From Paper to Pixels, Looseleaf to Links: A Seemingly Simple Transition of the Manhattanville Portfolio

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Authors: Alison Carson, Jim Frank, Gillian Greenhill Hannum, and Sherie McClam

We began with the goal of transitioning our 40-year paper portfolio tradition to a digital platform. However, in learning that ePortfolio is so much more than just a technology, our project grew and grew developing out of the connectivity ePortfolio affords and the connections we ask students to make during their college careers.

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The Manhattanville Leadership Team
(left to right)

Jim Frank (Studio Art), Sherie McClam (Science Education and Director for the Center for Teaching and Learning), Gillian Greenhill Hannum (Art History), Alison Carson (Psychology)

Our Scaling Up Story

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Current Status of Our Project
The primary focus of Manhattanville’s ePortfolio initiative is the change from our existing paper Portfolio, which has been in place since 1971, to an electronic portfolio, with an emphasis on reflective and integrative learning. Following three semesters of pilot testing, in Spring 2013, all sophomores (~400) submitted via ePortfolio and each of these ePortfolios was evaluated twice using the Digication Assessment Management System. Upon enrollment in Manhattanville College, students are given an ePortfolio account. In order for faculty and students alike to understand the value of ePortfolio, we have found that its use as a teaching tool, deeply embedded in the course, is critical. To this end, significant faculty development efforts have been made to support the use of ePortfolios in our First Year Program courses. eTerns, student Portfolio workers, have been vital in supporting these faculty and students, particularly in terms of helping students download their Manhattanville Portfolio templates and uploading their work. Use of ePortfolio in the FYP is steadily increasing, which is an encouraging sign.

However, despite our efforts, we are concerned that adoption is not going as quickly as we’d hoped. Part of the explanation for this may be that, as we have learned more about ePortfolio’s potential, our goals have deepened and grown more complex. This aspect of our work is both exciting and challenging.

Catalyst and Connector

Through our work with the Making Connections Seminar and now Connect to Learning, we became aware of the variety of ways in which ePortfolio can be used on our campus. We also recognized that supporting the use of ePortfolio in these various uses on our campus would be indirectly supporting the use of ePortfolio by faculty and students in the classroom. The use of ePortfolio in these different offices and capacities on campus is modeling the ways in which students and faculty can use their ePortfolios, as well as demonstrating the integrative function of ePortfolio. Both in theory and in practice, we are using ePortfolio to make connections in the Learning Core of the college, connecting faculty, students, departments, and co-curricular offices on our campus. Placeholders for these connections have been built into the design of our Manhattanville Portfolio template. Here are some of the various ways in which we have sought to embed ePortfolio on our campus building connections to our Learning Core:

Connecting the DotsCenter for Career Development: It is becoming more and more clear that ePortfolio provides employers with important opportunities to gain additional evidence about job applicants (cite). To this end, we are working with our CCD to develop a career template as well as encourage our students to include a link to their ePortfolio on their resumes.

Tenure and Promotions Process: Our Faculty Status Committee now strongly encourages the use of ePortfolio for application for reappointment, tenure and promotion. Our ePortfolio Team has worked with this committee to develop a template for faculty. The template has prompts and support information built in, consistent with the concept of scaffolding ePortfolios for ease of use. Interestingly, we are seeing a parallel shift from paper portfolio to ePortfolios that we envisioned for students from our faculty for what could be seen as a more authentic representation of one’s self, as well as ease of process and time constraints in reviewing applications for the review committee. Beginning in Fall 2013, the ePortfolio Team will also be supporting a faculty development series around the use of ePortfolio to the tenure and promotions process, supporting the use of ePortfolio as well as encouraging faculty to engage in the process of ePortfolio.

Faculty Development: As a result of our participation in first Making Connections and now Connect to Learning, we have a strong understanding of the importance and fundamental nature of professional development. We began our Teaching and Learning Circle series (TLCs) in Fall 2010. Our TLCs are open to Full Time Faculty, Adjunct Faculty, Staff and Administration. By doing so, we believe we are building an ePortfolio culture that encourages collaboration between different parts of the campus. The benefits of the professional development, which were the first on our campus after a long period of no professional development, had much to do with the institutional support for a Center for Teaching and Learning, which came to fruition in the Spring of 2012. Evidence of this is the strong presence of the ePortfolio team on the search committee for a Founding Director of the CTL. As a result of our TLCs, the conversation around teaching and learning is changing.

