The “Business” of ePortfolios
The Business and Technology Department at Tunxis Community College (comprised of the Business Administration, Business Office Technology, Computer Information Systems, and Technology Studies) has developed a curriculum which integrates ePortfolio throughout the various degree programs. Beginning in a student’s introductory business course, students create a broad-based ePortfolio which is developed and refined throughout a student’s associate’s program, culminating in students creating a capstone assessment portfolio in a practicum or capstone course. This description focuses on Business Administration, but all of the degree programs are similar in structure.
Authors: Amy Feest, Program Coordinator, Tunxis CC Business Administration Program and Laura Gambino, former Tunxis CC ePortfolio Coordinator, Program Coordinator and Professor of CIS
“So as I sit here and write this I find an almost uneasy calm about reflecting on the whole BA Program. I’ve enjoyed almost every minute of completing this program. Every path has its own hiccups but the situation doesn’t define a person, how a person overcomes them defines them. So I love embracing my challenges and harnessing them to create a drive and focus that wouldn’t stop me from achieving anything less than an Associate’s Degree.” – Matthew Kliszewski
Students completing their Associate’s Degree in Business Administration are required to complete one of two courses: a one credit capstone course or a three credit practicum course. In either of these final courses, students are required to create a capstone assessment portfolio. In this portfolio they are expected to:
- Demonstrate that they have achieved each of the ten General Education Abilities (outcome) of the college
- Demonstrate that they have achieved each of the program outcomes for their respective degree program
- Describe their short and long-term goals
- Include a resume
- Include a written description and reflection on their work experience/internship (in practicum)
This practice was constructed and refined over a period of several years. Development was a multi-step process and a huge shift in the way we approached the BA program and other career programs that have introduced ePortfolio as a capstone experience. Program coordinators began by identifying what they wanted to see in these capstone portfolios. They then worked backwards to identify key courses and assessments – in essence, creating a curriculum map of both program outcomes and general education abilities. Next, faculty professional development took place, introducing faculty to ePortfolio pedagogy and reflection. We began with full-time faculty and then moved to working with adjunct faculty.
Reflection as Systematic and Disciplined (Inquiry) – Students’ ePortfolio reflections processes embody a structured & scaffold process, and through a series of reflective process which allow students to connect their learning to general education or programmatic competencies.
Beginning in the fall of 2012, all Business Administration students were required to create a BA ePortfolio (based on a first-year template created for the BA program) through one of three entry points in the BA program: Basic Accounting, Financial Accounting and Introduction to Business. Students are also introduced to an ePortfolio if they participate in a First Year Experience, Developmental English, or Composition class. This ePortfolio then travels with the student throughout their program and offers a place to continually archive work and corresponding reflections. In each of their program courses, students are using the portfolio to save their work and reflect on their learning.
Since students are introduced to the ePortfolio in the entry course in the program and use it in their program courses, they are familiar with both the technology and the pedagogy. Faculty encourage students to archive their best examples of work showcasing achievement of program and general education abilities, as well as extracurricular activities. Instructors focus on the student’s reflection and work as they build these integrative portfolios.
Reflection as a form of Connection (Integrative Learning) – Students’ ePortfolios help them with the transfer of knowledge from multiple contexts and consider the relationships between classroom and outside the class learning, make connections across courses and semesters as well as make connections among academic experiences, co-curricular and lived experiences
When students enter the capstone course, they use a new Business Administration template to create their capstone portfolio. The template contains sections and pages highlighting a student’s goals, resume, program abilities, general education abilities, internship (if appropriate) and a section of overall reflection on a student’s education and growth. Over the course of the semester, students are guided to select an artifact or multiple artifacts that they believe best demonstrates achievement of that particular general education ability or program outcome. The artifact may come from a course, from their work experience, or from co-curricular activities. The portfolio itself can be used to demonstrate abilities such as technology literacy, aesthetic engagement, and communication.
In addition to artifacts, students include a short written reflection which explains why they chose a particular artifact and how it demonstrates achievement of the ability or outcome. In the larger reflection area, students are expected to make connections among the courses in their program, between their program and general education courses, and between their courses and their co-curricular and work experiences.
