IUPUI Communication Studies Program Uses CN ePortfolio to Track Student Competencies

by Allie Wigginton - September 9, 2019

CN has many users of diverse disciplines and backgrounds using ePortfolio for a variety of purposes. One great use case of ePortfolio resides in the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) Communication Studies department. We interviewed Dr. Elizabeth Goering, Professor of Communication Studies and Director of Undergraduate Studies for Communication Studies, to find out how she uses CN as an instructor, how her program intends to adopt CN ePortfolio, and what her students think about the platform.

To view examples of Dr. Goering's students' ePortfolios, see below:

1. How do you use CN ePortfolio to engage your students in the communication studies program?

The Department of Communication Studies recently launched an initiative designed to integrate CN ePortfolio throughout the curriculum in the major. The 2018-19 academic year was the pilot study for the initiative, and in 2019-20, we will begin expanding it into other courses in the major. We use CN ePortfolio to help students become more reflective about their learning, to become more aware of themselves as students of communication, and to represent themselves as emerging communication professionals by documenting and showcasing the key competencies they have acquired throughout the program. We want our graduates to be able to clearly articulate what they know and what they can do because they have completed a degree in Communication Studies, and the ePortfolio is an important tool in accomplishing that goal.

2. How do you guide your students to collect and present meaningful learning evidence on their ePortfolio? (hints: such as how you provide instructions in Canvas. This question aims to share your best practice with other instructors)

We use the metaphor of bookends to describe how we have integrated CN ePortfolio into our major curriculum. The one bookend is the Gateway course (COMM-G100: Introduction to Communication Studies), and the other bookend is the Capstone (COMM-G480: Capstone in Communication Studies). In G100, students are introduced to CN ePortfolio and to the desired Learning Outcomes in Communication (LOCs) that we have identified for our majors based on the recommendation of our discipline’s primary professional organization, the National Communication Association. The 10 LOCs represent the knowledge and competencies (e.g., create messages appropriate to audience, purpose, and context; critically analyze messages; utilize communication to embrace difference; influence public discourse, etc.) that students graduating with a degree in Communication Studies from IUPUI should have. In in-class workshops, trainers guide students through the process of setting up their CN ePortfolios and creating folders for each of the 10 LOCs. As students proceed through the coursework in their major, they are encouraged to upload evidence of their learning related to each of the LOCs into the appropriate folder. Along with the uploaded artifacts, students are expected to maintain two documents in each folder: 1) a descriptive document that explains which artifacts the student chose to include as evidence of learning related to that particular LOC, and 2) a reflective document in which they track and reflect on their growth and learning related to that particular LOC. Then, in the Capstone course, the second “bookend,” students work on transforming this raw data into an ePortfolio that represents them as an emerging communication professional and showcases their key competencies. Students share and receive feedback on their work-in-progress in the Capstone course, and the culmination of the course is a public showcase of the ePortfolios of all of the students completing their Capstone in that semester.

Example of folders on ePortfolio Example of the files inside a folder Example of showcases

3. What is your department's goal for ePortfolio? For students? For your program?

The goals of this ePortfolio initiative are two-fold: 1) Students will be better able to articulate what they know and can do as Communication Studies majors, and 2) the Department will be better able to track student learning related to specific LOCs for curriculum development and assessment purposes.

4. As the instructor of the freshman level course and the senior capstone course, why do you think it is important to begin and end the program with ePortfolio?

Communication Studies is not a degree with a direct path to a particular profession. Instead, the degree, like most degrees in Liberal Arts, provides students with knowledge and competencies that can prepare them for success in a wide range of careers and professions. Consequently, the need for students to recognize and articulate what they have learned and what they can do because of their program of study is particularly important. The ePortfolio seems perfectly suited for helping students do that, and through the “bookends” approach that we have adopted in Communication Studies, students are encouraged to integrate the practice of reflecting about learning into their entire course of study, from Gateway to Capstone.

5. How has your students' experience with CN ePortfolio?

Because this initiative is relatively new, the feedback we have from students is limited. However, the feedback we have received has been mostly positive. Students appreciate the opportunity to reflect on their learning. They recognize how important it is for them to know what they know and to “connect the dots” of their learning. They are also supportive of encouraging students to upload evidence of learning into the ePortfolio throughout their course of study. Students who were first introduced to CN ePortfolio in their Capstone found the task of creating an ePortfolio that documented learning related to all 10 LOCs in one semester to be a bit daunting.

6. Why did you select CN ePortfolio?

I spent quite a lot of time comparing the various platforms and ended up picking this one because it is embedded into Canvas, has outstanding local support, and was very intuitive to use. I particularly appreciate that students can control the setting on individual features of CN ePortfolio to make some things available only to instructors and other things publicly. This flexibility really serves our goals well.

7. In your opinion, what do you think the future holds for CN ePortfolio in teaching and learning as it applies to higher education?

I think CN ePortfolio could be a win-win for many stakeholders in higher education. Students benefit from being given an opportunity to be more intentional about processing and packaging their learning. Programs benefit from having data that could be useful in assessing the degree to which students are meeting desired learning outcomes. Potential employers benefit from having applicants who not only have learned but who also can clearly communicate what they have learned through their university education.

8. Could you tell me a little bit about your upcoming presentation for the IU Assessment Institute regarding the CN ePortfolio?

I am looking forward to the opportunity to present what we are doing with ePortfolios in Communication Studies at the Assessment Institute in October. I am particularly excited because three students from the pilot Capstone course have agreed to participate in the presentation. The presentation is entitled “Documenting Learning from Gateway to Capstone: Utilizing ePortfolios to Assess Attainment of Learning Outcomes within the Major.” In the presentation, I will describe the process of integrating the ePortfolio into the curriculum from the faculty perspective, and students will share their ePortfolios along with their experiences, struggles, and successes in developing them. Finally, both faculty and students will share lessons learned and adaptations that are being made as the department continues to integrate the ePortfolio more fully into its undergraduate curriculum.

Stay tuned for another blog detailing Dr. Goering's IU Assessment Institute presentation!