What We’ve Learned

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What we have learned is that ePortfolio is a difference maker, and that it has tremendous integrative and connective power.

From just over 800 ePortfolios in its pilot year (2002) to over 80,000 as of Fall 2013, LaGuardia Community College’s ePortfolio project is strong and growing. The College’s most recent (Spring 2012) Middle States Accreditation report singled out its ePortfolio culture as exemplary.

At LaGuardia, we emphasize the integrative, connective qualities of  ePortfolio through building it into pedagogy, outcomes assessment, and professional development. We want LaGuardia’s faculty and staff to understand and use ePortfolio as an integrative force to teach, learn, improve, and motivate our students.

What Difference ePortfolio Makes

ePortfolio gives each LaGuardia student a way to develop and express his/her unique identity and voice. Through a process of guided inquiry, reflection, and integration, ePortfolio helps our diverse student population become engaged learners and critical thinkers who will persist, graduate, and collectively become a catalyst for change in the community where they live, learn, and work.

Over the years, we have measured the impact of ePortfolio pedagogy on the criteria to which all institutions of higher education must pay close attention. Thus, the survey data below highlights analyses of ePortfolio teaching and learning at LaGuardia on students’ success in two ways: first, through self-perception of engagement, depth of learning, critical thinking, and self-understanding; and second, through outcome measures of pass and retention rates:

Measuring Student Engagement

Data collected from the C2L Core Survey to assess the impact on LaGuardia and the other C2L campuses as a result of applying reflective, integrative, and other strategies into their ePortfolio practices yielded the following:

Assessing Engagement and Critical Thinking

    • When asked “Building my ePortfolio helped me to think more deeply about the content of this course,” 64.4% of students (n= 6,729) “Agreed” or “Strongly Agreed” with this statement. Additionally, 68.5% of these students “Agreed” or “Strongly Agreed” that “Building my ePortfolio helped me succeed as a student.” A question about sharing their learning yielded that 73.8% “Agreed” or “Strongly Agreed” that they wanted to show their ePortfolios to employers and transfer colleges. These responses suggest that a significant majority of students feel the ePortfolio experience helps them focus on building academic learning and success.
    • When asked how much their courses engaged them in “Applying theories or concepts to practical problems or in new situations,” 77.2% of students (n= 6,729) responded with “Quite a Bit” or “Very Much.” Additionally, more than 83.1% of these students responded “Quite a Bit” or “Very Much” when asked about engagement in “Synthesizing and organizing ideas, information, or experiences in new ways.”

Assessing Engagement, Reflection, and Self-Understanding

    • When asked “Using ePortfolio has allowed me to be more aware of my growth and development as a learner,” 69.3% of students (n= 6,729) “Agreed” or “Strongly Agreed” with this statement. Additionally, 75.6% of these students “Agreed” or “Strongly Agreed” that “Building my ePortfolio helped me to make connections between ideas.” These responses suggest that the integrative ePortfolio experience helps students build a more holistic self-portrait and a way of understanding themselves as learners.
    • When asked how much their coursework “Contributed to your knowledge, skills, and personal development in writing clearly and effectively,” 77.7% of students (n= 6,729) responded with “Quite a Bit” or “Very Much.” Additionally, 78.6% of these students responded “Quite a Bit” or “Very Much” to a question about how much their coursework “Contributed to your knowledge, skills, and personal development in understanding yourself.” These responses suggest that the ePortfolio experience, with its elements of reflection and integrative learning, was closely linked to the process of self-understanding.

Measuring Retention and Pass Rates

Data collected by LaGuardia to assess the impact on success rates as a result of students being exposed to ePortfolio practices yielded the following:

Assessing Retention: Enrollment in ePortfolio courses correlates with higher levels of student retention. For example, in the Spring 2013 semester at LaGuardia, an analysis performed to measure student retention rate yielded that 87% of students in ePortfolio-intensive courses continued their studies in the following semester versus 75% for non-ePortfolio comparison courses.

