Electronic student portfolios (i.e., ePortfolios) promote professional development by causing the student to reflect on what they have learned, integrating their often seemingly disconnected coursework, and constructing their own understanding of their chosen profession. Portfolio assignments can be useful for encouraging student self reflection and documenting achievement of student learning outcomes. The constructivist pedagogical approach implicit in these ePortfolio applications enables students to generate their own meaning while also allowing faculty assessment of student performance in individual courses and over a longer undergraduate career. A high quality ePortfolio combines the attributes of social networking media, blogs, and more traditional paper-based portfolios. They include artifacts that serve as evidence of achievement, and incorporate reflective short essays that provide context and connection between student experiences and their future professional and personal aspirations. They have been successfully used by students to showcase their accomplishments to potential employers. They have also been beneficial for engineering programs to communicate the achievement of student outcomes with ABET program evaluators.
This paper compares and contrasts the implementation of ePortfolios by two undergraduate biosystems / biological engineering programs at two different universities. One program embeds ePortfolio requirements over three years beginning in the sophomore heat transfer course. During the junior year, the fluid mechanics course requires students to continue to build this online document. Two courses in their senior year, a professional practice course and a capstone design course, allow them to further polish and refine their ePortfolios.
The use of portfolios, along with the introduction of topics on professional skills and business practices, has been a feature in a required junior-level professional development course in the second program since 2005, helping to prepare students for the engineering profession and encouraging them to reflect upon their undergraduate career. In 2015, the course instructors transitioned the previously hardcopy portfolio assignments into an ePortfolio.
This paper presents the results of both implementations of ePortfolios. Rubrics and calibrated reading techniques allowed the establishment of inter-reader reliability. Mixed methods research methods were applied, generating quantitative and qualitative assessment data (e.g., grades on individual elements; student surveys, focus groups, and individual interview results; employer feedback; plus instructor reflections). Results show that students are achieving ABET outcomes and that students value the ePortfolio.
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