaching and learning.  Finally, learning technologies coaches support discipline-specific uses of ePortfolios by providing demonstrations of different ePortfolio platforms for students in a variety of faculties.  Learning technologies coaches, supported by Leanne Wu and the Taylor Institute, provide support that is essential for helping students to adopt ePortfolios as part of their learning practice.

Documentation and Materials

Examples of student-created ePortfolios from University of Waterloo focus on professionalism and articulation of transferable skills in combination with demonstrated evidence of those skills.

Examples of student-created ePortfolios from the University of Lethbridge focus on competency based skills called the KSA’s (Knowledge, Skills and Attitudes) as outlined in the Teacher Quality Standards from the Government of Alberta. Students link assignments and artifacts from their practicums to show evidence of their learning and achieving each standard.

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Assessment Strategies and Results

Haboun Bair and Robin Mueller have offered two ePortfolio workshop as part of the Grad Badge teaching development series.  Though the ePortfolio workshops were well-rated by attendees, low attendance and negligible engagement prompted our realization that workshops were not the best avenue for providing face-to-face ePortfolio support.  Since that time, Haboun and Robin have been joined by Lin Yu in offering tailored consultation sessions that focus on coaching instructors and program coordinators through the pedagogical aspects of developing, implementing, and assessing ePortfolio assignments.  Leanne Wu has also piloted face-to-face consultations that focus on technological aspects of ePortfolio use by way of the Technology Coaching program.  These small, individually-focused consultations appear to have a more profound effect on instructors’ teaching practices, as the instructors we have worked with in this manner have gone on to implement extensive ePortfolio assignments at both the course and program levels. These consultations also allow EDU staff and coaches to work with faculty to provide customized configurations for ePortfolios, for instance, allowing their use for small groups over a semester. Increasing demand for these kinds of consultations is also indicative of their effectiveness.  These consultations also have an important impact on students’ use of ePortfolios, helping to improve their comfort level with the relevant technologies.

We continue to assess this impact by following up with instructors and students to gauge their anecdotal experiences with the ePortfolio process.  Part of a comprehensive assessment of the UNIV 201 course pilot will also focus on student experiences and learning associated with the ePortfolio assignment in that course.

Reflection and Impact

Our perception has been that uptake of the ePortfolio tool as part of pedagogical practice – as a teaching tool or strategy to assess learning – has been slow at the University of Calgary.  Our use of ePortfolios as part of the UNIV 201 (Global Challenges Inquiry) course has illuminated some of the strengths and challenges associated with ePortfolio implementation, which will help us to provide more effective supports for instructors and students who are using them as part of academic programs or course work.  Through this process, our advocacy of ePortfolios has been strengthened due to many positive outcomes that we’ve observed, including the potential for ePortfolios to contribute to an overarching sense of individual mental health and wellness amongst students who use the tool. ePortfolios assignments that are designed with an optimal amount of challenge and support, opportunities for civic engagement, personal development, and real life learning (Simon Fraser University, 2017) can help students feel like authors of their own learning and valued contributors to issues that can impact the wellness of others. Moving forward, we are curious to explore how creating the conditions for student wellness through course design can help create a positive learning experience for students engaged in the process of developing an ePortfolio.

Reference

(2017). Creating conditions for well-being in learning environments: An initiative of SFU health promotion and the teaching and learning centre. Simon Fraser University. Retrieved from https://www.sfu.ca/content/dam/sfu/healthycampuscommunity/WLE-Tools/WLE-Printouts_v5.pdf

ePortfolio project collaborators: Kevin Saito, D’Arcy Norman, Leanne Wu, Isadora Mok-Kulakova, Haboun Bair, Lin Yu, Patrick Kelly, Robin Mueller

ePortfolio post authors: Haboun Bair, Leanne Wu, Robin Mueller

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