Literature Review: Enhancing with E-Ports

Literature Review: Enhancing with E-Ports

Chelsea L. Hoke

Lamar University

       In a world that is constantly changing and continuously evolving, the education system has extensive room for massive innovations and transformations.  According to Sir Ken Robinson, we need a revolution, not an evolution within our educational system (2010).  In order to keep up with the changing times, we must constantly strive to advance our teaching techniques in and out of the classroom to better benefit our students’ learning environments.  Eportfolio platforms are a mere scratch of the surface in the innovation process, yet they have been proven to produce great results with monumental benefits for students. These learning environments will continue to improve when we move past the thought of giving-in to our students, and begin to embrace the idea of catering to our consumers.  This business/consumer idea is shared in the 2015 Horizon Report when the authors state, “In the business of higher education, the consumers are the students, and there is a need to better cater to them as their expectations and behaviors evolve.” (Johnson, Adams Becker, Estrada, & Freeman, 2015, p.8).

“E-Portfolios allow students to present a comprehensive overview of academic and extracurricular activities along with self-reflection and supporting evidence (artifacts) to a potential employer”

According to Cornell University, Center for Teaching Excellence (n.d.), an ePortfolio is a digital document housing a collection of material showcasing the students’ personal and academic achievements and accomplishments.  Eportfolios may include self-reflections by the student on learning processes and outcomes.  These digital documents are versatile in allowing use and interlinking of various media types and having the ability to be shared and updated easily and continuously.  When used correctly, ePortfolios should provide students with a platform to house as much information about themselves as they desire.  Yancey (2009) expounds on this idea by writing, “the ability to personalize their e-portfolio contributes to their motivation to “work” on it throughout the year as well as their engagement in the process”.  When given ownership over the project, the students feel more comfortable detailing their work, and expressing themselves in their own way.  In their research, Reese and Levy state, “E-Portfolios allow students to present a comprehensive overview of academic and extracurricular activities along with self-reflection and supporting evidence (artifacts) to a potential employer” (2009, p.4).  In turn, this can almost become a digital resume.

“…employers who are looking to hire students straight out of school, want to know what they have learned, not what course titles they completed in order to earn a degree.”

A common struggle for my students is finding a job in the industrial environment upon graduation with no “work experience”.  “Having an E-Portfolio was definitely a huge asset when I went on the job market.  Several institutions that interviewed me mentioned that my website was what initially drew their attention to my job application” (Reese & Levy, 2009, p.5).  Our students have an extremely difficult time conveying the information, skills, and techniques they learn within our classrooms and lab settings as on the job experience.  Yancey (2009) portrays defeat over this situation with the idea that, “…unlike their print cousins, these e-portfolio models are designed to document learning not just inside a course but across courses and across experiences in college and beyond”.  When it is all said and done, employers who are looking to hire students straight out of school, want to know what they have learned, not what course titles they completed in order to earn a degree. What better way can students showcase the skills they have actually obtained, other than compiling everything as they progress through their educational program on some form of ePortfolio platform? Craig (2014) talks about this importance of helping students better connect with employers through the use of eportfolios as being good “customer service”.

“We are currently losing key conversation starters and collaboration points in the classroom.”

In a world as digital as today, we must change our way of teaching if we want to continue to help our students prepare for their futures.  “People expect to be able to work, learn, and study whenever and wherever they want to” (Johnson, Adams, & Cummins 2012, p.4).  We are living in the right here (or there), and right now times.  The students of today expect to have everything at their fingertips at any given time because they know it is possible.  We see it every day.  From the toddler in the grocery store playing games on the internet on a tablet, to the elderly gentleman struggling to navigate his way home using the GPS on his cell phone, technology is all around us; and in a world of constant access to limitless information, the generations coming forward expect to have access to it all, at all times.  “…people want easy and timely access not only to the information on the network, but also to tools, resources, and up-to-the-moment analysis and commentary” (Johnson et al., 2012, p.4).  Our students are not satisfied with taking a textbook home, reading, and waiting to come back to class the next week to have their questions answered.  If they have questions, they are most likely turning to the internet for the answers. Immediate answers.  These valuable questions are going unheard by the rest of the class.  We are currently losing key conversation starters and collaboration points in the classroom.

“This will provide students the instant access and feedback they desire.”

One of the many solutions to this problem could be to have students post a weekly blog on their eportfolios about the assigned readings or the topics covered for that week.  This gives students the ability to collaborate and communicate their ideas with one another, as well as the general public outside of the classroom.  This will provide students the instant access and feedback they desire. “Online or other modern environments are trying to leverage both formal and informal learning experiences by giving students traditional assignments, such as textbook readings and paper writing, in addition to allowing for more open-ended, unstructured time where they are encouraged to experiment, play, and explore topics based on their own motivations” (Johnson, Adams Becker, Cummins, Estrada, Freeman, & Ludgate, 2013, p.7).  One common definition of informal learning would be any learning that takes place outside the common, everyday classroom.  Johnson et al. (2013) details this definition by stating that, “… a more practical definition may be learning that is self-directed and aligns with the student’s own personal learning goals. Employers have specific expectations for new hires, including communication and critical thinking skills — talents that are often acquired or enhanced through informal learning” (p.7).

