Faculty at a small university discussed digital portfolios for technology support students who were entering the senior year without a portfolio that illustrated their knowledge and skills for potential employers. Business leaders expressed the need for graduates to demonstrate technological skills and other critical competency areas. Recent trends replace the traditional resumes and portfolios with digital portfolios, which capture student accomplishments by electronic methods. The authors note that smaller institutions may not have the funding, administrative support, or technical support necessary for such large-scale projects. They discuss how smaller institutions can provide students with opportunities to develop digital portfolios despite these constraints.
Faculty members in the college of business at a small, western Pennsylvania university discussed adopting a digital portfolio requirement for all students in its Department of Technology Support and Training. Currently, the university's business education majors use digital portfolios through the resources housed in the college of education. However, students in the other major, technology support, were entering the senior year without a concise portfolio of knowledge, skills, and/or applied experiences to demonstrate to potential employers. Students also appeared to lack understanding of the interrelatedness of the required core classes that they completed as part of the degree program. The department's business advisory board, composed of industry leaders, also expressed the need for graduates to demonstrate technological literacy skills along with other critical competency areas, such as written and oral communication skills ("Learn to Actively Listen," 2007, [paragraph] 2), critical thinking and reasoning, cultural awareness, and ethical judgment. Because of the success of the business education e-portfolios, faculty members decided to adopt digital portfolios for the department's business technology support program.
The Historical Perspective Gone Electronic
A portfolio is a visual representation of work samples (Amirian & Flanagan, 2006), skills, abilities, knowledge, and capabilities. Portfolios demonstrate individual efforts, progress, and achievements in one or more areas (Lorenzo & Ittelson, 2005; Wiedmer, 1998). Portfolios demonstrate "how well the student has demonstrated mastery of the required competencies" (Goldsmith, 2007, p. 34); portfolios also "answer the question of how well the program is doing at providing the appropriate learning opportunities for the specified competencies" (Goldsmith, 2007, p. 34).
Instructional benefits come from the students" close examination of their work, from comparison of changes and growth over time, and from their identification of personal strengths and weaknesses through the application of criteria that define quality, as well as from goal setting, and identifying best or favorite works. Assessment benefits come from the collection of multiple samples of student work over time. This collection provides a broader, more in-depth look at what students know and can do; bases assessment on more authentic work; provides a supplement to report cards and standardized tests; and provides a better way to communicate student progress. (Swigonski, Ward, Mama, Rodgers, & Belicose, 2006, p. 817)
Portfolios have many advantages over other types of assessment. They are available to more than one reader (Smith, 2002), provide a descriptive measure of student work based on actual performance (Benson &...