Blog #4

I cannot believe this is my final blog.  It’s strange to think nearly an entire year has past since I first applied to participate in this program last July.  Conducting this study on ePortfolios with Dr. Anstendig has been such a rewarding experience. Although, I had to complete this research project from a distance – this situation has not hindered our project in any way.

 Over the last few months – with the assistance of the ePortfolio eTerns – we interviewed nine students in order to uncover evidence of student learning. The interviewees provided great insight into the benefits of using ePortfolios in their courses, programs, student life, and career development.  For example, one of the greatest benefits of ePortfolios is its ability to help secure employment after graduation. One hundred percent of the students said they would show their ePortfolios to a potential employer.  As Mathew Indix explained, ePortfolios can “work to [a graduate’s] favor when applying for a position and interviewing with a potential employer.” These interviews also highlighted students’ understanding of the importance of reflection.  For example, as Stephanie Moody said, “Reflecting on other people’s responses opens up the discussion instead of just in class, but also through writing.” 

At the same time, Dr. Anstendig and I continued to evaluate student’ (thirty in total) completed ePortfolios online.  We read their reflective blog post entries and analyzed external links, embedded information, and the files/documents uploaded.  While reading student blog posts, we searched for common themes and shared traits. Ultimately, we found that more than seventy-five percent of the students demonstrate growth in their ability to reflect.  

We decided, appropriately, to create an ePortfolio page to highlight our work for the upcoming showcase. Over the last two weeks, we have spent a great deal of time building the page and including important artifacts, such as these blog entries and our final paper. I created and uploaded a story digital story that highlights the benefits of ePortfolios. In addition, we have included a “working draft” of the article we hope to submit to the International ePortfolio Journal.

The biggest challenge we faced was the lack of time to fully complete our project. Despite the great headway we have made and the results we have already uncovered, we have more work to complete before publishing an article. Currently, we are still in the process of interviewing students. We have also reached out to Professors asking to arrange interviews.  For this reason, I do not view the conclusion of the Undergraduate Research Initiative as an end point for our research.  Even though, I graduate next month, I remain committed to enhancing our research – and to helping ensure the article’s completion and publication.

Over the last few months Dr. Anstendig and I have made great headway in further developing and advancing our study on ePortfolios.  I am pleased to report that I completed my review of literature.   Since I read over 30 articles and studies on ePortfolios, developing an all-encompassing, yet concise, review of literature was a challenge.  I found difficulty in selecting the most fundamental points and key ideas to include in my review– simply because I had such an abundant amount of research; however, ultimately, I feel the review of literature was a success and will emerge an important part of our research paper. 

We also obtained permission from Pace University’s IRB earlier this year.  In the short time since receiving IRB permission, we have already analyzed roughly 15 students’ blogs.  Through this work to identify common patterns and code student reflections, I have uncovered evidence of student learning.   Although I am only in the beginning stages of reviewing students’ ePortfolios – so far, I have found that shared traits and common similarities are present.  For example, at least half of the students demonstrate growth in their ability to reflect.  The reflective blog posts improve not only in length as the semester progressed, but in the level of detail they incorporated.  Of course, other factors such as questions that prompted their response and the time allocated in class to write the posts must be taken into account, upon first glance it’s clear that reflection is a skill that is learned and fostered.  It also seems that students have ease in pinpointing which skills they have developed throughout the course – yet lack in showcasing how these skills were developed and how they will be beneficial in the future or in other courses.  I wonder, whether this is because of the questions the students were prompted with before writing their blogs or whether they just did not make the connections.

Beyond analyzing the blogs, earlier this week, we sent out an email asking for students to take part in ePortfolio interviews, so we can learn more about their experiences with and opinions about ePortfolios.  We also finalized our list of questions, and we are prepared to schedule interviews within the next few weeks. 

Blog #2

Over the last month Dr. Anstendig and I have focused our efforts on continuing to research – using the International ePortfolio Journal and other sources – the impact and importance of ePortfolios.  One specific article by Randy Bass, titled “Scaling Strategies and ePortfolio as a Catalyst for Change,” was particularly informative. Bass highlights the ways in which ePortfolios, when integrated across the disciplines, can bridge the gap between the curriculum and co-curriculum and build a high-impact, student centered, learning environment. This article, alongside the many others I have read, offer a broad background overview of how ePortfolios help to re-center a University’s curriculum, and foster student engagement.  These articles have also provided the substantial support from leading researchers that is necessary to prove our hypothesis that students benefit in a number of ways by using ePortfolios in courses, programs, student life, and career development at Pace University.

