My colleague Lynda Robinson and I attended The Canadian Association for Prior Learning Assessment  (CAPLA) in Toronto, Ontario, November 17-19, 2013. CAPLA is a non-profit, membership based organization with a voluntary board of directors, the Chair none other than our own Student Affairs Executive Director, Patrick J. Donahoe, PhD. Please see The History of CAPLA at: http://capla.ca/Background.php

Sunday morning bright bleary-eyed and bushy-tailed, I attended one of the Pre-Conference Workshops: The Power of ePortfolios: Documenting and Managing Knowledge Assets in Today’s Labour Market. The presenters were: Tracy Penny-Light, Associate Professor, University of Waterloo http://uwaterloo.ca/history/people-profiles/tracy-penny-light; Katherine Lithgow, Senior Instructional Developer, Integrative Learning, University of Waterloo https://uwaterloo.ca/centre-for-teaching-excellence/people-profiles/katherine-lithgow ; Jason Thomson, E-Learning Specialist, University of Guelph; G. Alex Ambrose, Academic Advisor, Notre Dame University http://fys.nd.edu/fys-resources/first-year-advisors/alex-ambrose/ ; Trent Batson, Present AAEEBL; Judy Batson, Vice President, AAEEBL http://www.aaeebl.org/?page=executive_team

Neat to Note: Tracy Penny-Light worked with Liesel Knaack in another lifetime, and on top of a pile of books I’ve borrowed (I will return them, I promise!) from the Centre for Innovation and Excellence is a book on ePortfolios written by Tracy Penny-Light, Bob Sproule and Katherine Lithgow, (2009). Connecting Contexts and Competencies: Using ePortfolios for Integrative Learning, Stylus Publishing. Of course now having met one of the authors, I must finish reading their book!

This workshop concentrated on those educators who were maybe thinking about ePortfolios as well as to introduce ePortfolios to those unfamiliar, and introduced the good folks, Trent and Judy Batson from the Association for Authentic, Experiential and Evidence-Based Learning (see link to their website above), a US-based, not-for-profit organization. The workshop focused on ePortfolios as a tool to enhance learners’ successes, in the classroom and beyond. To my delight, I realized I did not fall under either of these categories. The presenters nicely demonstrated and discussed the many benefits of ePortfolios for learners.

For the past several years I have incorporated Paper Portfolios in my second year Co-operative Education Preparation courses. However, with the insistent pressure of technology and the availability of our in house VIU Learn (Desire2Learn) platform, my colleague Lynda Robinson and I have since moved to ePortfolios.

For me it started as a way to prepare students in the Bachelor of Tourism Management degree program who would be required in their fourth year Grad Seminar class to prepare a portfolio. My motive was also a means to further integrate (supported by the terrific faculty in the department of Recreation and Tourism) Co-operative Education into the program.

Just as with everything in life, those students who put their best efforts into their personal lives, education and careers, indeed create outstanding portfolios. In fact I sometimes wonder if I have been sleep walking through my life/career, their accomplishments and learning as demonstrated through their ePortfolios are amazing!

I must declare I like portfolios and am slowly coming to appreciate ePortfolios!

It is my belief ePortfolios provide, even compel our students to reflect on where they have been, and where they are going and/or want to go with their education and careers. The naturally iterative process of putting together a portfolio helps students organize and acknowledge the competencies they have gained, the learning they have attained, the destination they are heading in and in some instances, students discover they need to make a U-turn–fantastic!

Although portfolios are definitely useful and even advantage our students when they are applying for work, I am considerably more invested in “all” students at Vancouver Island University (VIU) having the opportunity to invest in a reflective practice, to analyze, assess, to make decisions, document growth and progress, and ultimately for our students to feel proud about the evidence they have put together in an ePortfolio while at VIU.

Recommendation: Let us have “all” of our students get their accomplishments out of a shoebox and into an ePortfolio.shoebox-organiser-a

There is more to write about the CAPLA conference, a blend of ePortfolios and Prior Learning Assessment sessions. And, at VIU, we do some of both. However, because my colleague and I are part of a potential pilot project (more to come on this) we were fortunate to be able to attend this conference. We were pleased to realize we are doing some things quite well, and we learned some things from the sessions we attended. We also got some new ideas to initiate our pilot project…more on this in future posts.

Stay tuned!…Please.