Peer Review

From the Editor

 

What you end up remembering isn’t always the same as what you have witnessed.
—Julian Barnes, The Sense of an Ending

 

In this digital age, social media users no longer have to rely on their memories to capture key life events. Through blogging and other social networking platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, we have the ability to readily preserve and access the richest details of our experiences. Eportfolios build on this technology by providing a digital space in which college students can weave together the narratives of their academic journeys. Students can use eportfolios to collect, select, and reflect upon learning artifacts—such as research papers, video clips, database projects, photographs, blog posts, and concept diagrams—that demonstrate their achievement of institutional learning outcomes. In this electronic format they can make connections between their learning and their lives and share their work with family, friends, and employers. In turn, faculty are able to use these artifacts to assess students’ intellectual growth.

Why is eportfolio practice so beneficial to students? To gain a better understanding, I sought the expertise of Terrel Rhodes, AAC&U’s vice president for quality, curriculum, and assessment, and executive director of VALUE (Valid Assessment of Learning in Undergraduate Education). Through his work on VALUE and other faculty-driven assessment of student learning projects, Terry has developed a high regard for the wide range of eportfolio practices and he shared the following thoughts:

Eportfolios are much more than a technology; they are a way of thinking about one’s learning. Eportfolio platforms or web pages obviously involve the use of technology that may be intimidating or perceived as a hurdle by faculty and students. However, eportfolios are one of the best technologies available to institutions to facilitate the collection, curation, and reflection on the myriad places and spaces in which student learning occurs during a postsecondary education. Indeed, when eportfolios are done well, they are a highly effective high-impact practice that deepens and integrates student learning.

Many of Terry’s learning assessment colleagues share his enthusiasm for eportfolios. In High Impact ePortfolio Practice: A Catalyst for Student, Faculty and Institutional Learning, a forthcoming book from Stylus Publications, George D. Kuh declares that eportfolios are the eleventh high-impact practice. Kuh is the director of the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment, the founding director of the National Survey of Student Engagement, and the author of AAC&U’s publication, High-Impact Practices: What They Are, Who Has Access to Them, and Why They Matter. In his opening piece for High Impact ePortfolio Practice, Kuh writes, “One of the main takeaways for me is that good eportfolio work can be done effectively at any type of institution.…Moreover, all students benefit, especially those who are less well prepared for college, which is one of the most important and necessary features of a high-impact practice.”

This issue of Peer Review surveys the current landscape of how colleges and universities are using eportfolios. The opening article, adapted from High Impact ePortfolio Practice by authors Bret Eynon and Laura Gambino, highlights the role of professional development in eporfolio practice. Additional articles address topics such as creating a campus eportfolio culture, maximizing the function of student eportfolios, and using eportfolios to deepen civic engagement. Finally, the closing article explores how academic transcripts can become more meaningful and transparent.

As the articles in this issue illustrate, the skills gained through eportfolio practice will serve students long after graduation. In the recently released AAC&U publication, Open and Integrative: Designing Liberal Education for the New Digital Ecosystem, authors Randy Bass and Bret Eynon underscore this long-term benefit: “An e-portfolio can be much more than a site for storing student artifacts. When combined with integrative social pedagogy, next-generation eportfolio practice can play a critical role in transforming the learning experience. By helping students connect their learning across time, disciplines, and diverse domains, it can also help them build the dispositions needed for success and higher-order learning capacities.”

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