As a result of research and development surrounding ePortfolios, the School of Education launched a pilot project in 2007-08 and adopted the venture for the Undergraduate Education Program in 2009. Originally when ePortfolios were just starting to be used at St. John’s University we utilized Taskstream. This tool was selected after reviewing comparable tools on the market at the time like Livetext, Digication and Sakai. With limited resources and a list of demands from administrator focused on assessment we made a good decision at that time. We found the Taskstream platform to be extremely focused on assessment at that time with less flexibility on the front end as it related to the interface and social components. Students found it difficult to use and did not like the final look of their portfolio after they invested time with the tool. So we began the process of considering other tools in 2010.
In 2011, after working with Making Connections and having some feedback from our community, we changed platforms and moved to Digication. This move was the result of constant communication between faculty, students and administrators since this new platform would also be introduced to all students’ campus wide. As of Fall 2011, all undergraduate students in the School of Education now receive accounts and have the opportunity to start working on their Program ePortfolio once they enter the institution. The Program ePortfolio catalogues the products and valuable lessons drawn from the academic and service related experiences at St. John’s. In addition, graduate and undergraduate students enrolled in Associate Teaching Courses will also have an opportunity to develop a Professional ePortfolio as a part of their course work and final project. There are many functions in both platforms that are the same. The weakness provides a flexible infrastructure for collecting artifacts of student learning, evaluating those artifacts with rubrics and forms – or entering data for non-artifact-based assessments (e.g., observations) – and generating reports on the data gathered in the process. Rubric criteria can be aligned with institutional goals, program outcomes, accreditation standards, and other competencies for quick reporting by goal, outcome, standard, or competency. We were aware of Digication and only decided to move to the platform when they had the necessary features we desired at the time. Our transition was fully supported by the Provost’s Office who also acquired additional accounts for first year students and faculty to begin initial investigations as to the appropriateness beyond education programs.
Support and Collaboration
The ePortfolio Project was partially funded in 2007 by the Making Connections Mini-Grant and the School of Education for the use of ePortfolios in education. Given the need for additional funding, School of Education students were asked to pay for a Technology Lab Fee to pay for their accounts in Tasktream. While this worked for a short time, we were fortunate to have a supportive administration that funded this initiative in 2011 when we transitioned to Digication. The university decision to move forward with Digication accompanied a plan that would provide accounts for the entire School of Education, freshmen, all faculty and staff, with a roll out plan over the next three years for each incoming class. This plan was met with some positive opposition from other School and populations who wanted accounts in the first wave. Administrators graciously complied and doubled the initial number of accounts from 3,500 to 7,000 student accounts which included sophomores, Law Students and graduate students. While exciting, this presented a new challenge of training almost 9,000-10,000 students, faculty and administrators with a pint-size team. The Center for Teaching and Learning stepped in to assist in this matter by providing workshops and seminars on ePortfolios for the University community and we crafted online videos for the student population for students along with in-class support for faculty and students upon request. Though our ePortfolio interface does not currently work with other college applications, we are in the process of determining how we can integrate Digication with our assessment tools for accreditation and assessment purposes. After going to a number of conferences in regards to accreditation, we came to the conclusion that we need to reevaluate the possibility of quantitative assessment and ePortfolio for transferability and consistency purposes. The nature of our platform has shaped our scaling up effort as we look to integrate ePortfolios in other academic programs, student assessment and tenure processes.