Using e-Portfolios to Engage Students, Showcase Learning, and Empower Reflection
When Loyola’s Center for Experiential Learning launched a new e-portfolio program in collaboration with the university’s Faculty Center for Ignatian Pedagogy and Information Technology Services, it coincided with the launch of another campus-wide initiative: Loyola’s 4-Year Plan for Student Transformation. The 4-Year Plan reimagines the typical college experience for Loyola students and strives to map out and structure common curricular and co-curricular experiences. The Center for Experiential Learning sought to support the new 4-Year Plan using the student e-portfolio program to engage students more deeply in their learning, provide them with opportunities for reflection and development, and support on-time matriculation and completion.
In order to make their e-portfolio program successful, Loyola knew the e-portfolios needed to be developmental, scaffolded and progressive, and that students would need to find the experience meaningful. Loyola’s vision was to empower every student with a well-rounded education and the ability to demonstrate to employers and others what they know and what they can do.
“In addition to facilitating student reflection upon, and engagement with, their own learning across multi-year degree programs, e-portfolios also have the potential to meet the growing need for institutions to capture learning for students who move among institutions, have diverse learning styles, and who may best establish and realize personal learning goals through an interactive, technologically-advanced platform.”
After evaluating about 15 systems, Loyola selected Taskstream by Watermark to provide a cloud-based e-portfolio solution for students. The Center for Experiential Learning worked closely with faculty and staff across the university to build a curriculum, integrate e-portfolios in courses and create evaluation methods such as assignments and rubrics. Loyola’s Information Technology Services department also collaborated with the Center for Experiential Learning and Taskstream by Watermark’s Integration Services team to set up Single Sign On and auto-enrollment to ensure students and faculty had an intuitive, seamless experience with the new e-portfolio system and its tools.
Taskstream by Watermark brings the process full circle for students, faculty, and the institution:
- Faculty are able to collect, evaluate, and assess student work and report on learning outcomes
- Programs and departments are able to conduct program assessment and support institutional assessment goals
- Students are able to store, select, and showcase work that can be published online and used for years to come
The cloud-based system ensures students always have access to their portfolios and artifacts, and those artifacts are stored for the university to use for assessment and analysis purposes. The Center for Experiential Learning also created an e-portfolio template to anchor the experiences students have in Loyola’s 4-Year Plan for Student Transformation. The template contains guideposts for each of their four years, and encourages students to stay on pace for graduation.
The e-portfolio template provides a place for students to store and track all of their activities, reflections, and findings, and helps them see how all of their curricular and co-curricular experiences come together to support their development and growth. For each of the four years, the e-portfolio template contains reflective questions, milestones to mark progress, and goals.
“A resume tells them what you’ve done; an e-portfolio shows what you’ve done. It’s an ideal format for students to select, collect, and reflect upon their experience and educational skills, and to demonstrate those in very meaningful ways.”
The new e-portfolio initiative and the 4-Year Plan for Student Transformation gave Loyola students the opportunity to create robust, dynamic, and engaging portfolios that they can share with potential employers and publish to the web. Now all incoming students have access to four-year e-portfolio templates to archive, store, share, and reflect on evidence obtained throughout the Loyola experience, and the ability to create their own, unique showcase folios.
“You can create and craft a product that is really the culmination of what you’ve done professionally. Which could be civically focused, it could be educationally focused, so it would really create something tangible that you can use to either reflect upon or share with others.”
Among faculty and staff, many have found it to be energizing and inspiring to work across departments and help students navigate the program and be successful. The school is able to use the evaluations done by faculty to assess their Engaged Learning Requirement, courses, and co-curricular and academic programs. The process of using Taskstream by Watermark to support student growth and engage in reflection as an institution of higher learning brings the whole community closer to the shared Loyola mission.
“I think the e-portfolio initiative is a great example of engaged learning, because it really empowers students as well as faculty and staff to document the different things that they’re doing during their Loyola Experience, but then to also articulate it in a way that they can share it with themselves and also the world if they choose to do so.”
Faculty themselves have also taken to using e-portfolios in Taskstream by Watermark as a vehicle for communication, reflection, and self-expression. To help sustain this engagement, Loyola hosted a Faculty e-Portfolio Challenge to see which of the faculty and staff could create the most unique, compelling e-portfolios. Many participated and found the experience to be extremely valuable – both for their own careers and in their ability to support students creating portfolios in the future.