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ePortfolio CaliforniaIn Los Angeles in October, ePortfolio California co-hosted a fall summit with PESC, the Postsecondary Education Standards Council. The day’s schedule of working sessions focused on the collaborative standards development work of the PESC Academic ePortfolio Workgroup and ePortfolio California, a California Virtual Campus project.

 

ePortfolio California focuses on education, consulting and informing a broad audience about the strengths of electronic portfolios (ePortfolios) as a tool for student success. ePortfolios encourage student ownership of academic achievements, personal reflections, extra-curricular activities and workforce development.

 

One of the areas explored in depth during the summit’s morning breakout session was the use of academic ePortfolios for the workplace and beyond. The workplace and beyond session was co-facilitated by Helen Barrett, researcher, consultant, and host of http://electronicportfolios.org/, and Vicki Suter, Director of the California Virtual Campus, with presentations by Linda Delzeit, Online Program Coordinator at Los Angeles Trade-Technical College (LATTC), and Frank Centeno and Alex Reyes, both LATTC tutors and students.

The session yielded a list of the best uses of ePortfolios for the workplace and a list of best uses that go beyond the workplace. In addition, a solid set of themes surrounding ePortfolios in the workplace and beyond was flushed out. The themes, in the form of questions, will be pursued by ePortfolio California and its newly formed community of practice, with the results of the work to be published as a resource.

The substance of ePortfolios for the workplace was identified as “more presentation than process.” ePortfolios for the workplace were identified as having strong applications in the following areas:

  • Any field requiring demonstration of competency for employment application.
  • Visual demonstrations of competency. For example, welding, cosmetology, carpentry and other competencies that can be visually demonstrated.
  • Professional education: teachers, nurses, doctors, allied health workers and scientists, for example
  • Technology: Web design, multimedia development, game developers, architects and other professions that require demonstration of technical skill.
  • Performance/Art: artists, dancers, musicians and other performers whose skills are demonstrated well by video and audio display.
  • Composition/Writers: those in the fields of advertising, journalism and public relations, for example.
  • Professional development.
  • Demonstration of 21st century digital literacy and computer skills.

The substance of ePortfolios for beyond the workplace was identified as “more process than presentation.” ePortfolios for beyond the workplace were identified as having strong applications in the following areas:

  • Reflective journal for planning and reflection on lifelong learning and continuous personal development.
  • Lifelong digital repository of artifacts woven together according to personal meaning.
  • Self-awareness over time.
  • Post-retirement “legacy” stories.
  • Life portfolio: planning for an extended mid-life transition, ages 50-90. See David Corbett’s “Portfolio Life” for reference: http://www.portfoliolifebook.com/.

In addition to the list of the best uses of ePortfolios for the workplace and a list of best uses that go beyond the workplace, the session also centered around the following themes, included here with some of the underlying discussion.

