6 Reasons to Support Distance Learning with ePortfolios

March 13, 2020 Kris Babe

Using ePortfolios has been recognized as a high-impact practice by thought leaders such as Association of American Colleges & Universities (AAC&U). Though we often think of them supplementing in-person instruction, ePortfolios provide important opportunities to ensure that the distance learning experience is as rich and powerful as bricks-and-mortar instruction. Here are 6 reasons ePortfolios make a strong addition to any distance learning efforts.

1. Using an ePortfolio solution allows you to support high-quality instruction with ease for faculty as well as students.

For faculty, an ePortfolio solution provides the opportunity to design interactive activities aligned with critical general education competencies and learning outcomes. Using templated tools, faculty can customize assignments to support embedded video, literature analysis, and more. In addition, faculty can easily monitor student progress to provide targeted support and adjust teaching practices in real time, supporting formative assessment best practices. Finally, faculty can assess gen ed competencies and learning outcomes with rubrics, while assigning scores to send back to the LMS gradebook, eliminating any duplicate work between assessment and grading. ePortfolios are designed to be intuitive and engaging for students to use. They can document a variety of learning experiences including course, internships, field placements, and co-curricular activities in a central location. Capturing their body of work in an ePortfolio helps students identify key strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities for improvement. Students also love the “social media experience” of being able to share photos, videos, and audio files in ePortfolios.

2. ePortfolios are available anywhere, anytime.

Well-designed ePortfolios are responsive, which means that faculty and students can upload, download, and stream content on any device. That’s particularly useful for distance learning, where artifacts must be shared electronically. In addition, an ePortfolio solution that integrates with your LMS makes it easy for students and faculty to navigate between systems and access activities and learning artifacts across systems. ePortfolios allow students to easily pull artifacts from the LMS into their timelines and showcase portfolios so that they can effectively represent their full body of work.

3. Faculty and students can interact within an ePortfolio.

Best-in-class ePortfolios allow robust rubrics, which serve as a valuable teaching tool for faculty to communicate clear expectations to students. They also include features that make it easy for faculty to provide real-time feedback to students submitting coursework, including features like in-text annotation. An ePortfolio solution enables faculty to align rubrics to standards and competencies, easily use the rubrics to assess student work, and provide clear guidance to students on areas for improvement.

4. Students can reflect on their learning — now and over time.

According to AAC&U, “... ePortfolios can facilitate student reflection upon and engagement with their own learning across multi-year degree programs, across different institutions, and across diverse learning styles while helping students set and achieve personal learning goals.” This helps students develop a sense of personal ownership over their learning and provides a comprehensive record of achievement that they can take with them after they graduate. That sense of ownership can be particularly important to distance learners, who may not experience the full range of social supports that come with on-campus learning. The best ePortfolio solutions provide both faculty and students with powerful tools to track their learning over time, and ensure students develop their professional voice and skills to communicate their knowledge and accomplishments to peers and potential employers.

5. Gain rich assessment insights.

Because an ePortfolio captures a comprehensive view of student work, AAC&U considers it “an ideal format for collecting evidence of student learning, especially for those outcomes not amenable or appropriate for standardized measurement.” An ePortfolio solution should ensure that faculty can:

  • Gain a holistic picture of individual and aggregate student achievement
  • Get a clear picture of student performance over time
  • Break down results by demographics, cohort, and other key metrics

Because ePortfolios capture a comprehensive view of student progress over multiple years, these tools support faculty advisors, mentors, and administrators to better assist students throughout their academic experiences. With ePortfolios, educators can more confidently ensure students have the services they need to reach critical milestones and complete all necessary program requirements. This is especially important for distance learners who might not benefit from as many face-to-face interactions with trusted advisors or from on-campus support services.

6. Close the loop

Closing the loop — it’s one of the worthiest goals and biggest challenges in higher education. One of the greatest barriers to meaningful learning outcomes assessment is the time required to analyze data, develop action plans for improvement, and implement changes. Fortunately, ePortfolios make this daunting task substantially more achievable. Because learning artifacts are naturally captured within an authentic teaching and learning system that is designed to support robust assessment, there’s no additional time needed to digitize student work and manage assessment processes. By collecting and reporting on ePortfolio data systematically across programs, faculty and administrators can more effectively track student progress toward key outcomes and develop action plans to support targeted improvements. Once those plans are developed, they can immediately be translated into changes in instruction delivered through ePortfolios. Then, data can be captured in real-time to monitor the impact of improvement efforts. ePortfolios can be a powerful addition to your institution, whether you use them in conjunction with a traditional classroom setting, distance learning, or both. Learn how other campuses use them, and about the potential to change a student’s trajectory. If you’d like to learn more about Watermark’s ePortfolio solution, contact us today.

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