Students are given portfolio guidelines which include prompt questions to help them with their reflective narrative. The guidelines also explain the portfolio process. Students are also given the rubric that will be used to assess their portfolio and the rubrics used to assess for the General Education Abilities and program outcomes.
Reflection as Social Pedagogy
Students use ePortfolio to share, peer review, discuss, and collaborate around course work, reflections, plans, goals, stories, etc. This includes sharing their ePortfolio with and getting comments from faculty, sharing and engaging in integrative ePortfolio commentary with other students, and sharing their ePortfolio and getting comments from external groups.
Throughout the capstone course, faculty monitor the portfolio building process, making sure assignments are completed on a weekly basis and providing feedback to students as needed.
Additionally, students have the opportunity to work with peer mentors in our ePortfolio Lab. Our ePortfolio lab is staffed by peer mentors. Peer mentors are familiar with the portfolio guidelines and rubrics and the portfolio building process.
Students have been encouraged to read and comment on each other’s ePortfolios as they are developed during the course. However, three weeks before the final ePortfolio presentation, a peer review component is formally introduced to the capstone portfolio creation process. Students are placed into groups of three or four and are asked to use the commenting feature of Digication or the discussion area in Blackboard Learn to provide feedback and assistance to their peers.
At the end of the semester, students are required to present their capstone portfolios to their program advisory board, program faculty, and members of the Tunxis administration. Advisory board members are asked to assess the students using the rubrics mentioned above. Program Coordinators then use those rubric scores and feedback from the advisory board as part of the program review process.
The Role of Reflection in Advancing Student Learning
Reflection as a Process of Personal Change – Students use ePortfolio for inquiring into their educational and career development, and integrative identity formation by articulating their educational and career goals, considering their evolving personal relationship to learning and education, completing/revising a plan of study, planning/preparing for transfer or advanced education and preparing ePortfolio to showcase to potential employers.
In these capstone portfolios, we are asking students to do two things:
- Prepare for their upcoming transition to either the workforce or a four-year school.
- Articulate what they learned during their tenure as a student at Tunxis, specifically focusing on connections between the course in the program and the general education electives, and how their coursework relates to our general education abilities.
The ePortfolio is created early on in a student’s BA program. This early start helps to establish two things: it ensures that work will be saved in a secure and central location, as we found that most students lost or destroyed former work by the time they reached the capstone classes, and it allows students to see themselves on a time scale. They can look at work at various times along the continuum of their degree – both evidence and reflection – and see their own growth. They can make connections between experiences during those years inside and outside of the classroom, and they can revisit early goals and resumes and realize how far their learning has come.
Through their written reflections, students are expected to make connections between the various courses within their program, between their program courses and general education courses, and among their academic, co-curricular, and lived experiences.
Students are encouraged to select artifacts from any and all of these areas. Both the portfolio guidelines and reflective prompts were designed with this in mind. All faculty explain this to students during their face-to-face meetings. Faculty are also discovering that students are reminding and helping each other with these connections through the peer review process.
Evidence of Impact on the Student Learning Experience
A capstone student survey was designed and administered to students enrolled in program capstone courses since the Spring 2010 semester. This survey focuses on both the value of the ePortfolio as a learning and showcase tool, and on the students’ awareness of the integration of knowledge both within courses in the major and general education courses across a program’s curriculum. An advisory board survey was developed and used after each program student showcase event during those same semesters to assess the value of ePortfolio as a tool for demonstration of knowledge and its use for employment or transfer.
Based on the capstone survey administered to 115 students during the 2011-2012 academic year, the following trends were noted:
- 98.3% of students strongly agree or agree with the statement, “understand how classes relate to their major”
- 91.3% of students strongly agree or agree with the statement, “Understand how classes fit together”
- 96.5% of students strongly agree or agree with the statement, “See meaningful connections between coursework and real-world experience”
- Below you will see the percentage of students responding with Strongly Agree or Agree to a selection of questions from the survey. The total number of responses for each question for Fall 2012 ranged from 113 to 125. The total number of responses for each question for Spring 2013 were 54.
