DePaul instructor Nicholas ThomasNicholas Thomas is an instructor in the School of Hospitality Leadership.

When I joined DePaul in 2011, after teaching at the Singapore campus of the University of Nevada Las Vegas, I discovered all sorts of professional development opportunities. I jumped at the chance to get up-to-speed quickly on DePaul’s culture, to sharpen my skills in creating an exceptional learning experience for students, and to meet faculty outside my own department.

One of these opportunities was the Teaching and Learning Certificate Program (TLCP) whose courses cover a variety of topics designed to help new and seasoned faculty excel in the classroom. I picked courses on how to encourage purposeful classroom discussions and on how to use the library’s special collection to complement class content. And, like everyone in the program, I participated in an open lab for learning how to create an e-portfolio using Digication, the university’s standard portfolio platform.

Completing an e-portfolio, including course-specific reflections, is a TLCP requirement. As it turns out, because the technology is so easy-to-use and flexible, most of us in the program ended up going above and beyond the bare-bones requirements of the program to make unique and purposeful portfolios.

For example, one of my TLCP peers was a doctoral student. His approach to using his Digication page revolved around creating a sophisticated electronic resume (CV) that provided a multi-faceted view of his professional accomplishments. A few others decided to incorporate e-portfolios in their classes as a great way for their own students to track and assess their work.

I decided to turn my portfolio into a marketing tool for myself and for the School of Hospitality Leadership — especially since, like me, the school is pretty new to DePaul.

To market myself, I included my professional and research interests, descriptions of the classes I teach, and student comments and evaluations. Two groups could find this information useful: 1) students thinking of taking one of my classes — they’ll get a good idea of who I am and what they can expect; and 2) other teachers or researchers interested in the same academic topics — an e-portfolio is a great way to expand a professional network and begin a dialogue with others. The TLCP is all about sharing best practices, and Digication really supports that purpose. To market the School of Hospitality Leadership, I included links to the school’s webpages and social media sites.

The reflections about the courses — a requirement of the program and the value-added part of building an e-portfolio — allowed me to do just that: reflect. In my "ah-ha" moments, I realized that the courses I took satisfied my reasons for pursuing professional development in the first place. For example, in the Digication lab, I was impressed with the DePaul’s vision of educational technology; this was one of my first glimpses into the university’s culture. In the other two courses, I gained true insights about how to be a better teacher and how to enhance the classroom experience for my students. My e-portfolio became the glue holding together everything I’d learned — and more.

Now, when someone asks me what I think about Digication, I say, “Embrace the technology!” I expect to use my ePortfolio as a tool of continuous improvement, especially in support of my goal of exceeding students’ expectations and optimizing learning outcomes.

View the e-portfolio template used in the Teaching and Learning Certificate Program: