Everything You Need to Know About DC III ePortfolios

An article originally written for the CUSP quarterly newsletter, by Learning Technologies’ Ian Porter

Starting this quarter, students in CUSP Discovery Core III classes will design ePortfolios using Google Sites as the platform. The main purpose of these ePortfolios is to enable students to collect their curricular and extracurricular work from their first year at UW Bothell and, in a 4 to 5 page reflective essay, draw connections between these sometimes disparate activities in order to find coherence in their development as students and citizens.

Okay, but what does this really mean? Brass tacks: what do students need to know about the CUSP ePortfolio to get started?

Why an ePortfolio?

The CUSP ePortfolio is a “process portfolio,” which means that it should document the learning process of the student. For example, if a student wrote three drafts for a paper in her Discovery Core I class, she should include all of the drafts in the portfolio. From correcting simple grammatical mistakes to showing increased depth of thought in the paper revision process, these pieces of evidence help the student accomplish the goal of the CUSP ePortfolio, which is to show and reflect on her growth and development as a scholar and citizen.

While collecting the artifacts is important, the key part of the ePortfolio is the reflection process. Students must show proof of growth by linking from their reflective essay to the learning artifacts that show evidence of their development. Since these artifacts will be housed in their Google Sites, the students can draw connections conceptually and technically (using HTML hyperlinks) among their artifacts and reflection.

Supporting Students and Instructors

If this is starting to feel a little overwhelming, don’t worry. We are planning workshops for all of the students and instructors, which will take place in the DC III class. In addition, we are continuing to build great Web resources on how to use Google Sites and how to design an ePortfolio. For more information, go to the CUSP ePortfolio Model Site: https://sites.google.com/a/uw.edu/cusp-eportfolio-model-site/?pli=1 and click on “Student Resources” in the navigation bar.

Thinking Critically

In the end, the ePortfolio is simply a technology for critical thinking. Student learning is paramount in this process ‐ that is, learning about oneself, one’s own personal and professional goals, and one’s world(s). So, students should think as deeply and as broadly as possible. Ask questions like, “How did that paper I wrote last autumn change how I think about my personal goals or my beliefs about some aspect of my world? How did that video I created for a class project help me understand the CUSP Learning Goal “Critical and Creative Inquiry”? How have my academic goals changed during my first year at UW Bothell based on experiences I had as a volunteer?” If students think about and answer questions like these during the course of building their ePortfolio, then they will have accomplished the learning outcomes of the ePortfolio project. What’s more, those critical thinking skills remain vitally important throughout the remainder of a student’s personal and professional life.

Future Uses of the ePortfolio

And, if all of that doesn’t tickle your fancy, then remember the pragmatic considerations: for example, programs like Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, among others, also require ePortfolios. In addition, in the future, you might want to design a presentation portfolio of your work when you enter your profession. Taking the time now to collect your work and make your ePortfolio interesting and compelling will give you a leg up on future portfolio projects.