Reflection on Connect to Learning Participation

We have learned so much over the last four years of our ePortfolio journey, much of which is not captured in the quantitative evidence described above.  Here we would like to share some reflections on what we have learned beyond the numbers, as well as goals we continue to focus on and strive for.

A primary lesson learned is that ePortfolio is more than a tool, it is a process.  This understanding has fundamentally shaped not only our approach to integrating ePortfolio into teaching and learning on our campus, but also speaks to the ways in which ePortfolio is a catalyst for change. In fact, our awareness of the ways in which our participation in the Connect to Learning project led to changes in our own thinking and teaching in our classrooms has shaped the research agenda of two of the members of our Leadership team.  We began thinking of ePortfolio as another technological tool that might be useful with the Manhattanville Portfolio, but through participation in the C2L community of practice, and with engagement and practice with ePortfolio, our understanding has changed to recognize ePortfolio as a way of thinking.  Thus our participation within this community of practice, through engagement with ePortfolio experts as well as novices and peers, has pushed and challenged our thinking, provided us with problem-solving opportunities, exposed us to new ideas, and helped us to think strategically within our local campus context. We are not only ePortfolio leaders on our campus, we are ePortfolio practitioners; our practice has been essential to our learning and understanding of the benefits of ePortfolio in teaching and learning.

Our participation in Making Connections and Connect to Learning demonstrated to us the importance of faculty development and provided us with a model about how to do it well.  We began with low-stakes informational sessions, and moved to a 4 session semester long seminar. Now we have a year-long ePortfolio Fellows program.  Additionally, we have a Center for Teaching and Learning, with a Director and an Instructional Technologist.  We believe profession development to be an essential piece of instructional change and that our participation in this important ePortfolio work is directly involved in this institutional change on our campus.

A core tenet of ePortfolio pedagogy is integration.  Integration can be understood as a pedagogy within the classroom as well as a strategy for ePortfolio implementation.  ePortfolio can be used to support making connections both across concepts and classes, as well as among and within campus offices.  Be thoughtful of the various ways in which ePortfolio might be used on your campus beyond the classroom and how various uses of ePortfolio can, in fact, model the integration opportunities.  For example, our tenure and promotions committee now strongly encourages the use of ePortfolio.  Faculty using ePortfolio to present themselves is a wonderful way for faculty to come to better understand the ways in which students can use ePortfolio.

As leaders of the ePortfolio initiative, we have learned much about the process of leadership and what it takes to engage in a large-scale implementation and, more fundamentally, culture change, on a campus.  It takes energy, creativity, and stamina.  We have learned the importance of a leadership team, and choosing that team wisely, recognizing the strengths that each member brings to bear and their strategic placement within the campus culture.

In terms of scaling up, communication with your various campus constituencies is vital.  Be aware of your stakeholders and keep them close as part of your growing strategy.

Students are one of your biggest stakeholders and probably also your biggest proponents and spokespeople for ePortfolio.  Be sure to highlight their work, and let them tell people (faculty, staff and administration) about its benefits.

There are things that are completely beyond one’s control that can make or break the process.  Changes in leadership, changes in financial stability, support from administration, individual personalities, have each played a role in both our successes and challenges.  As we look forward, we are working toward the institutionalization of our ePortfolio initiative.  What must we do to move this project from a faculty-guided implementation to a campus initiative?  Partnership with our Center for Teaching and Learning has been essential.  Partnership with our Center for Career Development to solidify the role of ePortfolio for career placement is next. We envision focusing our senior portfolio submission towards an external audience so that students see it not as a hoop to jump through for graduation, but rather as a vital tool through which they can present their skills and knowledge to potential employers or graduate schools – something for which they take ownership and whose value they clearly recognize.

 

 

 

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