Employers today expect to hire new employees with more knowledge and skills than they could ever gain from any textbook or classroom setting alone.  “The workforce demands skills from college graduates that are more often acquired from informal learning experiences than in universities” (Johnson et al., 2013, p.7).  Not only are they wanting their new employees to have critical thinking, communication, and collaboration skills, but they also demand them to display a high level of digital media literacy. Digital media literacy continues its rise in importance as a key skill in every discipline and profession” (Johnson et al., 2012, p.6).  Educators around the world are acknowledging this need for change and demand of further understanding of the digital environment.  Gesser (2013) explains how, “Beyond demonstrating learning via written text, students elaborate and illustrate their depth of understanding as captured through an embedded photo or video. These experiences help students to develop digital literacy” (p.7).  Having students remain active in their eportfolios with various activities and assignments outside of class helps them in all of these areas.

“Eportfolio platforms require no extra hardware, and only require the use of cloud-based or browser-based software, which means you are device independent…”

As stated above, technology is continuously changing; therefore, educational environments must change to keep up.  If we want to keep our jobs and ensure the safety of the future of colleges and universities, we need to understand and accept the need for change in our educational system.  Johnson, Adams Becker, Estrada, and Freeman (2014) explain that, “…more universities are working to make their institutions more comfortable with change, using agile approaches to be more responsive, nimble and flexible” (p.6).  Fear of the unknown is a hold back for many of our colleagues.   “Despite the widespread agreement on the importance of digital media literacy, training in the supporting skills and techniques is rare in teacher education and non-existent in the preparation of most university faculty.” (Johnson et al., 2012, p.6).  Professional development or in house training on some of these specific ideas and techniques can eliminate much of the uncertainty and strain in the workplace.  “Perhaps what we have yet to realize is how to use these tools and services in ways to professionally develop, to teach, and to promote in education and in other aspects of faculty, staff, and students’ personal and professional lives” (Gesser, 2013, p.7).  Eportfolio platforms require no extra hardware, and only require the use of cloud-based or browser-based software, which means you are device independent and have access to your information wherever you are, and on whatever device you are using.  “Globally, in huge numbers, we are growing accustomed to a model of browser-based software that is device independent” (Johnson et al., 2012, p.4).  This means there is not much of a learning curve.  Actually when a pilot eportfolio program was implemented, the findings portrayed that all of the eportfolio platforms that were tested were almost unanimously considered easy to use and learn (Reese & Levy, 2009, p.6).

What if we could take something our students already use and depend on, and use it to our advantage in the classroom?

Anyone who has spent any amount of time with a teenager, knows how prominent social media is in the world today; yet it does not stop with teenagers.  In higher education our students are vastly dependent on social media for news, updates, collaboration, and acceptance in society.  What if we could take something our students already use and depend on, and use it to our advantage in the classroom?  “As social networks continue to flourish, educators are using them as professional communities of practice, as learning communities, and as a platform to share interesting stories about topics students are studying in class. Understanding how social media can be leveraged for social learning is a key skill for teachers, and teacher training programs are increasingly being expected to include this skill” (Johnson et al., 2014, p.8).  When people hear social media, some automatically think gossip, and teenage drama; however, Gesser (2013) explains, “Most of the early adopters of the now-mainstream social media/networking tools were the learned type” (p.7).  Most formal assignments can be somewhat transformed to accommodate the digital setting.  As Gesser (2013) describes, “My students complete and post most of their assigned work through Blogger. I encourage students to read and learn from each other’s work” (p.7).  This example from Gesser shows how our students’ up-to-the-minute collaboration and feedback desire is satisfied.  Many eportfolio platforms are housed within social media networks.  Being active and established on social media helps the college and educators connect and relate with this generation of students. Reese & Levy (2009) show that, “eportfoilios can help universities and colleges connect to today’s undergraduates who feel comfortable communicating through multiple media by publishing their experiences on sites such as Facebook, YouTube, and Flickr” (p.3).

“We need to build relationships with our prospects. And relationships no longer begin with a handshake — they begin with a Retweet, a Like, a Share, a Subscribe, a Comment, an interchange in social media”

Gesser (2013) shares some of the same struggles and frustrations that I have personally heard and experienced while working at a two-year technical school.  We are often times expected to perform so many more academic roles than those faculty members of four-year colleges and universities, because there are generally a wider set of student needs and opportunities (p.7).  To name a couple of the key duties that are our responsibility as instructors: recruitment and student retention rank among the top.  Both of these can be enhanced through the use of social media.  Dr. Jim Nolan, the President at Southwestern College, Santa Fe, believes in social media so strongly he considers it part of our job (Nolan, 2013).  Recruitment is everybody’s job. So consider this: If you are not active on social media, if you are not contributing to the recruitment of the incoming Class of 2014, you are probably not really doing your job” (Nolan, 2013).   In order to get students in our door and keep them there, we must build open and honest relationships with them.  Nolan (2013) shows one tip when trying to obtain new students, “We need to build relationships with our prospects. And relationships no longer begin with a handshake — they begin with a Retweet, a Like, a Share, a Subscribe, a Comment, an interchange in social media”.  Creating these digital eportfolios will allow students to link all of their social media platforms together, collaborate ideas with classmates and instructors at our own campus, and those at other colleges as well.  “A long-term trend is the growth of collaboration between different higher education institutions” (Johnson et al., 2015, p.6).  This compilation of our students’ information on their eportfolios will help them be found, noticed, and followed.

