Making Learning Visible Through ePortfolios

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by Candace Walworth, Peace Studies Professor

Electronic portfolios, or ePortfolios, are similar to personalized, customized websites. Think in terms of a studio-style learning space or a digital “commons” that can easily be shared and viewed by others.

The multimodal capacity of the ePortfolio allows students to represent their learning beyond print-based texts—creating visual essays, text and image collages, podcasts, and infographics along with digital photography, documentaries, and stories. The ePortfolio is also a user-friendly site for documenting academic research and writing, both process and product.

Thanks to the generous support of a Title III grant, I offered a workshop “Making Learning Visible: ePortfolio Pedagogy and Production” for faculty and staff in mid-January.

While ePortfolios are not unique to Naropa—over 50 percent of U.S. colleges and universities use some form of ePortfolios—we are developing practices, pedagogies and forums unique to Naropa.

At Naropa’s Third Annual Eportfolio and Digital Storytelling Festival in mid-December, over 75 students shared their choice of ePortfolio artifacts one-on-one with a roving audience of staff, faculty and other students. In Naropa style, the event included music and poetry as part of this university-wide celebration of student learning.

To see an example of a student ePortfolio, visit Lucas Sego’s “Collected Thoughts in Peace Studies.”

Adjunct faculty member Regina Smith is one of the first Naropa faculty to incorporate the ePortfolio into a capstone course (“Senior Seminar I: Transformational Psychology”). Regina describes the course as an exploration of self-authorship, which asks students to deeply inquire into the construction of “self,” and to engage consciously in the creation of “self,” the creation of the class, and by extension, the creation of their world.

“Using the ePortfolio this semester has made this process more visible,” said Regina, “for me as the instructor, and also for students as writers and as readers of their peers’ work. The ePortfolio pedagogy decentralizes power in the classroom. I am no longer the voice from on high behind the curtain of my role.”

Naropa’s Master in Fine Arts program is also experimenting with ePortfolios. Motivated in part by a shortage of storage space for MFA thesis projects, Joan Bruemmer and students are working to develop best practices for MFA “Integrated Thesis” ePortfolios, including researching copyright and video limitations. By the end of the semester, MFA students will be ready to roll out their professional ePortfolios, sharing their creative and academic work with potential artistic collaborators and professional audiences beyond Naropa.

If you want to learn more, Naropa faculty members Peter Grossenbacher, Regina Smith, and myself invite you to visit our professional ePortfolios: Peter, Regina, Candace.

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