  • The big question: What happens to the ePortfolio when a learner leaves the institution?
    • It is not at all clear whether ePortfolio applications developed for the workplace and beyond will also work well for assessment and accountability. There is a dynamic tension that needs resolution, a tension between the individual’s need for lifelong access, control and ownership of the ePortfolio, and the institutional need for formal, templated documents that are often organized by course rather than person, may need to be frozen in limited time, may contain sensitive faculty-generated evaluation data, and should be integrated with other administrative systems.
  • From the perspective of the use of ePortfolios for the workplace and beyond: Is the use of specialized ePortfolio applications the way to go about it?
    • Helen Barrett’s idea of “ePortfolios in the Cloud” leverages the widespread availability and adoption of Web 2.0 applications, has a life-wide and lifelong focus, and is based on the culture of “mash-up” and of social media. Monster and other job sites may also be ePortfolio service providers. The non-specialized approach has disadvantages from the institutional perspective because it is unclear whether evaluation and assessment data can be easily extracted from various ePortfolio platforms.
  • How can we identify and communicate the functional requirements that ePortfolio applications would need to meet in order to be useful in the workplace and beyond?
    • The use of ePortfolios for workforce development has not been widespread up to this point. The ePortfolio application market certainly sees evidence of an adoption uptick: There are more than 15 new ePortfolio application developers in competition with older, early-adopter applications. However, none of the applications are necessarily designed specifically for ePortfolios for the workplace.
  • How can we ensure that ePortfolios are relevant to students because they increase success of employment searches, and also, how can we ensure that students have the skills to create the kinds of artifacts that are compelling to employers?
    • Students may have high motivation to prepare and maintain ePortfolios in disciplines and certificate programs where demonstration of professional competency is required for employment, while at the same time demonstrating their digital literacy. For the academic institution, students prepared with ePortfolios can enhance the institution’s reputation among employers. It is the responsibility of the academic institution to put together teams—of instructors, student mentors, and counselors—to help students understand issues such as the importance of managing digital identity, managing intellectual property, and preparing them to use ePortfolios across applications.
  • How can academic institutions work with selected employers to get feedback on the usefulness of student ePortfolios in order to set up an ongoing improvement process that makes them relevant to employers’ needs?
    • Employer adoption of ePortfolios is still low. Inspiring employer adoption requires initiation of a feedback loop. It starts with students creating ePortfolios that employers use in the hiring process. Student success in employment searches increases student use of ePortfolios, while employer success at finding new hires with job readiness increases their use of ePortfolios for employment decisions. Another potential value is that the ePortfolio could support a type of third party verification to go beyond the self-reported resume of skills.
  • How can academic institutions work with ePortfolio application developers to ensure that institutional issues are addressed?
    • The top seven priorities from an institutional perspective were identified as the following:
  1. Interoperability, portability and transferability: Ability to move data in and out;
  2. Integration of ePortfolios with other administrative, academic and records management systems, such as learning management systems, and back-end systems so that assessment can be measured across course and program and longitudinally for students. Also involves a common login and online identity for the student across institutional applications, commonly known as “single sign-on”;
  3. At the process and service level, integrate the use of ePortfolios in other services, such as counseling;
  4. Support the ability to track employment/job search information at the institution program level, and aggregate data to determine success rate;
  5. Create business models to fund and scale ePortfolio applications at an institutional level, and address sustainability;
  6. Develop structured data models for long-term, flexible use; and
  7. Develop solutions for digital repository issues.
  • How can faculty members work with ePortfolio application developers to ensure that faculty issues are addressed?
    • The top nine issues from a faculty perspective were identified as:
  1. The need for faculty buy-in to the ePortfolio concept and adoption of new teaching and learning practices that reflect this concept;
  2. Institutional support and faculty development in time of shrinking budgets;
  3. Motivating students to use ePortfolios beyond the individual course;
  4. Open standards issues such as portability, sustainability, integration, access, and data storage;
  5. Student ownership;
  6. Helping students establish a national e-identity;
  7. Motivating faculty and students to use ePortfolios without spending more money;
  8. Developing an integrated feedback loop for faculty, students and institution to evaluate student performance as well as institutional performance
  9. Identifying rubrics that would be helpful for using ePortfolios for assessment

In addition, the importance of standards development for ePortfolio applications was acknowledged by all participants. A strong argument was made for an open architecture based on open API. In any case, emphasis was given to the importance of the continuing involvement of faculty, institutions, students and employers—the users of ePortfolios—in the development of those standards. Standards development is currently spearheaded by the PESC Academic ePortfolio Workgroup, which is co-chaired by John Ittelson, Director of Outreach, Communication and Collaboration for the California Virtual Campus.

ePortfolio California has formed a community of practice centered on the use of academic and professional ePortfolios, to work in partnership with the vibrant and active ePAC community. ePortfolio California will continue to pursue the answers to the theme questions above by outreach to the academic and professional worlds, convening a community workgroup to work with employers to focus on the use of ePortfolios in the workplace, delivering webinars about its findings relevant to these themes, and broadly disseminating the results.

To participate in the ePortfolio California community of practice, please contact Patricia Donohue, Project Manager, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

An e-mail announcement list and other relevant information is available at the ePortfolio California website at http://eportfolioca.org/.<>


Sandoval Chagoya is the TechEDge Managing Editor and a Project Manager
for the California Community Colleges Technology Center and the California Virtual Campus.