Measuring Pass Rates: Data from past semesters examined show that ePortfolio students are significantly more likely to pass their courses than non-ePortfolio students. For example, in the Spring 2013 semester at LaGuardia, the pass rate was 80% for students in ePortfolio courses. During the same period, the pass rate was 63% of students in non-ePortfolio comparison courses.

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A 2012 report to the US Department of Education noted:

Data provided by the Office of Institutional Research over a period of years suggests that students building ePortfolio are more likely to return the following semester; and 2011-12 was no different.  The composite one-semester retention or graduate rate for students in impacted courses [in 2011-12] was 80.4%, versus 61.7% for students in comparison courses…. Likewise, students enrolled in impacted courses had higher course completion (96.4%, +1.8 percentage points), course pass (79.7%, + 8.2 percentage points) and high pass — C and above (77.7%, +9.9 percentage points) – rates than students in comparison courses.

This survey data, measuring both student perceptions and student performance, strongly suggests the positive impact of ePortfolio on their prospects for success. “As a sustained, recursive process, stretching the focus of learning across semesters, it helps LaGuardia students engage and succeed as students and come to new understandings of themselves as learners and professionals” (“It Helped Me See a New Me”: ePortfolio, Learning and Change at LaGuardia Community College (2009)).

What It Takes for ePortfolio to Make a Difference on Campus

With more than 83,000 students (19,000 credit and over 60,000 non-credit) and nearly 3,000 faculty and staff working in a dense and highly diverse urban environment, LaGuardia is a large and complex community. In an institutional context like  ours, all major stakeholder groups have a role to play in building an ePortfolio culture which makes a difference. These include:

  • Top-Level Administration
  • The College’s Center for Teaching and Learning
  • The ePortfolio Leadership Team
  • Student Technology Mentors (STMs) and ePortfolio Consultants
  • Faculty and Staff

Top-Level Administration

Support from LaGuardia’s top-level administration is a critical contributor to our success. Dr. Gail O. Mellow, President, Dr. Paul Arcario, Provost and Senior Vice President, Dr. Bret Eynon, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, and Founding Director of the Making Connections National Resource Center, and Dr. Howard Wach, Assistant Dean for Academic Affairs, and Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning, are all active ePortfolio supporters.  Indeed, Provost Arcario was the first to introduce portfolio at the College as a method of connecting and advancing the ways students, faculty, and staff think about and support teaching and learning practices. Departmental Chairpersons are also important ePortfolio players. Their support in guiding faculty toward professional development and curricular innovation is essential to our efforts. After over a decade of strong administrative support, LaGuardia’s ePortfolio work has knit  together thought and practice on pedagogy, professional development, and outcomes assessment, with a steady focus on preparing students for productive, engaged 21st century lives.

The College’s Center for Teaching and Learning

LaGuardia’s Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) offers a variety of professional development and training activities for faculty and staff. It is through these opportunities that expert and novice users of ePortfolio can come together to share, learn, collaborate, and experiment with ePortfolio pedagogical practices that best fit the needs of their students, disciplines, and approaches to teaching and learning. In addition to focusing on ePortfolio, these professional development and training activities are carefully aligned by themes (some examples include the first year experience, advisement, integrative and social pedagogy, and hybrid/Online teaching) – making it more likely that faculty and staff will be able to find an area of interest and a “safe zone” to experiment with ePortfolio and related pedagogical practices. This helps alleviate some of the anxiety associated with faculty and staff exploring and adding ePortfolio to the toolkit they use to guide and support students. Click Here for a detailed list of ePortfolio-related professional development and training activities offered by the College’s Center for Teaching and Learning.

The ePortfolio Leadership Team

LaGuardia’s ePortfolio Leadership Team plays a key role in the College’s efforts to promote and sustain faculty and staff using ePortfolio practices. This group is a campus-wide collaboration between faculty and staff that convenes on a monthly basis to discuss the current state of the College’s ePortfolio work and to go beyond the fundamentals to share deeper levels of practice and insight that will help guide the ePortfolio program.

