ePortfolio Tool Developed at NMSU

ACANS News & Information Center

ePortfolio Tool Developed at NMSU

For those of you who are interested in using a digital portfolio tool, there is a newly created tool available, and it is free of charge to all NMSU students, faculty, and staff. 

The portfolio initiative was funded by the Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HIS) Education Grants Program, which is administered by the USDA Office of Higher Education Programs.  Its purpose is to promote and strengthen the ability of HSI to carry out educational programs that attract, retain, and graduate students who will go on to enhance the Nation’s food and agricultural scientific and professional workforce. 

In the spring of 2005, the College of Agriculture and Home Economics received a $300,000, two-year grant, from the USDA Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES) to increase technology skills among it students and faculty.  Barbara Chamberlin, Extension Instructional Design and Educational Media Specialist and Assistant Professor for University Communications and Marketing Services/Media Productions, assumed the role of Project Director and with direction from an advisory panel decided that just such a tool could be used to increase technology skills.  She assembled two focus groups of approximately 45 students to identify the needs and establish goals for the project. 

The response was immediately favorable; however, after investigating existing digital portfolio tools, they were found to be difficult to use and expensive.  The team decided they should design their own tool, and CC Chamberlin was appointed lead programmer on that project.  CC was tasked with developing a Portfolio Tool specific  to NMSU’s needs.  Working with experts across the university system, CC designed the portfolio as a web-based tool so that it integrated with existing systems and was readily accessible to any student, faculty, or staff on any of NMSU’s five campuses who had an NMSU username and password. 

Initially, the project was envisioned as a way to increase students’ technological skills; however, students were quick to see it as a tool that could be used to showcase their talents when applying to graduate school and as a means to display their technology skills in the job market.

Members of the advisory committee were equally excited.  Faculty members who took part in the pilot test voluntarily implemented the tool in their Fall 2005 classes.  “The Portfolio initiative has seen tremendous success,” says Barbara Chamberlin.  “Students using the program love it.  Faculty have enjoyed using the tool so much, they are taking it to faculty senate for endorsement.”

Enthusiasm for the tool’s potential has been so positive that Michael Hites, Information and Communication Technologies Chief Information Officer, has decided to institutionalize the project, supporting its use and making it available to students, faculty, and staff next fall. 

Even those students, faculty, and staff who had limited computer skills found it easy to use.  They were enthusiastic with the tool’s capability in allowing them to load their portfolio onto their NMSU web server space as either their main page or a subsequent page.  And in the event the user moves or graduates, the tool provides the ability to move files to another web server.  Additionally, users can download it as a “ zipped” file and move it to a folder which they can burn onto a CD to create a CD based portfolio.   

In Fall 2005, the digital portfolio was integrated into class instruction for assessment purposes.  Students in five classes in the College of Agriculture and Home Economics were required to include text, documents, photos, and digital video in their portfolios.  Instructors, who were members of the development team, worked one-on-one with students to assist them in designing their portfolio.  Their instruction included teaching the technology skills needed to convert digital documents to Portable Document Format (PDF) format, video editing, audio presentation, uploading files onto their NMSU server space, and creating PDF files. 

Data gathered from participants after they had completed the class showed that 84.2 percent of them had significantly increased their technology skills in at least one area.  And interestingly, many participants reported “the portfolio was not the main emphasis of the technology training.”  Instead, they saw the training as a “vehicle and motivating factor for increasing skills in other areas.”

Working with the College of Extended Learning, Chamberlin is developing training materials and workshops to take the tool campus-wide this Fall. 

Chamberlin and Michael Hites, ICT Chief Information Officer, will be submitting a $200,000 grant proposal to make the code for the tool open source.  If funded, other universities would be able to download the code and implement the tool on their campus. 

A movie demo of the tool is currently available at:  http://web.nmsu.edu/portfolio.  

ACANS Newscenter is published by the Association of Computing and Networking Services at New Mexico State University. If you would like to subscribe to the ACANS Newscenter, request further information, or to submit articles of interest contact ICT Strategic Relations, 646-4857  email: ict_sr@nmsu.edu