Siobhan McPhee in Geography uses ePortfolios

It’s exciting for the students to be able to present their findings to an actual audience with ePortfolios, rather than just submit an academic paper.

 

–Siobhán McPhee, Senior Instructor of the Geography Department


Back Story

I started using ePortfolios in GEOG 379B – “Field School at Williams Lake” (25 students) in 2015 and have since incorporated it into GEOG 352 – “Urbanization in the Global South” (100 students).

My motivation with ePortfolios was to encourage students to showcase their work and speak to an audience with a medium that was different from an academic paper. This also gave my students the option of using ePortfolios in the future to share their work to grad schools and employers.

How do you use ePortfolios in your course and what made you decide to do this?

For GEOG 379B “Field School at Williams Lake”, the ePortfolio was the centrepiece of the assessments and a group initiative rather than an individual project. On the ePortfolio site, each student was required to have an individual page where they could reflect on their experiences as a member of their group. Other than that, the ePortfolio was used to:

  • Develop their research project with their community partner
  • Present reflections on the process of doing research
  • Present research and findings

They were assessed along the way in scaffolded steps building up to the final project.

In GEOG 352 “Urbanization in the Global South”, it was a bit different. The ePortfolio was just one component of their assessment alongside a midterm exam, final exam and final paper, however, it was still a group project. Students had to choose a theme and a city, and I prompted them to present their portfolio as if their audience was a stakeholder to the city. For example, maybe students were writing for the mayor’s office or an international geological engineer who was providing funding to deal with sanitation in New Delhi.

What has been the result?

For both courses, I felt that students had a greater sense of ownership in their projects.

As students worked together in a longer process throughout the term rather than just a final presentation, there was a greater sense of ownership in the project. I would also say that in the field school, there was a lot of flexibility, as I didn’t require students to create ePortfolios in any particular way. As a result, the ePortfolios were vastly different from each other and each site really spoke to how the students had interacted with each other and their community partners.

What are some of the challenges you’ve faced and is there anything about your approach you would improve or change?

I found that the extremely loose structure of the ePortfolio provided some challenges to some students. I feel that a general criteria of what should be included on each page should be provided to the students for more guidance.