Building connections with students is central to the work of the ePortfolio Leadership Team. Hosting student-centered ePortfolio showcases and creating discipline-specific ePortfolio videos are amongst the initiatives that were guided by this group. To learn more about the ePortfolio showcases and the discipline-specific ePortfolio videos, see Our Student Voices section.

Student Technology Mentors and ePortfolio Consultants

At LaGuardia, Student Technology Mentors (STMs) and ePortfolio Consultants are critical to supporting and forwarding the College’s work with ePortfolio. The STMs – some upper-level students at LaGuardia and some who have gone on to pursue technology careers at senior colleges – work closely with faculty and students to help them design, create, and maintain technology-enriched teaching and learning.  They undergo a rigorous, semester-long training program, sponsored by the CTL, prior to beginning their work with a faculty partner, in which they learn the computer applications (ePortfolio, Blackboard, etc.) used by faculty in technology-enhanced courses. Thereafter, STMs are assigned to work with specific faculty, while their training on digital photography, scanning images and text, and photo editing continues through the following semester. STMs work 15 hours per week, and usually have two or more faculty partners. The STM position can lead to more advanced responsibilities as well. The ePortfolio Consultant position is the most notable of these. Consultants assist faculty through teaching the “Studio Hour,” a portion of class time devoted to ePortfolio work for students. Consultants also conduct special ePortfolio workshop sessions for classes, and assist faculty with the depositing of outcomes assessment artifacts into the Digication assessment system. Click Here for more details on the job description, responsibilities, and training of STMs.

Faculty and Staff

At LaGuardia, faculty and staff are thinking and working together to explore innovative ways to guide students throughout their journey at the College – from the first semester and challenges of assisting with acculturation to academic life and providing effective advisement, to the capstone experience and graduation. Supported by top-level administration, colleagues, STMs, ePortfolio Consultants and professional development offerings from the College’s Center for Teaching and Learning, faculty and staff are bringing ePortfolio into all parts of academic programs, into co-curricular and experiential learning, and into advisement. In all these areas, core ePortfolio principles–inquiry, reflection, integration–are prompting deeper learning and a stronger academic identity.

In the following videos, faculty and students from LaGuardia’s Education Program  and Business Programs explain the value of ePortfolio-based teaching and learning.

 

To learn more about the ways LaGuardia faculty and staff are using ePortfolio to support pedagogical, outcomes assessment, and professional development practices, see the Scholarship section.

What We’ve Learned Along the Way

Twelve years and 80,000 ePortfolios later, we have learned that the collective effort of faculty, staff, and students has made ePortfolio a part of the fabric of a LaGuardia education. We’ve also learned that although core principles such as inquiry, reflection, and integration have broad application, programs and disciplines are most successful when they develop approaches which meet their specific needs, and are best served when professional development affords them the opportunity to do this carefully and intentionally.
One size assuredly does not fit all.

We’ve developed time-tested approaches to professional development with a strong emphasis on pedagogical exploration, and effectively linked a robust outcomes assessment practice to our ePortfolio system. From that perspective, we are well positioned to move forward and to consider ePortfolio as a catalyst for change and ePortfolio as a network for connections on our campus. In Scaling Strategies and ePortfolio as a Catalyst for change, Randy Bass notes, “Both of these dimensions – in their broadening and deepening effects – are critical for ePortfolio leadership teams to consider as they seek to scale and institutionalize ePortfolio on their campuses.”

As we look to the future and to scaling up, several new initiatives figure prominently both in the LaGuardia present and in the future. We are now engaged in efforts to improve advisement, to reconceive and strengthen the first year experience for students with a new first-year seminar, and to implement new General Education competencies which will promote higher-order learning. At the same time, we will continue to build outcomes assessment capacity and strengthen “closing the loop” activities. In all these efforts, ePortfolio will embody the dual roles sketched by Bass: deployed with care and attentiveness, we are confident that ePortfolio will catalyze campus-wide change while helping to build the webs of connection that strengthen student identity and engagement. Administrators, faculty, staff, and students: all will contribute to making a difference with ePortfolio.

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