E-portfolio in TU/e's Innovation Space
With this interview at institution Technical University Eindhoven (TU/e) on e-portfolio deployment, we are trying to gain more insight into the use of e-portfolios in higher education. The aim is to share this knowledge and explore how we can solve bottlenecks in the deployment of e-portfolios
Utilizing e-portfolios within TU/e innovation Space
Within the TU/e, TU/e innovation Space (Center of Expertise), focuses on the use of e-portfolios as a means to document and promote innovative projects and collaborations. Innovation Space is an interdisciplinary environment where students, staff, and external partners collaborate on real-world challenges and technological innovations (Challenge Based Learning; CBL). Since this is a relatively new way of enabling student learning, innovation Space experiments with new ways of guiding learning and assessment. An example is the innovation Space Bachelor End Project (ISBEP), which offers students a unique opportunity to complete their bachelor's degree with a multidisciplinary final product.
Within this context, the e-portfolio serves as a valuable tool for tracking the progress, achievements, and learning experiences of students. The project is designed to bring together students from various disciplines to work on a real-world problem or challenge. These challenges are often brought in by companies, municipalities or other organisations external to the university. The ISBEP-project enables students to apply their knowledge, skills, and creativity to a concrete problem relevant to their field of study. By collaborating in interdisciplinary teams, students can combine different perspectives and expertise to come up with innovative solutions. Currently, the ISBEP-project serves as inspiration for scaling up interdisciplinary activities at TU/e. "We [TU/e] are currently busy brainstorming how to implement [e-portfolios] at the curriculum level [to support learning]”, mentions Valencia Cardona.
Functions of the e-portfolio system
Within the ISBEP-project, the focus is on the development portfolio. Valencia Cardona states, "We don’t literally use the term 'portfolio’’. The emphasis within our project is on informing students about their development and helping them reflect on their progress. Ruijten adds, "Students can effectively track their development in various competencies and associated learning outcomes. Students are provided with the tools to discuss their progress with others. The feedback students receive is not focused on evaluation but rather on their development. We also avoid using the word 'assessment' as it carries a negative connotation. We want both students and teachers to focus more on the learning aspect rather than the evaluative aspect”.
The overall learning and assessment process
Within the ISBEP-project, students from different disciplines follow a general learning and assessment process that aims to develop both technical skills and transferable competencies. The process encompasses various stages, from preparation and design to implementation and evaluation. Firstly, there is the preparation phase. In this phase, students gain a clear understanding of the project's goal, scope, and expectations. They can study relevant literature, attend workshops, and consult with supervisors to enhance their knowledge and establish a solid foundation for the project.
Next, the design phase takes place, where students begin designing their final product. Throughout this phase, students work closely with their team members and supervisors to develop an effective design that meets the specified requirements.
After completing the design, students proceed to the demonstration phase. Students apply the learned concepts and techniques and collaborate intensively to bring the project to life in a way that is doable for their challenge. This often involves the creation of a physical working prototype. Once the final product is completed, a thorough evaluation takes place (validation of the product in a real-life context, e.g. a company or public environment). In this phase, they gather feedback from supervisors and possibly external stakeholders to identify areas for improvement. Students also provide feedback through self-assessment. This feedback is closely related to the six competencies that are monitored within the project: Design & Research process, Prototyping, Systems Thinking, Interdisciplinary Communication, Reflection and Organizing & Planning.
After the evaluation process, students reflect on their project experience. They analyze what went well, the challenges they encountered, and what they have learned during the project. They can also identify their personal growth and development, as well as the skills and competencies they have acquired.
Finally, students present their final product and their learning experiences to teachers, supervisors, and possibly fellow students and external stakeholders. They demonstrate the final product, share their findings, and justify the choices made during the project. Overall, the general learning and assessment process within the ISBEP-project aims to provide students with a holistic learning experience where they apply theoretical knowledge in a practical context. It encourages collaboration, problem-solving, and reflection, enabling students to further develop their technical skills, project management skills, and communication skills.
Important to note is that the e-portfolio is set up to support the assessment on the broader competence development of students, which is carried out by coaches at TU/e innovation Space. Assessment on the disciplinary development is conducted by academic supervisor from the respective departments were students follow their programs. The information gathered by students on their competence development through the e-portfolio can be used by students and academic supervisors to support the assessment of their overall development (i.e., graduation project).
Within the ISBEP-project, dashboards are used as tools to track and visualize the progress and performance of students. These dashboards provide a clear overview of relevant data and information, enabling both students and supervisors to gain insight into the project's status and success.
There are two levels of the dashboard, each serving different functions and purposes. The Overview Page (level 1) provides a concise summary of the project and its progress. It is intended for management, project coordinators, and other stakeholders to quickly get a general view of the project's status and performance. It offers a bird's-eye view of the project and helps in making strategic decisions and monitoring overall progress.
The Individual Dashboard (level 2) provides detailed information and functionalities for students and supervisors. Everyone has access to their own dashboard, where they can track their development on specific personal and general intended learning outcomes (ILO’s), deadlines, and progress on overall competence development (start, middle, and end).
