Instructure Blog

In this Program Assessment case study, we interview Tracy Dinesen, Associate Dean of Academic Affairs at Simpson College, to find out how Simpson College has been using Portfolium to support their assessment practices and student success initiatives.


What was your motivation in seeking an ePortfolio platform? What tools have you tried before? Why did they not suffice?


Initially the faculty was hesitant to have ePortfolio software because a prior version of a ePortfolio on our campus was not successful in meeting the educational goals. Because of this hesitancy, departments created their own collection and assessment processes for program assessment. For general education assessment we used our portal to share documents and created a labor intensive process using Microsoft Excel. The faculty wasn’t satisfied with the processes or the amount of time they spent assessing, but we couldn’t justify buying a software that wouldn’t directly benefit students.


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After four years of the assessment processes the faculty and administration agreed that it was time to invest in technology to help with program and general education assessment. While it wasn’t a mandate, the assessment committee’s goal in finding a technology solution was to find a system that would also benefit our students. We decided early on that we were going to have to look at an ePortfolio solution.



"Portfolium has helped eliminate roughly 60 hours of assessment preparation work in addition to having streamlined the reporting processes for gen ed learning outcomes and program learning outcomes, allowing for meaningful program assessment."



What initiatives does Portfolium support?


Portfolium supports program assessment for each of our majors and graduate programs. It supports faculty and staff development because each of our community members has a page where they are encouraged to document their own professional development which then supports and supplements their review process.


Portfolium also supports students in their internship/career and/or graduate school application process. Students now have a place where they can share their work with others and give actual examples to illustrate their skills. Portfolium also will support career services first destination reporting and alumni networking as our students graduate from Simpson and continue to use and modify their ePortfolios.


Additionally, we are adding Pathways to help students document their learning for minor programs on campus and co-curricular involvements. While we are starting this process with only a handful of programs, we hope to maximize learning and layer in the high impact practice of an ePortfolio on top of other high impact practices that all of our students participate in (undergraduate research, study abroad, internships, etc.).


What outcomes will be impacted by Portfolium?


I believe that the communication ability of our students will be improved. I also think that students will increase their autonomy in learning, gaining a deeper understanding of learning processes. This means that our students will be better prepared to be lifelong learners.


Because of the mission of our institution and the kinds of experiences our students have, I also believe that they will be better able to articulate the value of a liberal arts education and how this educational experience provides them with a deep understanding of the world around them. They will be able to articulate the soft skills gained in addition to demonstrating their content knowledge and hard skills.


How does Portfolium make your job easier?


Portfolium has helped eliminate roughly 60 hours of assessment preparation work in addition to streamlined the reporting processes for general education learning outcomes and departmental/program learning outcomes. It provides a way for all departments to have meaningful program assessment. The increased efficiency and streamlined processes are nice, but the real benefit is that it helps the members of our community document their learning and professional development.


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How does Portfolium improve your student experience?


Students can document their learning and professional development in curricular, co-curricular and personal realms. This means that they can create a holistic ePortfolio of work in which they help others understand their abilities as well as their talents and values. They can continue this ePortfolio development after they graduate and leave Simpson.


This is a tool/framework that will help them for years to come and will allow us to maintain deep connections with our alumni. These virtual relationships will augment the personal relationships because students in our programs will not only be able to connect with alumni, but they will also be able to see the kinds of work they are doing after graduation. Students become part of the entire Simpson College community more quickly.


How would you describe the implementation process?


Painless. When you implement a system that is campus wide you expect hiccups. You expect software issues and you expect implementation headaches. We experienced NONE of those in implementing Portfolium. It was a seamless process. The trainings were stellar. The help feature is very valuable. More importantly the continued support and customer service are outstanding. I couldn’t be happier with the process and I am grateful to work with the Portfolium team to help strengthen our use on campus.


Why did you expand Portfolium to the whole campus?


I made the decision to give access to Portfolium for all students on our campus because I thought that the first year students would use it more and that with time the upperclassmen would see the value. It was surprising to the community when the upperclassmen embraced Portfolium immediately and became a large percentage of active users.


Students saw the value and the benefit of the system more quickly than many of the faculty and staff. Our faculty and staff also have accounts. Initially this was to help advisors and work-study supervisors recruit students into the system. It turns out that faculty and staff didn’t need to recruit students and once they created accounts for themselves, they started using the page to document their own learning.


What other areas of the university have benefited from Portfolium?


Our faculty and staff now use Portfolium to document their own professional development and learning. In building their ePortfolios, they can document opportunities/experiences that then help them demonstrate their projects/accomplishments as a part of their staff/faculty evaluations. We plan to offer Portfolium to all alumni as well in hopes that they will create accounts and begin using the system for similar purposes, even if they have been in their professional field for many years.


The Student Voice Webinar June 2019

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