Center for Teaching and Learning: Our Manhattanville CTL was established in January 2012, given dedicated and renovated space in the Library, which opened in Fall 2012, and hired an Instructional Technologist in Fall 2013. The Director of the CTL is a member of our ePortfolio Team and our faculty development series (TLCs) has now been incorporated into the CTL, one of our first steps toward institutionalizing the ePortfolio initiative on campus.

ePortfolio Lab: Providing students with a space to engage and practice with their ePortfolios was a priority. In Fall 2011, we established a temporary ePortfolio Lab, and then moved to our renovated space in the Library, in Fall 2012. The ePortfolio Lab is a flexible learning space for students and faculty to bring students. An all –laptop lab with a wireless projector, students can share their ePortfolios with the class.

eTerns: To support faculty and students alike, a team of student ePortfolio experts was developed. These students hold open hours in the ePortfolio Lab 6 days a week and also run workshops for students to support their use of ePortfolio in classes, for the Manhattanville Portfolio submissions and general education assessment submissions. eTerns work in the ePortfolio Lab and are overseen by a student Supervisor as well as our Instructional Technologist. A few of the workshops they have run include:

  • “My First Year” in ePortfolio
  • ePortfolio Sophomore Submission
  • Showcasing Your Presentations and Projects in ePortfolio
  • Using Multimedia, Graphics, and Video in Your ePortfolio
  • Advanced Customizations for ePortfolio

Dedicated ePortfolio Lab and eTerns

 

Assessment of Student Learning: Manhattanville College is in the process of revising of our general education requirements. Two members of the ePortfolio Team are on this committee allowing for input regarding ePortfolio during this ongoing discussion. ePortfolio will be at the center of our revised general education program to begin in Fall 2014. Currently, as we work to assess our current general education requirements, ePortfolio has been used for a successful assessment of critical reasoning in the FYP. All students were asked to submit their Freshman Essay via ePortfolio and FYP instructors evaluated a sample of these essays using the Digication Assessment Management module. This was a very successful first general education assessment effort on ePortfolio.

Castle Scholars Program: Our college-wide undergraduate honors program requires an honors ePortfolio as a major, graded component of each student’s honors capstone.

Castle_honors

First Year Program: We see the First Year Program (FYP) as an important gateway for the use of ePortfolio by both our faculty and students. We felt strongly that if FYP instructors use ePortfolio in their classes, students will be exposed early on to the technology and learning benefits, making them more likely to keep their work and make connections between their curricular and co-curricular activity. Additionally, we are hopeful that use of ePortfolio faculty instructors will expose them to the advising benefits of ePortfolio. One member of our ePortfolio Team is the Director of our First Year Program (FYP). Other members have taught in the FYP.

Alumni: We see ePortfolio as a valuable opportunity to maintain connection or reconnect with our alumni. To this end, one of our ePortfolio Team members, who directs the Advanced Certificate in Education for Sustainability, recently taught one of the courses in this program. has conducted a class around the topic of that included a small group of alumni

Development Office: While attending conferences, we have kept in close contact with our Development Office and have, on several occasions, participated in alumni events around the country sharing our ePortfolio work.

Admissions and Transfer: Given the large number of community colleges in our area that use ePortfolio, we saw this as an important transfer opportunity. We have been working with our VP of Enrollment Management and our Admissions Office as well as contacts at local community colleges to develop articulation agreements for transfer between particular programs on our campus, leveraging the use of ePortfolio for the admissions and transfer process with the hopes of building in some sort of preferential admission policy.

Athletics: The Basketball coach has developed a team ePortfolio to show scouting videos and collect feedback from team members on the videos, among other uses. He will be giving a presentation on the use of ePortfolios to our Athletic Director in the near future.

Advising: The Manhattanville Portfolio System, while an opportunity for students to reflect upon and draw connections between their curricular and co-curricular experiences, it is also essentially an advising tool. Faculty advisers are expected to work with students to develop their Portfolio submissions providing the opportunity for deep discussions about strengths and weaknesses, as well as goals. The ePortfolio is a perfect tool for a record of these conversations. Additionally, we are working to connect our ePortfolio platform (Digication) with our student information system.

Departmental Initiatives:

The Art History Department is using ePortfolio to have students demonstrate how they fulfill departmental learning objectives and to apply for departmental honors.

The Psychology Department is developing an ePortfolio to be used in its foundation courses.

The Ed.D. program in Educational Leadership has been a silent stronghold of ePortfolio at Manhattanville since the beginning of our initiative. An ePortfolio is required in lieu of qualifying exams.

Development and implementation of ePortfolio on all of these fronts serves to connect our students to their departments, their faculty, other students, and important co-curricular opportunities on campus and highlight areas of success of our ePortfolio initiative. In a short three years, we have worked to build a wide array of connections across our campus, using ePortfolio as a bridge. This connective work is exciting in that it has far-reaching, transformative potential for our campus. But it also poses challenges for our leadership team.