Some highlights from the open-ended question In this course, how has ePortfolio supported your growth and learning? What did you learn from reflection and planning in your ePortfolio? (All copied directly from the report.)
- the way that eportfolio has supported me as a learner is because it helped me to organized my ideas and thought more effectivily. Eportfolio helped me to plan what i wanted to write about and it helped with my corrections and make my feedback from my professor a lot easier to understand.
- I have learned that getting feedback from a ot of people and classmates helps created a better essay.
- How to organize my assignments and look back at assignments to refer to them if i needed them including my feedback.
- It shows our work over the years of college and it shows our growth.
- I learned how to organize documents and I learned more about myself as a student. I can see how my work has improved over each semester.
- What ePortfolio showed me in the long run was how I progressed in learning. What I mean by that is that as I look back on my journals, asp’s, etc. I could notice even the small details as my learning grew. For example, my format on how my content even looked. That itself showed how much I have improved, because that before college was something I barely focused of. Also, as I read my content in my ePortfolio, I can clearly see how my work has improved. My journals are longer, and I interconnect every journal with another.
- ePortfolio has supported my growth and learning by teaching me how to write about different situations and recognizing choosing good work from the bad. I learned from reflecting and planning that you need to use time wisely because without time it isn’t possible to complete a good portfolio without good timing.
- In the process of making my ePortfolio, I learned that every experience through college is a learning process and that each time I go to class, I learn something that is necessary for my future career. Also, making my ePortfolio made me learn things that I didn’t know about myself before. It helped me to know who I am and why I am here.
- I feel more professional. The ePortfolio creates a professional feeling and accomplishment.
In BA, instructors were asked to track the number of students who successfully used the ePortfolio to demonstrate achievement of program outcomes and general education outcomes in the capstone and practicum courses in the program. One hundred percent successfully used the ePortfolio to demonstrate achievement of program outcomes and to demonstrate achievement of general education outcomes. The Business Administration program included information from student ePortfolios as part of the accreditation process for the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs.
In other Tunxis career program, student ePortfolios were used as part of the Dental Hygiene accreditation process for the Commission on Dental Accreditation. The Early Childhood Education program used ePortfolio information as part of its NAEYC accreditation process. The use of ePortfolio was highlighted by the Computer Information Systems Program Review Team in their evaluation report as a valuable component of the CIS program, noting the “extent to which the CIS program (and Tunxis in general) uses ePortfolio and Digication for the purposes of:
- Providing a means for students to track their own academic progress and acquire a sense of accomplishment.
- Providing a means for faculty to assess how well students are achieving course and program outcomes.
- Providing a means for students to collect their work in a format which can be showcased to employers.” (CIS Program Review, 2011)
In a survey given to program advisory board members after each capstone student showcase, 96% strongly agreed or agreed that “ePortfolio is an effective tool to demonstrate student learning” and that “ePortfolio is an effective tool for students to showcase their work to potential employers or four-year schools,” 84% agreed or strongly agreed that “ePortfolio is an effective tool for programmatic assessment.” Additionally, when surveyed on student assessment and outcomes achievement, 91.7% agreed or strongly agreed that “students successfully demonstrated achievement of selected program abilities” and 84% agreed or strongly agreed that “students successfully demonstrated achievement of selected general education abilities.”
While we have no survey data prior to the use of ePortfolios, those coordinators that have been teaching capstone courses for a number of years will tell you, anecdotally, that the “e” definitely makes a difference in these courses. Many of us had our students put together paper portfolios prior our move to “e”. The biggest difference comes in the integration and reflection. Students are better able to make their growth and the integration of their knowledge visible in the ePortfolio. Because the ePortfolio is woven throughout the curriculum, these capstone ePortfolio are more robust and richer in evidence than their paper predecessors. Students are also more likely to include co-curricular or outside experiences in their ePortfolio. Lastly, and again anecdotally, students appear more engaged in the course and enjoy putting together their ePortfolios.
