Student Success Blog For Educators


July 05, 2017

Including ePortfolios in Students’ First-Year Experience

Last week we delved into the benefits of looping advising into the ePortfolio process. Today, we’ll look at how schools are addressing the difficult transition for students from high school to higher ed as they face the unknown of the first year. Many have begun (or even retooled) offering first-year experience curricula to integrate their freshman classes academically and culturally into their new surroundings. So, it makes sense that ePortfolios are part of the process to help students start off in the right direction and better their chances for overall success.

The Moreau First Year Experience

At the University of Notre Dame, the Moreau First Year Experience was born out of a collaboration between the First Year of Studies and the Division of Student Affairs. The goal of this required two-semester course is to assist first-year students in making a meaningful transition to collegiate life by showing evidence of how they integrate their academic, co-curricular, and residential experiences through their ePortfolio assignments.


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Taken during fall and spring semesters, 19-20 students attend weekly small-group meetings with others from their on-campus residential ‘neighborhood’ to explore university resources, and opportunities and examine topics ranging from cultural competency and academic strategies for success to community standards and health and wellness. Students also use ePortfolios to reflect on their own intellectual, creative, professional, and personal development. You can view an example of a student ePortfolio here.

To some, this process may seem like hand holding or that it bears no value with regards to academics or career. However, it should be viewed as a way to get students familiar and comfortable with creating ePortfolios, along with fostering a sense of ownership and personal investment in their academics, and eventually their careers.

Key Takeaways

In the inaugural year of the Moreau First Year Experience, the school was able to collect, store, and analyze student data through Sakai (their open source learning management system) and ePortfolio submissions.

The data collected allowed the university the opportunity to:

  • Provide interventions for students with at-risk performances.
  • Show how students meet course goals of integrative learning and increasing sophistication in the use of technologies (audio, image, and video) through voluntary digital badges.

By no means should it be assumed that the evidence collected to earn these badges is frivolous. For example, for a student to obtain the Scholarly Discourse badge, students must submit a page from their first-year ePortfolio that demonstrates attendance to a specific event, inclusion of a narrative with media that demonstrates:

  • Value to the first-year experience and overall education.
  • Recognition regarding the implications of text and conversation for context, perspective, or issues beyond the written or spoken message.
  • Evaluation of the text and conversation for significance across disciplines, and analyzing discourse to build knowledge and insight across disciplines.
  • Show evidence that he/she can engage in reading and conversational discourse as part of continuing dialog in multiple phases of his/her education; and that text and dialog can be analyzed with and independent and ethical voice.

That first year can be rough, but if schools can take a proactive stance on giving students the tools to succeed from day one, then everyone will benefit from the results.

Share in the comments they ways your school has incorporated ePortolios into the first-year experience. 

Redefining Your ePortfolio Strategy with Tarleton State

Photo Courtesy of: Frederick Lang Jr.

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