Developmental History

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The Impetus to Move to ePortfolio
The Portfolio System, developed in 1971 and among the first such systems in the United States, lies at the heart of Manhattanville’s distinctive approach to integrated education. The Portfolio provides a framework for examining the College‘s Mission with the specific learning goals of student reflection on his or her formal and informal learning experiences and development of the skills of self-reflection and self-assessment. The Portfolio is also designed to aid students in planning and assessing their own academic careers, seeking advice of mentors, considering life and career goals beyond graduation, and highlighting their best academic work for various audiences within and beyond the College. All Portfolio submissions are reviewed by the Board on Academic Standards, an elected committee of nine faculty members. At the time the Portfolio System was established, Manhattanville was on the cutting edge of pedagogy with its portfolio-based emphasis on integrative learning, life-long learning and application. However, in more recent times Manhattanville has no longer been a leader in the arena of portfolio use. Many institutions followed our lead and developed portfolio requirements for their students. In fact, many institutions have now surpassed us. For several years leading up to the launch of our ePortfolio initiative, faculty had been talking about the need to bring our Portfolio System into the 21st Century with a digital portfolio that would better engage today’s students. Votes in Faculty Assembly had both reaffirmed the collective desire to maintain a portfolio as a key component of our educational system and also urged the adoption of a digital format. This affirmation provided us with the impetus to apply for a Making Connections grant through LaGuardia Community College.

First Foray into ePortfolio
In order to begin the evolution from a paper-based Portfolio System to an electronic format, Manhattanville College applied for, and was successful in attaining, two grants, both funded by FIPSE through LaGuardia Community College. The Making Connections grant allowed us to participate, with other regional institutions, in a year-long investigation and pilot of ePortfolio pedagogy during 2009 – 2010. A team was formed, headed by the Chairperson of the Board on Academic Standards, and a platform (Digication) was selected for a small pilot. This provided the launching pad for an “ePortfolio culture” at Manhattanville. Building on our success, we applied for and won a Connect to Learning grant. These two grants have been critical to our progress and success. Through participation in Making Connections, we developed an implementation plan in which all freshmen were given ePortfolio accounts in Fall 2011; this was repeated in the Fall of 2012 and Fall 2013. Our transition to all students having ePortfolio accounts will be complete in Fall 2014.

Pilot, Pilot, Pilot
Beginning during the 2011-12 academic year, we conducted small pilot programs designed to simulate the review process for ePortfolios in the Portfolio System on a much smaller level in order to determine the best process and support for both students and advisors. In Fall 2011, five seniors participated in the first pilot, submitting their portfolios on Digication. During Spring 2012, 35 sophomores submitted via ePortfolio, and the Board on Academic Standards successfully evaluated these ePortfolio submissions via an assessment module developed for this purpose.

In addition to these pilots examining the paper to ePortfolio transition with students, we were also conducting significant faculty development opportunities working to support faculty in their implementation of ePortfolio in the classroom. We felt strongly that if students were using ePortfolio in the classroom, they would be more likely to understand and benefit from the use of ePortfolio when developing their Manhattanville Portfolio submissions, a connection that was not always obvious to students. Our first classroom pilots began in Spring 2011, where we targeted three key groups, instructors in the First-Year Program (both the First-Year Seminar and the First-Year Writing Seminar), faculty in our School of Education and departments willing to submit applications for “mini grants” we have created out of our Connect to Learning budget. Presentations have been made at First-Year Program meetings; ePortfolio Showcases featuring freshmen have been utilized to build enthusiasm, and all First-Year Writing instructors are now using a section of the Portfolio System template to document the development of student writing. The mini grants have allowed us to bring teams together from several different departments/disciplines (Educational Leadership, English, Psychology, Music, First Year Program) to explore and pilot how ePortfolio might be used to advance their departmental learning objectives.

Key Decisions
One key decision, made fairly early on, was the adoption of the Digication platform. We considered a number of products, invited five vendors to campus to make presentations, then polled those who attended the sessions on their responses. Digication drew the most support by far, largely a result of its ease of use, its ability to be customized and creative for students, as well as the fact that it also offered an assessment module from which we will be able to produce reports. Despite a few glitches, we have been pleased with our decision on platform. Part of our agreement with Digication allows alumni to maintain accounts as part of our college-wide adoption of the platform.

A second key decision was to use a carrot and not a stick to encourage adoption. Here, having a faculty leadership team has proven to be very helpful. Teaching and Learning Circles have been faculty led and focus on pedagogy. These faculty development sessions involve four one and a half hour workshops (which we’ve offered in a variety of configurations); the groups are interdisciplinary, with faculty signing up for the days and times that best suit their schedules; the size limit on the group is 12. The faculty, as a whole, was already behind the switch of the Portfolio System from paper to digital, so this provided an entrée. However, we are frustrated that the conversion rate from training to use remains low.

A third key decision, and one that will prove critical for sustaining ePortfolio after our grants have ended, has been to situate ePortfolio under the umbrella of our new Center for Teaching and Learning. This provides it with a permanent home, ensures that it will be seen as pedagogy first and technology second, provides ongoing faculty leadership (the CTL director is a faculty member and has become part of our ePortfolio leadership team) and positions it as a teaching and learning tool as well as an opportunity for assessment.

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