Over the past two years, DePaul has welcomed several sets of external reviewers to campus to consult with us about our Student Affairs division and about our Liberal Studies Program. Independently, the reviewers came to the same conclusion.
“Your students have myriad wonderful opportunities for learning, both in classes and in the co-curriculum,” they told us, “but they receive precious little guidance in connecting the dots and making meaning of their full experience.” DePaul students are not alone. As the number and variety of academic programs and co-curricular opportunities have expanded in universities nationwide, students everywhere face the same challenge.
In response to this critique, the proposed revised University Learning Goals and Outcomes include “integration of learning” as a goal for every student. This issue of Distinctions highlights a tool that can help students achieve the goal of integrating their learning: electronic portfolios.
At a minimum, an e-portfolio is an online filing cabinet for collecting artifacts, whether documents, images, or videos. This alone is a helpful resource, as it allows students to keep all their work in one place to draw on as they need it. But e-portfolios can also be much more than that: they can give students an arena for reflecting on individual pieces of work, on various subsets of their work, or on the collection as a whole, all depending on the purpose and audience for any particular portfolio.
A growing body of research has shown that when they are used to integrate knowledge, e-portfolios provide students with the opportunity to connect, synthesize, and reflect on what they have learned and experienced from all areas of their lives.
The articles in this issue of Distinctions provide a glimpse into the many ways that students, faculty, and staff are using e-portfolios at DePaul.
The College of Education is the farthest along; students are creating Integrative Knowledge E-portfolios to reflect on and showcase the various experiences that contribute to their identities as teachers. As of fall 2011, students in all First Year Writing courses are creating e-portfolios of their work, and the School for New Learning is piloting the use of e-portfolios in its writing courses as well. The Teaching and Learning Certificate Program asks faculty participants to create an e-portfolio of their work and reflections about their teaching. Beyond the classroom, students who work in the Writing Center are now creating e-portfolios that document their progression as tutors, and the Career Center is helping students create focused e-portfolios directed at particular employers.
In the feature stories and “first person” article, you will see comments from participants in all of these areas, along with links to sample portfolios and a video from the College of Education. The comments from students speak to the way that the process of creating an e-portfolio has contributed to their learning and shown them the power of writing to real audiences.
We are still at the early stages of this initiative.
My hope is that faculty across the university will see the value in incorporating this process into their courses, that leaders of co-curricular activities will join them, and that students will continue to build their portfolios on their own. As they reflect on the work that comprises their portfolios, students have a framework to articulate the meaning of that body of work, for one audience or many, to chart their growth for their own understanding, or to showcase their accomplishments for potential employers.
E-portfolios are a tool; integration of learning is the goal.
DePaul offers many ways to learn more about our e-portfolio platform, Digication. Just follow this link: http://teachingcommons.depaul.edu/Technology/Digication/digication_training_support.html