Our campus effort, addressing all of these components, has been led by our core leadership team of four faculty members. Building this team is both one of our most crucial successes and sustaining the leadership continues to be a challenge. This leadership team meets weekly to discuss the progress of our initiative. Using the processes of inquiry, reflection and integration, sometimes formally, and other times informally, we engage in figuring out what is working and what is not working, seeking to strengthen the connections of ePortfolio around campus. The four members of our leadership team are strategically located as members of various committees. This has allowed us to keep ePortfolio a central part of on-going faculty conversations within these various committees including First Year Program, core curriculum, assessment of student learning, our Portfolio System, and tenure and promotions. The faculty members also continue to teach, serve and department chairpersons, advise students as well as serve on other committees. Institutionalizing the changes, decision-making processes, and ePortfolio oversight is an on-going challenge.

While our faculty development series, the Teaching and Learning Circles, have been quite successful and the feedback very positive, we have seen that simply having faculty attend our TLC sessions is not enough. We recognize a challenge in follow through, or, having faculty adopt using ePortfolios in their classes. In Fall 2012, we have expanded our TLC from one semester to a year, and have also provided a monetary incentive. Participants will be paid for their participation at the end of the TLC upon implementation of ePortfolio in their course.

Another challenge that we have faced since our inception is how ePortfolio fits into the overall scheme of IT support, as well as building a better, more productive system of communication with our IT department. Finally, while ePortfolio’s new home in the Center for Teaching and Learning, and the hiring of an Instructional Designer, have provided some vitally needed support for our project, there is still no full-time position to support and administer the ePortfolio program on campus, and faculty members are attempting to do it on top of full-time loads and other administrative duties in departments or programs on campus.

Developmental History
Connection to Core Strategies
Advancing through Professional Development
Next Steps
Connections to Other Sectors of The Catalyst
Conclusion

Overall, to this point, we have had a successful transition from paper to ePortfolio for our Manhattanville Portfolio System, supported by the implementation plan developed during our participation in the Making Connection grant. We have successfully developed and implemented a professional development series, which has undergone revision and growth. Slowly, we are affecting institutional change as well. Our Faculty Status Committee (reappointment, tenure, promotion) is using ePortfolio, assessment of Portfolios and some general education is being done on ePortfolio, and ePortfolio and our Portfolio System will be at the center of our proposed revision to core curriculum. Central to this success has been a strong core team leadership made up of respected faculty who have membership on other key committees, allowing for the infusion of ePortfolio thinking and planning. We continue to need additional administrative support of the (e)Portfolio system, and more support for evaluating the effectiveness of our program.

  • A few lessons learned along the way include:
  • Develop an action plan and use it as a guide for implementation
  • Lead from within: faculty are your best assets
  • ePortfolio use must be connected to ePortfolio learning; start in the classroom and then move outwards
  • Engage in sustained professional development
  • Garner support from your administration
  • Be sure to share you successes with multiple constituencies on your campus and off
  • Support from a community of practice is essential: without the support of the Making Connections and Connect to Learning, we would have never come so far!
Connect_to_LearningAttachments and Supporting Documents
  • Implementation plan (developed in Making Connections with LaGuardia Community College)
  • Recommendation to Provost for use of Digication

Presentations related to scaling up:

Carson, A., Frank, J., Greenhill-Hannum G., & McClam, S. (2013, July). ePortfolios as a catalyst for change in teaching: A case for faculty development. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of The Association for Authentic, Experiential and Evidence-Based Learning (AAEEBL), Boston, MA.

Greenhill-Hannum G., & McClam, S. & Rodriguez-Diaz, P. (2013). Using ePortfolios to Promote Collaborative Teaching and Learning in First-Year Seminars. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of The Association for Authentic, Experiential and Evidence-Based Learning (AAEEBL), Boston, MA.

New Picture (6)
Greenhill-Hannum G., & McClam, S., LaBlanc, J., &Rodriguez-Diaz, P. (2012). Using ePortfolios to Promote Collaborative Teaching and Learning in First-Year Seminars. Paper presented at AAEEBL Regional Conference, Providence, R.I.

Carson, A., Frank, J., Greenhill-Hannum G., & McClam, S. (2012). Paper to Pixels, Staples to Scroll Bars, and Loose-leaf to Links: A Transition to ePortfolio. Paper presented at Annual Meeting of the Association of American Colleges and Universities, Washington, D.C.

Links to ePortfolios on our campus representing various uses:

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