C2L Catalyst Essays

Overarching Essays

The following essays provide a broad view of the Connect to Learning project and Catalyst Framework.

What it Takes to Make a Difference: The Catalyst Framework
The Catalyst framework, a hypothesis emerging from our research, suggests that effective integrative ePortfolio initiatives address three core levels of campus life and learning: students and faculty, departments and programs, and institutional culture. The most successful ePortfolio initiatives address these core learning levels with work that takes place in five interlocking sectors: Pedagogy, Professional Development, Outcomes Assessment, Technology, and Scaling Up. Embracing and helping to unify these levels and sectors are three overarching design principles: Inquiry, Reflection, and Integration.

What Difference Can ePortfolio Make? A Field Report from the Connect to Learning Project
This peer reviewed essay is published in a special research issue of the International Journal of ePortfolio (IJeP) co-sponsored by the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U).

Framework-Specific Essays

The following analytic essays all correspond to the sectors and design principles of the Catalyst Framework.

Catalyst Design Principles

Inquiry, Reflection, and Integration: Catalyst Design Principles
What overarching principles inform the work of successful ePortfolio initiatives? What themes unify their work across all five sectors of the Catalyst framework? Years of research and observation have revealed three complementary principles that inform and strengthen multiple aspects of effective ePortfolio practice: Inquiry, Reflection, and Integration.

The Five Sectors


Reflection, Integration, and ePortfolio Pedagogy
Learning is both an active and reflective process. Though we learn by doing, constructing, building, talking, and writing, we also learn by thinking about events, activities and experiences. This confluence of experiences (action) and thought (reflection) combines to create new knowledge…. Reflection then is the vehicle for critical analysis, problem-solving, synthesis of opposing ideas, evaluation, identifying patterns and creating meaning – in short, many of the
higher order thinking skills we strive to foster in our students.

Social Pedagogies in ePortfolio Practices: Principles for Design and Impact
As Web 2.0 and social media exploded in use, Connect to Learning (C2L) faculty explored new approaches that would break the boundaries surrounding ePortfolio development. Studying Carol Rodgers’ principles of meaningful reflection, they found she argued for the value of “reflection in community.” Engaging in a series of online dialogues with C2L Senior Scholar Randy Bass, they considered the idea that ePortfolio practice could be enriched by what he and Heidi Elmendorf termed “social pedagogies”, which engage students in authentic tasks where representation of knowledge for an authentic audience is central to the construction of knowledge.

Professional Development

Inquiry, Reflection and Integration in Professional Development
Looking across the range of professional development offerings in the C2L network, we find the most effective practices demonstrate and incorporate the use of Inquiry, Reflection and Integration. This essay explores the ways these design principles shape professional development practice.

Professional Development: Effective Strategies in the C2L Network
C2L campus teams shared examples of successful ePortfolio-related professional development practices on their campuses. Reviewing these practices, we identified seven common strategies that campus teams used and reported as successful. This essay provides brief descriptions of these strategies and links to sample practices.

Outcomes Assessment

Outcomes Assessment and Institutional Learning
The Outcomes Assessment sector of the Catalyst site explores the ways some C2L campuses use ePortfolio in outcomes assessment to advance learning at every level of campus life. The C2L teams that identified themselves as most successful in this regard demonstrate the role of the Inquiry, Reflection, and Integration (C2L Design Principles) in ePortfolio-based outcomes assessment.


ePortfolio as a Technology: How Can Platforms Make a Difference?
C2Ls analysis of ePortfolio technology discusses the importance of the platform selection process and examines the ways ePortfolio technology can deepen student learning, professional development and outcomes assessment.

Scaling Up

Scaling Up: Growing Effective ePortfolio Initiatives
Launching a campus ePortfolio initiative is no guarantee of success. On some campuses, ePortfolio projects grow and thrive; others stagnate or disappear altogether. What are the strategies that effective ePortfolio leaders use to launch and grow the use of ePortfolio at their institution? In what ways do these leaders connect ePortfolio use to key institutional structures and processes? How do these connections help catalyze growth and learning across an institution?

Scaling Strategies and ePortfolio as a Catalyst for Change
Developing and scaling ePortfolio initiatives poses challenging design problems, because ePortfolio practices must straddle established and emerging paradigms of higher education. Bridging these paradigms, the process of scaling an ePortfolio initiative can advance the emergence of a new vision for higher education.

Ten Core Scaling Up Strategies

Reviewing campus practices across the Connect to Learning network, our analysis identified a set of ten widely used Core Strategies that teams use to scale their initiatives.

Click here to read Core Strategies 1-5.
Click here to read Core Strategies 6-10


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