Feedback from students, faculty and advisory board members have all been outstanding. Students consistently reach an “ah ha” moment in their practicum or capstone course where they can see the purpose of developing an assessment ePortfolio. They regularly share the growth that they see in themselves and comment that without the exercise of creating this final ePortfolio, they would not have taken the time to recognize the connections they now see, reflect on their growth, and focus on future areas of growth and development. The ePortfolios also offer a way to show our advisory boards, high school partners, community partners, and other constituencies the work and growth of our students, which has been a very positive outcome.
The Business and Technology Department at Tunxis Community College (comprised of the Business Administration, Business Office Technology, Computer Information Systems, and Technology Studies) has developed a curriculum which integrates ePortfolio throughout the various degree programs. To reinforce the use of ePortfolio by students, our Business Club was the first club on campus to develop an ePortfolio for use by the club and its membership (more than 100 students) in Fall 2013.
Connections to Other Sectors of the CatalystScale
It is required that students in Introduction to Business, Financial Accounting, and Basic Accounting (Business Administration gateway courses) develop a Business Administration ePortfolio. This ePortfolio is than reinforced by faculty throughout the students’ Associates Degree program, and culminating in a final Capstone or Practicum ePortfolio project.
Faculty and staff using this practice engage in the following ePortfolio-related professional development:
- At the onset of ePortfolio integration into Tunxis, several sustained seminars were held (semester long, year-long)
- Later, as funding being less available, several smaller Professional Development training sessions were provided for Business Administration full-time and adjunct faculty.
- To date, all full-time faculty members teaching the Business Administration capstones and practicum courses have completed an ePortfolio seminar series. This seminar series consists of four, two-hour workshops focusing on reflection and integrative learning.
- Many adjunct faculty completed two, two-hour workshops introducing them to ePortflio and Digication. In addition, the Business and Technology department has annual meetings with full-time faculty where we talk about the use of eportfolio and reflection in the program.
The BA ePortfolio captures evidence of Tunxis’ Ability Based Education. As Tunxis and the entire ConnCSU system move to seemless transfer, we hope that ePortfolio will serve as a catalyst for demonstrating General Education and Program outcomes evidence, assisting with transfer.
As we accumulate more evidence of student work through our BA ePortfolios, we plan on assessing individual program outcomes to ensure that the work and reflection being presented show the learning and growth we are striving for as a program, and to make adjustments to curriculum as necessary. We also anticipate that Tunxis as a whole will take on this same process for assessing our General Education Abilities.
The platform Digication is used for ePortfolios. Students also have access to computers and Digication throughout the campus, but specifically focus on ePorfolio through Tunxis’ ePortfolio lab. The technology cannot be separated from this practice; the movement from paper portfolios to ePortfolios has been a dramatic shift in the way student work can be presented, including the addition of multi-media and the ability for students to truly demonstrate their personalities and professional persona through the use of graphics, images, and in some cases, even sound and video!
All four programs within Business and Technology have integrated ePortfolio throughout their degree programs, starting early in students’ educational experience and culminating in a capstone experience. The program is duplicated in Early Childhood Education and in Dental Hygiene, and has now proven to be a catalyst for the General Education program moving in this same direction. Business Administration has collaborated with the General Education program coordinator to help emulate the best practices of the BA ePortfolio project into the new General Education ePortfolio proposal.
Attachments and Supporting Documents:
1. Sample course outline from the BA Practicum. This outline includes the week-by-week requirements for building the capstone portfolio.
2. Portfolio Guidelines – BA. These guidelines are given to students at the beginning of the course. The guidelines explain the use of the template and include the portfolio requirements, the reflective prompt questions, and the rubric used for assessing the portfolio itself.
3. Portfolio Rubric- BA. This document includes the rubric used to evaluate the final ePortfolio. It includes the BA program abilities and corresponding rubrics as well as the 10 General Education Abilities used at the College. Other programs in the department have similar abilities and rubrics in place.
Student ePortfolio examples
1. Traditional Student in BA Capstone: Amanda Scagliola
2. Nontraditional Student in BA Practicum: Daniel Johnson
3. Traditional Student in CIS Practicum: Patrick Dzioba
4. Nontraditional Student in BOT Program: Lisa Sgamboti