Literature Course Redesigned for Eportfolio

In just over a month I will be participating in our Biggio Center’s Summer Course (Re)Design Seminar in order to design a core literature course that incorporates a group eportfolio assignment, if not, in fact, a larger eportfolio design.  There may be a way to bring together some, if not all, of my current assignments into the eportfolio, but for the moment I am imagining a single group assignment as a key component of the active learning environment, and to that end I am asking myself these questions:

How will the eportfolio assignment groups be selected?

Should I determine something about the strengths, weaknesses, and the interests of my students before I assign them to groups? Should I let them self-select?

When will these groups be set up?

If I wish to assemble the groups based on their academic profiles, how much time will I need to gather information or impressions about their capabilities and personalities? I also need to think about how much time the groups will need to complete this assignment satisfactorily.

How much time in class will be spent on eportfolio work?

Obviously, some time will need to be spent on explaining what an eportfolio is in our context, and I will want to explain my expectations, but will they need any class time devoted to workshopping the group eportfolio?

Will they present their work in class?

They already will have a final examination, and so I cannot have their final exams be eportfolio presentations, but, then, should I set aside a day to showcase the finished product?

How will eportfolio topics be made? How will they be chosen? From a bank of choices?

Because I am thinking of this as an extended project over many semesters, if not, in fact, over many years, broader topics such as the Enlightenment, Baroque music, the Africa diaspora, would be quickly exhausted, but if I could assign narrower topics within these broader fields, then it would be more likely that the project could be extended indefinitely. Then I would need, I believe, a bank of very narrow eportfolio topics each semester that would be relevant to that semester’s assigned texts and theme.

How specific must eportfolio topics be?

This will require much more thought and planning.I could, for instance, create potential topics by cross listing categories like cultural periods, geographic regions, and art forms, e.g. folk music of Asia during the seventeenth century, landscape painting in England’s Romantic era, or Native American mythic figures represented on pre-Columbian pottery. But even these are only likely to be starting points.

How will I amass student eportfolio assignments?

If I continue to think of this as an open-ended project, and if I want an uber-site where this information and analysis could be collected, then should I ask students to create eportfolios on platforms of their choosing, assemble the links to their sites and weave them into a site I make on a platform I choose in order for future students to see models of class expectations and to have a resource to supplement their own study in the semester when they’re taking my course?

What grade weight will I assign the group eportfolio?

Apart from the issue of creating more grading work for myself, do I want to assign a higher weight percentage to a collaborative project given the issues, real or imagined, that may turn up over the course of the semester? I’m thinking a lower weight percentage would be more appropriate, but not so low as to de-incentivize the assignment

How will I incorporate peer assessment into the eportfolio grade?

Peer assessment has to be part of the process in anticipation of unequal contributions to the group assignment. Ideally I want something specific, but simple, and I would want to incorporate the peer assessment, perhaps by inserting an average of the peer scores into the assignment’s grading rubric.

Will platforms be optional? What will be the central platform?

At this point, I can’t see any choice except to make the eportfolio platform optional, but I will need to investigate further to determine the best platform for the ongoing uber-site. My experience is primarily with Wix, but I have some experience with WordPress, whose look I prefer, and I have as yet little experience with the other platforms.

How will I reduce the temptation to plagiarism?

I certainly don’t want to create a clearinghouse for cribbed papers.To reduce this probability, I will want to engineer the assignment’s reflective elements and other specific details into a unique, recognizable project that would have limited application outside of assigned context.

What will be the individual components and artifacts of each eportfolio?

My initial thoughts are to approach the literature eportfolio as I have the composition eportfolio, that is, to have a minimum number of required artifacts for each portfolio.  But I may want to specify certain types or numbers or combinations of artifacts since there will be several students, at least, working on each single eportfolio.  I would want each contributing member to include a required reflective text, and additionally I would want some combination of images, embedded videos and/or audio, pdfs, and links.

What do I want them to learn from the eportfolio assignment?

For the individuals in their individual groups I could see this improving their information literacy, their meta-cognition, their critical discernment, their ability to collaborate, and their knowledge of historical and cultural context. Specifically, I would expect them to recognize the interconnectedness of ideas and disciplines, to recognize that neither literature nor any other pursuit happens in isolation.

How will the eportfolio assignment fit in with the rest of the course?

I think the most direct way to have this assignment work towards the overarching themes of the course is to specifically design the required components of the course, and most especially the reflective writing, to address the larger themes. This may also require adjusting the course object to incorporate the educational goals of the eportfolio assignment.

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Alternatively, I may have the students work on smaller, individual eportfolios and then have them in their groups assemble these into the group’s eportfolio before passing this along to me to incorporate into the uber-site.  Quite a bit more to figure out.

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