FacultyEnlight

THE CASE FOR DIGITAL PORTFOLIOS

Think digital portfolios are only for job-hunting students about to graduate? Think again. With tracking, grading rubrics, and built-in communication technologies, e-portfolios are becoming an innovative way to monitor classroom learning over time.

In addition to giving students the opportunity to curate, reflect, and learn from past work, digital portfolios provide teachers with a number of benefits as well. Digitizing students’ work allows instructors to reflect on their own teaching strategies and students’ success rates. By looking at bodies of work throughout a semester, staff can see where students have succeeded or need more work; it’s a way to have an online catalog of not only student work, but faculty efficacy.

Sites such as Seelio offer simple online portfolios for students and teachers, while companies like Pathbrite have created institution-specific online portfolio platforms. These more advanced systems allow the use of pre-loaded or custom rubrics as well as the ability to share information with teaching assistants and students. Apps are big on the online portfolio scene as well, and many can help ease students into the overwhelming task of building an online presence for work. VoiceThread is a free app that allows teachers and students to create and share dynamic conversations around everything from documents to videos. Professors can use such apps to open lines communication, tutor one-on-one, and give students a strong grasp of both important details and overarching course concepts.

As Trent Batson, President and CEO for the Association for Authentic, Experiential, and Evidence-Based Learning, asks, “Is the portfolio built in [to the curriculum] or is it bolted on [as just another graded assignment]?” In this Educause podcast, he stresses coursework that students are constantly building into a digital archive, learning from, and reflecting upon. It’s the process of curating a portfolio over time that matters; simply making the creation of digital portfolios a course assignment hasn’t proven to be all that helpful to students or faculty, says Batson.

Certain educators also believe that the exercise of immersing oneself into creating a digital portfolio use various higher-order skills that may not otherwise be accessed. Those who prefer to grade students through individual improvement—rather than through standardized tests scores—find it convenient to see students’ work from the beginning of class to present. Though on the surface digital portfolios may appear to be just a stepping stone into the job world, administrators, staff, and students alike are just beginning to understand the useful nature of investing time in digital portfolios.