Original Post December 13, 2013
Fanshawe College is one of the largest colleges in Ontario, Canada. Fanshawe offers courses at numerous campus locations as well as online. There are over 17,000 full time students and an additional 26,000 part time students attending Fanshawe College. Fanshawe encourages students to "stretch your mind, expand your horizons, and explore new techniques and knowledge."
With a focus on student engagement and innovation, it is no surprise that Fanshawe College has found Desire2Learn's ePortfolio to be a valuable tool in the learning experience. Wendy Wilson, the MOOC Coordinator at Fanshawe, saw the potential in ePortfolio in her previous role as the Coordinator of Technology in Language and Liberal Studies and started using it with her students. She loved ePortfolio so much that she evangelized for its use throughout the college.
Wendy discovered that through the ePortfolio, trainings could be enhanced, student engagement increased, and presentations made more interactive and interesting. Faculty had grown accustomed to presenting material in a stagnate manner, such as, PowerPoint. Many had grown bored with the program and/or did not use it in an engaging manner. Years of watching slides had created a less than enthusiastic response to presentations.
According to Ms. Wilson, faculty who have adopted ePortfolio find that students enjoy the chance to create lively and individualized presentations. Since the ePortfolio is a lifelong learning tool and can be accessed beyond the classroom, faculty and students are able to collaborate and share presentations with others. This was a welcome feature as faculty were able to make their presentations more interactive. Check out the Student Showcase for some examples.
In fact, faculty and students found that presentations went well beyond what PowerPoint had once offered. Students and teachers are able to create and showcase achievements and then share them with select individuals or publicly via URL. The presentations were not just slides with information but could be web based and interactive. Wendy created a "magazine" approach with her students. Students created project based presentations to reflect learning throughout the semester. The students showcased models, sketches, CAD drawings, and more. After students completed and submitted their final presentation, they created a page on her presentation that provided and overall reflection of their project. Wendy linked each student page to the student's complete portfolio presentation. Students were able to continue to grow their presentations by gathering feedback from peers, making revisions, and updating with new knowledge or artifacts. As the presentations updated, a reader could continue to follow the changes and see the newest versions. This provided a wonderful collaborative environment that encouraged sharing learning experiences and let students gain recognition of the work they were doing. Students appreciate the way their work has been displayed, and some even revisit the magazine later. Ms. Wilson agrees, "I have noticed that some students come back to look at my "magazines", I also call them compilations or curations, up to two years after they have left the college. Often my ePortfolio presentation gives them a chance to take another look, or possibly show someone else."
Because the ePortfolio allows students to create presentations in a 'website' type format that they are more accustomed to, students have enjoyed using it. It has provided a new way to engage them and allowed them to problem solve with their teams as they work on projects. ePortfolio has also impacted ESL student performance. Without the language barriers, ESL students have enjoyed highlighting their work and have expressed that they are not as inhibited as they usually feel with standard written work. Wendy stated, "International students from non-English speaking countries especially enjoy creating ePortfolio presentations as it gives them a chance to present their work in a visually appealing way." The ability to incorporate media and demonstrate learning in a variety of ways has provided not just ESL but all students a personal way to express themselves and their learning.
Beyond the typical classroom, ePortfolio has found its way into training, too. For those unable to attend training sessions at Fanshawe College, presentations are available as an easy access resource to help faculty obtain information they need. For example, faculty with Smart Board technology may use the URL to access a training presentation from anywhere. This presentation has a plethora of information to help them get started and breaks down the Smart Board basics in a user-friendly manner. Videos are incorporated as well to help engage instructors and demonstrate the "how to" of what is being explained. "Faculty appreciate the chance to receive just in time training and have small questions answered when they are assigned to a new room with a Smart Board", according to Ms. Wilson.
With the user-centric nature of ePortfolio, lifelong learning becomes a reality. Capturing learning experiences, collaborating around presentations, artifacts, and projects, and showcasing achievements are really the tip of the iceberg for ePortfolio use. As Wendy Wilson and Fanshawe College have demonstrated, ePortfolio can be applied in a broad spectrum of instructional formats and is able to harness various types of content.