Reflection on personal performance
Within the ISBEP-project, students are encouraged to reflect on their own performance in various ways. Reflection is an important part of the learning process and allows students to become aware of their strengths, areas for improvement, and growth opportunities. Firstly, students engage in regular reflective reports where they describe their personal experiences, learning experiences, challenges, and achievements. These reports provide an opportunity to delve deeper into their role, contribution, and development within the project. Students can celebrate their successes, reflect on obstacles, and devise strategies for improvement.
Additionally, students are also encouraged to self-evaluate based on predetermined criteria and competencies. They can assess how well they have performed in various aspects, such as technical proficiency, collaboration, problem-solving abilities, and communication. These self-evaluations help students identify their strengths and areas for improvement
Within the Innovation Space at TU/e, students have a significant degree of ownership over their projects and activities. The concept of ownership is strongly encouraged and supported to enable students to take responsibility for their learning process and projects.
For example, within the project, students have the freedom to shape their own learning trajectory. They can actively participate in the project selection process they want to undertake. They can provide self-feedback as often as they want, set their own learning goals (including the level of those goals), and make decisions about the activities and schedule necessary to achieve these goals. These learning goals are linked to the competencies within the ISBEP-project. Therefore, students can independently make choices regarding the development of skills, the workshops or training they want to follow, and the specific tasks within the project they want to focus on.
Ownership among students is also stimulated through teamwork. Within their team, they can take ownership of their individual tasks and responsibilities. They contribute to collaboration, communication, and the achievement of project goals. By taking responsibility for their own contributions and the team's success, students develop a sense of ownership over the larger project.
"It is important for a portfolio system to support this type of flexibility”, emphasizes Scheffer."Through this freedom, students experience a sense of autonomy, which we hope will increase their intrinsic motivation”.
Feedback on learning outcomes and reflections
Peer feedback and feedback from mentors are also important parts of the ISBEP-project. Students have the opportunity to give and receive feedback from their fellow students. They can provide constructive feedback based on observations, collaboration, and individual contributions. Peer feedback allows students to gain different perspectives and insights, which can enhance their self-reflection and growth. Mentors also play an important role in providing feedback to students. They can conduct formal evaluations, provide assessments, and offer constructive feedback on students' performance. This feedback from mentors helps students gain insight into their strengths and areas for improvement, enabling them to work on their professional development more effectively.
There are also several planned moments for reflection and discussions. During these moments, students can reflect on their performance and discuss it with their (process) mentors and fellow students. These reflection moments can occur individually or in groups and provide a structured space for self-reflection, sharing experiences, and setting goals for further growth.
Overall, process coaches are essential mentors who play a crucial role in providing feedback to students. The teaching team is typically composed of a combination of experienced professionals and project alumni, appointed to guide student teams throughout the entire process of developing their final product. They regularly evaluate the project's progress and provide constructive feedback on students' performance. The goal of the process coaches is to help students develop skills that are important for their future careers, including project management, teamwork, communication, and problem-solving.
"We are always seeking a balance between feedback at the individual level and the group level”, emphasizes Valencia Cardona. By encouraging both individual and group reflection, the ISBEP-project provides students with the opportunity to evaluate both their individual growth and achievements and the dynamics and collaboration within the team. Both the process and the product are considered, promoting a holistic approach to reflection, and contributing to an effective and enriching experience for all involved.
Functional success factors
"One of the functional success factors is that the system is highly flexible”, emphasize all. This flexibility allows the system to be adjusted to specific needs and requirements. Different types of content can be added to the portfolio, and this content can be presented in multiple ways. The system is also flexible in defining assessment criteria and categories. It allows for different stages of assessment, such as self-evaluation, assessment by teachers, peers, or external experts. This enables users to gather different perspectives and feedback, promoting their growth and development. "Especially in our pilot, we experience this high level of flexibility as a success factor”, emphasizes Scheffer.
Another functional success factor is the dashboards. These dashboards provide users with a clear and personalized display of important information and statistics, enabling effective use of the system. Furthermore, the system allows for self-directed learning for students. It enables students to formulate their own learning goals. The system also promotes self-reflection, which allows students to set goals for further growth. Another mentioned success factor is that the system is highly data driven. Data and analytics are utilized to provide insights that support decision-making and the learning process.
One of the functional challenges relates to the user-friendliness of the e-portfolio system. The system can be overwhelming for teachers and students who are unfamiliar with e-portfolios or have little experience with digital learning environments. "I don't think they have taken this into sufficient account in the system's design”, emphasizes Ruijten.
Valencia Cardona: "The innovation projects we carry out within Innovation Space, including the ISBEP-project, are all focused on the education of the future. In the future, we want to implement CBL at the curriculum level. Throughout their study program, students have multiple CBL experiences. To enable this more flexible way of learning, we aim to create more personalized learning paths in which students have full control. By taking these small steps, we can learn best from this future. We will continue to conduct research to improve the future of education".