          “E-Portfolios can evolve and continue to support an individual’s professional growth after graduation.”

When it comes to customer satisfaction, with our students being the consumers, eportfolios can help our college stand above and beyond.  They have the potential to help our job placement rate, they could help with recruitment, and could possibly help with student retention and satisfaction.  “E-Portfolios can evolve and continue to support an individual’s professional growth after graduation.  E-Portfolios provide an opportunity for the university to stay connected with a generation of Facebook users- a cohort comfortable posting their biographies online- after they graduate” (Reese & Levy, 2009, p.4).  If we have graduates from Lamar institute of Technology working in the field, maintaining successful, prosperous careers, and blogging about their personal story through their eportfolio, this will definitely have a positive impact on our school.  Once students become excited about the benefits that eportfolios can bring to them, and they actually engage in true collaboration for the right reasons- more than just a grade- they will most likely continue to update and develop their eportfolios after graduation. Reese and Levy (2009) state, “Students communicated the value of documenting non-course and research activities such as internships and personal life experiences. Students also expressed interest in maintaining their e-portfolios after graduation” (p.7).  When current and future students see these blogs, it will inspire them to create and maintain their personal page for the right reasons.

“We are responsible for our students well-being, and it is upon us to initiate the spark that will cause the flame to ignite”

Eportfolios can have a radically positive influence on our institution.  It is up to us to initiate the movement.  “The onus is on universities to create the conditions for innovation to happen… Attitude is also key in adopting more organizational flexibility and innovative practices” (Johnson et al., 2015, p.8).  We are responsible for our students well-being, and it is upon us to initiate the spark that will cause the flame to ignite.  We can do so much more than send and receive emails with technology today.  Our students deserve more.  They are the generation of the here and now.  “You can also meet other experienced and skilled individuals who belong in the same field or industry. Choose from a variety of related topics to get full information. Education is also more interesting since you can get different types of content from videos, articles and links” (Vanessa Doctor, 2013).  Think about the possibility of our students collaborating with other instrumentation students across the world before accepting off-shore internships, to have the slightest bit of insight of what they are getting into before they take that leap.  We have the means to connect with other educators and students a mile away, as well as thousands of miles away.  “A long-term trend is the growth of collaboration between different higher education institutions” (Johnson et al., 2015, p.6).  We are no longer restricted by time, location, or access. We have it all. Let us give them real-time feedback, let us give them digital literacy, let us give them the satisfaction they deserve.

References

Cornell University, Center for Teaching Excellence. (n.d.). ePortfolios. Retrieved from https://www.cte.cornell.edu/teaching-ideas/teaching-with-technology/eportfolios.html

Craig, R. (2014, May 11). Education-as-a-service: 5 ways higher ed must adapt to a changing market. Retrieved from http://venturebeat.com/2014/05/11/education-as-a-service-5-ways-higher-ed-must-adapt-to-a-changing-market/

Gesser, C. M. (2013). Using social media in the classroom: A community college perspective. footnotes41(1), 7.

Johnson, L., Adams, S., and Cummins, M. (2012). The NMC Horizon Report: 2012 Higher Education Edition. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium.

Johnson, L., Adams Becker, S., Cummins, M., Estrada, V., Freeman, A., and Ludgate, H. (2013). NMC Horizon Report: 2013 Higher Education Edition. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium.

Johnson, L., Adams Becker, S., Estrada, V., Freeman, A. (2014). NMC Horizon Report: 2014 Higher Education Edition. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium.

Johnson, L., Adams Becker, S., Estrada, V., and Freeman, A. (2015). NMC Horizon Report: 2015 Higher Education Edition. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium.

Nolan, Dr. J. M. (2013, September 16). In higher education social media is your job. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-james-michael-nolan/in-higher-education-socia_b_3932373.html

Reese, M., & Levy, R. (2009). Assessing the future: E-portfolio trends, uses, and options in higher education. ECAR Research Bulletin2009(4). Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/ecar

Robinson, K. (2010, May 24). Sir Ken Robinson: Bring on the learning revolution! [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r9LelXa3U_I

Vanessa Doctor. (2013, July 31). Is social media Good for education? Retrieved from https://www.hashtags.org/platforms/twitter/is-social-media-good-for-education/

Yancey, K. B. (2009). Electronic portfolios a decade into the twenty-first century: What we know, what we need to know. peerReview11(1). Retrieved from https://www.aacu.org/publications-research/periodicals/electronic-portfolios-decade-twenty-first-century-what-we-know

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