Faculty Scholarly Dissemination Grants


Going Public with E-portfolios: Opening Up Communication and Composition in a Digital Environment that Speaks to the Net Generation


Writing Department


College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Date Range



Arts and Humanities


Every semester, 29 composition professors in Grand Valley State Universitys (GVSU) Writing Department collect over 1,700 portfolios from students enrolled in WRT 150, Strategies in Writing a general education course. Each portfolio, 15-20 pages, is distributed by faculty, graded, and redistributed for third reads if necessary, resulting in the circulation of about 35,000 sheets of paper each semester. To ease the paper load and improve the portfolio process, the department developed a custom web application using an open-source platform referred to as the Digital Portfolio Management System (DPMS). The DPMS was created in the summer of 2012 and piloted during fall 2012 and winter 2013 semesters. The system, built to disseminate portfolios through the grading process, is coupled with a kind of drop box system referred to as the Drafts Folder that is connected to portfolio grading groups that allows professors to electronically respond to student work throughout the semester. Originally designed to introduce efficiencies, the DPMS transformed not only the process of assessing student portfolios but teacher pedagogy as well. Portfolios have characteristically been paper-based. English departments and writing programs have been employing portfolios for more than 25 years and using e-portfolios since the mid-1990s. E-portfolios fundamentally change how students learn, how faculty members teach, and how universities assess the value of their education (Batson, 2002; Blake Yancey, 2009; Lucas, 1992). Clark and Eynon (2009) claim the growth of e-portfolio use is directly related to its elasticity, to the diversity of purposes for which it can be used, including enriched learning and improved career development, transfer, and assessment. As the use of digital technologies increases in universities, interest in e-portfolio technology is rising in the field. This panel will explore the changes happening in portfolio pedagogy as assessment groups move from traditional paper portfolios to an e-portfolio system. GVSUs team grading method relies on open public standards, and although the move to an electronic end-of-term threatened to make the grading process more private, it actually made it more public. Ultimately, the presentation will highlight the possibilities and vulnerabilities teachers, composition programs, and departments encounter as they open themselves up to new digital technologies such as e-portfolio systems. The creation of e-portfolio systems, such as GVSUs, is rapidly changing the digital landscape of writing instruction. Speaking the Same Language: Using the DPMS to Connect Digital Immigrants and Digital Natives in the First-Year Writing Classroom Speaker #1 will discuss how the integration of the DPMS into GVSUs composition program has impacted teacher pedagogy and strengthened student-teacher relationships. It’s important to acknowledge that todays writing students are no longer the people our higher educational system was designed to teach. The way the net generation thinks and processes information is extremely different. Prensky (2001) claims current students are all native speakers of the digital language of computers, video games and the Internet. Many writing teachers struggle to teach a student population that speaks an entirely new tongue. As digital immigrants, we assume that these learners are the same as they have always been, and that the same teaching practices that worked for us when we were students will work for millennial students. However, this isn’t the case anymore. The DPMS has challenged writing teachers, like me, to acknowledge that our students and their learning needs have changed drastically. As a result, we have begun reconsidering our pedagogy and trying approaches that are outside of our comfort zones (e.g., e-comments, e-grading, and using new technology). The adoption of a more digital approach to teaching has made instructors feel more connected with students and further enriched student-teacher exchanges in and out of the classroom. Efficiencies in Blending Composition and Communication through the Draft Papers Feature of the DPMS Speaker #2 will discuss the efficiencies shared between faculty and students while using the Draft Papers feature of the DPMS. Clark and Eynon (2009) assert, Discourse around educational technology has been energized by emerging digital tools for distributive communication and exchange. Connecting with students using the DPMS's Drafts Folder enables faculty to cut down on paper waste and at the same time offer rapid evaluative feedback on essays, address composition concerns directly, and increase student accountability. This heuristic feature improves pedagogy by increasing communication with faculty and students, creating less confusion and greater clarity between faculty expectations and student productivity. In addition, the DPMS has transformed communication between portfolio group colleagues since drafts can be exchanged electronically with the flip of a switch inside the Drafts Folder feature eliminating the need to distribute photocopied student drafts for discussion. Professors tote IPads now instead of paper copies of drafts. The system is transforming the evaluative process within GVSUs Writing Department as faculty adapt to a virtual platform where milennials feel most comfortable. "The Virtual Grading Room: How Open Grading through the DPMS Connects Faculty" Speaker #3 will discuss the benefits of group-grading student portfolios online. Prior to the DPMS, instructors exchanged manila folders, graded in isolation, and reconvened only to compare the grades and conduct third reads of incompatibilities. The new system allows group graders to become public with the process of writing assessment. Public assessment is a valued tool for writing instructors, who often use forum-based strategies when they ask their students to workshop drafts or share work online. Fahey, Lawrence and Fartore (2010) describe the student-related benefits of an online shared learning environment: "The process of thinking about, talking about, and using data in a collaborative forum extends and deepens everyone's understanding about a problem or issue." The DPMS creates the same opportunity for instructors. As instructors grade student writing, leave comments on portfolios, and find out instantaneously whether grades match, they are engaged in a collaborative process that makes them think more about whether the grades they are assigning align with the shared standards

Conference Name

College Composition and Communication 2014 Conference: Open | Source(s), Access, Futures

Conference Location

Indianapolis, IN

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