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CAT ePortfolio Subcommittee

Members of the Committee on Academic Technology ePortfolio Sub-Committee


ePortfolio Subcommittee Report

  • The ePortfolio subcommittee met on Tuesday, March 22, at 4:00 PM. Members present included Barbara Walters, Joe Ugoretz, Howard Wach, Gina Cherry, and Sarah Morgano. This report has been generated in haste — please feel free to comment or amend.

    The discussion was a lively one, summarized below, with one key take-away: the ePortfolio subcommittee members recommend that the Committee on Academic Technology endorse a formal resolution to eliminate or substantially revise Objective #5 (p.5) in the Draft CUNY IT Strategic plan as stated below.

    “Identify best practices, recommend software solutions, and support requirements for an enterprise e-Portfolio solution” (ePortfolio is the preferred spelling).

    The members of the subcommittee are unified on this; there is not and cannot be a “one-size-fits-all” for ePortfolios. This would have disastrous consequences for students in programs that need to tailor ePortfolios to different goals, needs, and objectives.

    Much of our discussion centered on the enhancement of communication capabilities in Digication and a comparison of Digication with other platforms in this area. Gina noted the broader recognition of an “on-the-ground” problem, largely prompted by our recent C2L “Jam” and the recognition on the part of experienced ePortfolio faculty and administrators that moving back and forth between the CMS, the community blog, and the Digication comment feature is cumbersome. Howard discussed the flexibility and responsiveness of Jeff Yan, CEO of Digication, and his expressed willingness to work with the C2 L community, adapting the platform to our needs.

    This led naturally to a discussion of other platforms and their capabilities for combining ePortfolio with discussions and blogs, especially in light of one of our first “universals” – the ePortfolio belongs to the student and should exist outside the course management system. Joe Ugoretz, who quickly became identified as “Joe the ‘O’” (outlier) advised us of the many possibilities through plug-ins with WordPress, the “free puppy”, while at the same time acknowledging the unique characteristics of Macaulay students. They provide a contrast to the needs of most CUNY students for a simpler platform like Digication. The Digication group (Gina, Howard, Barbara) likewise acknowledged that while most students and programs may best be served by simpler platforms, the university should continue to provide opportunities for students with high end of technological competencies through platforms like WordPress and its many plug-ins.

    The remainder of our discussion centered on Assessment capabilities and again the different strategies for different kinds of students: an echo of the earlier discussion of Swann’s Way and Guermantes way – a metaphor not to be taken too literally or too far. But some students need the lattice structure with its matrix of competencies and technological ease of a platform like Digication to structure their path; others can “just do it” – making their way through as well as creating a cyberspace labyrinth of “curiosities” that expresses their digital identities; they need something different. We appreciate what informal outliers like Joe Ugoretz bring to the discussion and the questions he poses: we want to emphasize that the “O” must not become an institutional deviant role through the imposition of an enterprise solution or by folks who think there’s only one solution to ePortfolios.

    We did touch briefly on the IT university-wide publishing platform for students – a discussion that extends beyond ePortfolios.

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  • Hi Everyone –

    Sorry I wasn’t able to participate in what sounds like a great conversation. And I wholeheartedly agree that we should not be recommending an enterprise eportfolio solution right now, and who knows maybe not ever. Right now is a time to experiment, and as Clay Shirky described for newspapers, and maybe so goes eportfolio and online education, “If the old model is broken, what will work in its place?” The answer is: Nothing will work, but everything might.”

    I have to count myself as “Mike the other O.” York is using WordPress as well for eportfolio and it is a robust experiment with over 1700 students. Honestly it’s part eportfolio, part open classroom and I think a big part of the spirit of eportfolio centers around student ownership and reflection out in the open.

    Look forward to the next meeting of the subcommittee to share insight and ideas.



    Hi everyone, posting live from the CAT meeting. I wanted to put this resource out there I mentioned about how institutions typically choose eportfolio systems.

    Kathleen Blake Yancey
    “Electronic Portfolios a Decade into the Twenty-first Century: What We Know, What We Need to Know”
    Peer Review – Emerging Trends and Key Debates in Undergraduate Education
    Vol. 11, No. 1 | Winter 2009
    Free PDF download.

    When initiating e-portfolio projects, campuses often begin by deciding on a specific technology to support e-portfolios. Common criteria for such technologies include cost and ease of use, but as recent research demonstrates, another criterion is equally important: the ways the technology is programmatically formative. Although e-portfolios are not themselves about technology, any technology – be it the common tool, the open source software, the homegrown system, the commercially available e-portfolio tool, or the Web 2.0 social network – is a “structured system” (Johnson 2009) and will permit or support certain kinds of activities and preclude others. Penn State University’s research on electronic portfolios provides an excellent example of how this works. The Penn State team initially hoped for a single e-portfolio “enterprise solution,” but increasingly found a disconnect between their interest in institutional program assessment and their equally important commitment to fostering student dialogue and participation. As the research team explains:

    Throughout our participation in coalition research on e-Portfolios at Penn State our research question has remained focused around co-curricular learning and the role that structured systems play in facilitating student engagement in specific learning outcomes. What has challenged our research endeavors has been changing technology within which we have had to conduct this activity. For various reasons we have moved from open web space and common web publishing tools to ANGEL e-Portfolio to PebblePad and now to MovableType (Johnson 2009).

    In other words, the Penn State original plan for e-portfolios consisted of finding an enterprise system solution that would support learning for all students while at the same time providing an administrative ‘back door’ through which an aggregation of rich assessment data related to learning could be harvested. Such a hypothetical system to satisfy all these needs is untenable (Johnson 2009).

    From Johnson. G. 2009. Penn State final report for the International Coalition for Electronic Portfolio Research. Feb. 28.

    Published in Peer Review

    Michael — Thanks for this reference. I’m just now thinking through our brief statement and the reference is extremely helpful. Barbara

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