It seems that the more articles I read, the more I advance and improve my review of literature that I have been working on since October. For this reason – and others including Hurricane Sandy – we have re-set the deadline to submit my review of literature to December 8th. Although, I do not enjoy pushing back the deadline, as I originally intended to submit the review by Thanksgiving, it was deemed simply necessary. The slight alteration in the date, though not ideal, has proven that when it comes to research following a strict timeline is neither always possible nor the best approach. For example, by reading additional articles I have had more time to truly develop my review of literature to make sure it’s all encompassing and accurately depicts how students have benefitted from ePortfolios.

In order to begin reviewing and analyzing student’s ePortfolios, we first need to obtain permission from Pace University’s Institutional Review Board (IRB). The IRB was established to protect the rights and privacy of participants in research that is conducted by faculty, students, and staff at Pace University.  The IRB application consists of a detailed application as well as an NIH training course.  As part of the application, we included a sample of our Reflective Blog Rubric, which is adapted from IUPUI’s rubric and Mark Sample’s “Rubric for Evaluating Student Blogs.” As reflection is a key feature of ePortfolios, we hope that this Blog Rubric could be used/and or adapted across the university. For the application, we also finalized and submitted to IRB a list of questions regarding ePortfolios that we will ask students when we conduct our ePortfolio interviews.

Capturing Student Learning with ePortfolios

Hello All: My name is Jemma York and I am a senior majoring in Communications and Political Science on the Pleasantville Campus.  Through the Undergraduate Research Initiative, I have the privilege of working alongside Dr. Linda Anstendig on a project titledCapturing Student Learning with ePortfolios.”

We are conducting a study of ePortfolios at Pace University, and aim to better understand their impact on student learning. As ePortfolios are more frequently incorporated in the classroom and in student life activities, gaining more knowledge of its benefits and strengths will not only ensure the program’s success, but will also improve its effectiveness.

 Since ePortolios encourage self-assessment and efficiently tracks their academic progress, we hypothesize that students benefit in a number of ways by using ePortfolios in courses, programs, student life, and career development. Throughout the year, we will analyze student reflections, the types of projects and papers uploaded, and conduct interviews with student ePortfolio users, in order to uncover evidence of student learning.  Based on the evidence we collect, we will develop a systemic method for measuring the benefits of ePortfolios.

For this project, we have placed a specific focus on student reflections. ePortfolios are a great tool for reflection and allow students to demonstrate critical thinking, interdisciplinary connections, and examine their overall learning experience. Which is why, we would like to create a rubric that could be used throughout the university, and develop way to code and analyze student reflections and other ePortfolio artifacts.  At the end of the research project we plan to submit an article for publication in “The International ePortfolio Journal,” and would like to present our study and results at an ePortfolio Conference. 

We are already making great strides in working towards this goal. Since the start of semester, we have read over a dozen articles on ePortfolios and the importance of reflection from leading scholars and researchers in the field. I write brief summaries on each article that highlight the authors’ key points and list quotes that we can potentially include in our final paper. In my notes, I also include “questions to explore” – questions that will help to further guide our research. By Thanksgiving break, I will finish a detailed, and all-encompassing, review of literature on the articles.

Through these readings, the importance of reflection has been brought into stark focus. There can be no question that reflection helps students set a distinctive path forward and allows them to work proactively towards achieving their goals. I’ve learned that through reflection students are able to draw connections between courses, which increase both fluidity and their overall success. But it’s clear that this skill must be taught and demands community involvement. 

This semester I am interning at the Department of Justice in Washington D.C; therefore, I am completing the research project from a distance. Although not necessarily ideal, this situation has proved to be no problem at all. Dr. Anstendig and I connect regularly by email – sending each other articles and sharing our ideas – and speak often by phone. We also decided to create a Research Group on ePortfolio. Through this tool, we have a place to upload the articles, our notes, and our updated bibliography. Additionally, when I visited Pace a few weeks ago, we met up to lay out our plans for moving forward in the months ahead.