Queensborough Leads Nation in Innovative use of ePortfolios

Queensborough Leads Nation in Innovative use of ePortfolios in Virtual Learning Communities

Anita Ferdenzi

The Office of Academic Affairs invites you to join the growing ranks of faculty engaged in virtual eLearning Communities using ePortfolio. Since 2007, the Making Connections ePortfolio team at Queensborough Community College has collaborated to develop a set of pioneering strategies to tap into the dynamic potential of the ePortfolio platform to promote student engagement and learning. During the initial phase in the Making Connections project, we focused on mastering ePortfolio’s traditional or static component – the ePortfolio section entitled About Me. However, during the next year’s iteration of our ePortfolio work, we quickly began to explore and develop social pedagogy strategies using Epsilen’s ePortfolio tools.

In this second iteration of QCC’s Making Connections project, the ePortfolio team worked towards developing the dynamic dimension of the ePortfolio platform using the WIKI tool as a shared eLearning space to house a virtual Learning Community between three classes – the Student WIKI Interdisciplinary Group which has come to be known as SWIG. The first SWIG model consisted of a Basic Skills, English Composition course on Writing in the New Media and a content course in Education. Since then, SWIG teams have developed Virtual eLearning Communities in a variety of themes with the addition of disciplines such as Nursing, Social Sciences, and Speech/Theatre and Art. Each semester, faculty collaborate to explore possible themes and create new and exciting Learning Communities in eLearning Space designed to engage their students in social learning experiences.

You may either choose to join the original three course Virtual Learning Community model, adapt your traditional Learning Community into an eLearning space environment, or incorporate social pedagogy via ePortfolio with a stand-alone course. The ePortfolio platform offers a variety social pedagogy tools for you to experiment with such as the Discussion Forum, Announcements, Drop Box and WIKI. The Epsilen platform also provides students with easy access to Web 2.0 tools to enhance their understanding of course concepts as they evidence their learning through a variety of assignments using multi and social media.

After a competitive application process in 2010, the QCC ePortfolio leadership team was selected to participate in a nationwide consortium of 22 campuses to explore and strengthen best practices in ePortfolio Pedagogy led by LaGuardia’s national leadership project, “Connect to Learning: ePortfolio, Engagement and Student Success.” This FIPSE’s funded support afforded QCC’s team the opportunity to continue its work and perfect its innovative practices around ePortfolio which attained international recognition from the League of Innovation in Community Colleges and acknowledged Queensborough’ SWIG Model with an Innovation of the Year Award. The League is an international organization serving community colleges.

In 2012, the Connect to Learning research scholars noted that QCC was in the forefront of a nationwide consortium of colleges and universities engaged in the development of social pedagogy practices using ePortfolio. Scholars Bass and Elmendorf (2012) created a model of Social Pedagogies as a framework for design and inquiry and defined social pedagogies as “design approaches for teaching and learning that engage students with what we might call an authentic audience (other than the teacher), where the representation of knowledge for an audience is absolutely central to the construction of knowledge in a course”. QCC’s set of best practices using ePortfolio have been studied, showcased and captured in this elegant model of social pedagogy.

Nation in Innovative use of ePortfolios
“You are not sharing your experience if you can’t speak about it. I mean, you may still have the experience, but if you can’t share it or use it in any kind of way you are really not learning if you can’t apply it.”
Education Student

The QCC SWIG model continues to evolve with each wave of new faculty participants. In fact, faculty members have reported that membership in the QCC SWIG project and participation in Connect to Learning’s national discourse around ePortfolio pedagogy has afforded them transformational learning experience on par with that of their virtual Learning Community students. SWIG faculty teams have found Epsilen’s ePortfolio tools to be an excellent vehicle for the design and seamless embed of learning experiences within the context of QCC’s High Impact Practices: Cornerstone-Writing Intensive-Academic Service Learning-ePortfolio-Learning Community. Strategies whose benefits are especially striking for students who are underprepared and come from communities that have been historically underserved in Higher Education (Kuh, 2008).

 

Consider stepping out of your comfort zone for a moment, and think about the possibilities of taking your signature pedagogy to new heights with ePortfolio enhanced teaching strategies. The Office of Academic Computing will provide you with training and technical support and assist you overcoming your trepidation about venturing into the unfamiliar territory of eLearning. The Center for Teaching and Learning (CETL) will guide you on how to incorporate these new instructional strategies into your practice. As a member of the SWIG team, you will be able to participate in the national discourse on social pedagogy enhanced eLearning using ePortfolios and contribute to the growing body of evidence around this new frontier in Higher Education.