Scaling Up is a Process

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webpageePortfolio in a department and in a college

At Three Rivers Community College (TRCC) ePortfolio pedagogy (reflective/social learning) is used throughout the college. ePortfolio as a tool and pedagogy is used throughout the nursing program and in some First Year Experience (FYE) classes. 2013-2014 is welcoming a college wide initiative but that will be a new story to tell.

So where have we seen sustained use of ePortfolio at TRCC?

In FYE classes, which introduce students to requisite college skills, intrinsic behaviors and career exploration, students identify their own goals, plans and voice. In 2011-2012 two FYE sections incorporated this pedagogy, 2012-2013 four sections of the FYE program have implemented this approach and now in 2014 Digication is being introduced in all FYE sections. How did this happen?  Outcomes from 2011-2013 demonstrated student persistence within the classes and into the next semester. Students connected to college members, peers and resources. Examples of ways student connected and collaborated within the college included: a physical and webpage Scavenger Hunt, an Information Literacy activity and assignment where students, faculty and librarians connected in person and through the college theme of the year (2012-13=messages, 2014=sustainability). Content, tours, exercises and then review of the work was done by faculty, peers and librarians thereby establishing the needed connection for future academic requirements.

Students also connected to advisors through a “Who Am I” learning activity and class presentation with peers. This practice is described in the post: “Start Your College Journey”.  Care is taken to protect the student’s expression of self from misinterpretation by others.  Students strengthened emotional intelligence skills, visual literacy and the ability to tell their story. Learners reported this introduction to ePortfolio pedagogy “allowed them to test the waters of reflection and learn what to share with various audiences.” They continue to be powerful stories of persistence and desire for growth. The pedagogy acts as a catalyst for change in individuals toward a focused purpose, goals and membership in a community of learners. After the individual presentations in FYE, community continued, as students stay connected in “the hallways” even if they are not in the same future classes.

Throughout the four clinical nursing courses students continued to share work within their clinical group, advisors, writing center, library, and nursing tutors culminating in reflective work related to their achievement of program outcomes and future plans for continued education and employment. ePortfolios were shared with peers, faculty and “their choice”.   Some students requested not to share with anyone but the faculty member because of sensitive reflections.  Permission was always given because deeper learning occurred with private feedback on complex learning dilemmas.

Through ePortfolio the walls of the college are transcended and students are beginning to connect with articulating institutions and professional organizations. The tool and the pedagogy acted as a catalyst toward the advanced degree of a BSN or MA / MSN. While in her last nursing course a student stated, “It is really working, I am saving projects, articles and ideas of what I want to pursue in my portfolio. I am putting much more in the portfolio than is required. It has become mine.” The pedagogy promoted expression of deep learning during interviews.  Employers do not use ePortfolios as an interview or screening tool with any consistency, however feedback from local community health care directors reveals students are connecting critical thinking, competent practice, communication, caring, holism and professionalism to clinical scenarios at a higher than novice level. This contributes to institution matches and candidate success. This is important in a time when many hospitals are only hiring BSN graduates to meet “Magnet Hospital” criteria and institutional goals.

Growth continues beyond our college walls within the Connecticut Community College Common Curriculum Nursing Programs (CT-CCNP). Two nursing programs currently use ePortfolio as a tool/pedagogy and another is beginning to ask questions related to HIPAA and confidentially. These questions open the door to ePortfolio use when the “AHA” occurs there are strategies which prevent HIPAA violations. Every school has its unique culture and will result in new expressions of ePortfolio implementation. ePortfolio in one school is acting as a catalyst for active learning activities. In addition growth is occurring through our professional organization Connecticut League for Nursing (CLN) and Charter Oak State College’s use and presentation of the Digication platform for certifications and professional advancement. ePortfolio is acting as a catalyst for articulation of our professional goals and values.

Use of ePortfolio as a tool had been piloted by various departments within TRCC and through the Service Learning Initiative. Serious consideration for college wide implementation of an ePortfolio platform emerged in the Spring of 2013. A confluence of events led to this “Tipping Point”. Nursing and FYE sections demonstrated success in retention, persistence, student and faculty satisfaction. At the same time the college’s General Assessment Task force used an effective paper portfolio process for General Education assessment but was looking to expand the process. Our accrediting body, the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC), praised the positive work done around General Education assessment, but stressed the need for a broader institutional plan. In this process, it became clear that ePortfolio could serve as the connector between student learning and institutional assessment.

So that is the story yet to be told as we are in a college wide process of implementing an ePortfolio platform. This is a complex process using the Catalyst framework for success. It is more that teaching faculty and students how to use the platform, a planned matrix of assignments structured to meet advancing outcomes is needed. Some challenges still remain. One challenge is the rapidity of change in our emerging ConnSCU system with new Transfer and Articulation plan (TAP) general education outcomes and rubrics. Another challenge is meeting teaching, learning and assessment goals effectively and efficiently in an environment of decreasing resources and financial restraint. ePortfolio may become a stabilizer during this time.

Developmental History

In 2004 Three Rivers Community College began exploring ePortfolio technology with CTDLC . A faculty member (L. Rafeldt) and the Dean of Technology (S. Goetchius) developed a collaborative plan with Diane Goldsmith and the consortium to pilot use.  The Nursing Director (A. Branchini, now the Academic Dean) supported use of an ePortfolio platform as a potential assessment tool. The focus initially was on technology. In monthly meetings members created orientation strategies, gave feedback related to use and began asking for technology to meet the varied pedagogical needs.  Students controlled the portfolio, as it was private to them until they sent an “invitation” via email to view the whole or a portion of the portfolio. The administrator could not see directly into a portfolio but could create assessment modules for students to submit assignments into.

The technology was introduced to first semester students in a computer lab by faculty. The Director of Educational Technology (K. Barfield) presented sample portfolios and blog sites to students in a subsequent class. Initially new assignments were created but it was quickly realized this was not needed and actually a road block to new faculty adopting the change. Assignments within the program already utilized active learning and reflective strategies. The change was connecting students to faculty, librarians and resources of the college through an electronic tool with increased feedback.

In 2006-2008 the focus shifted from technology to pedagogyEach semester through a planned progressive addition of the next nursing course, ePortfolio was integrated throughout the program. Students were introduced to the program outcomes when they began their portfolios. Assignments included information literacy, definitions and reflections, nutrition research papers, process recordings and care plans.  Rubric use and evaluator reliability of feedback was done through the ePortfolio assessment module. Authentic Assessment was in the background but traditional models of NCLEX RN licensure pass rates, student/faculty/employer surveys were still the program assessment models.

Multiple collaborative presentations were given throughout CT, with one conference held at Three Rivers Community College which featured both faculty and students presenting together. Faculty acted as mentors in the learners’ development, including English language learners (ELL). Students demonstrated increased retention resulting in their graduation.  Many members of the faculty under the direction of the then Nursing Director, Linda Perfetto contributed to the sharing of knowledge. Members of Tunxis, North Western and Three Rivers Community College worked collaboratively in strategy development and presented together. Diane Goldsmith, Laura Gambino, and Lili Rafeldt presented at LaGuardia’s ePortfolio conference. Ellen Freeman, our recently retired Nursing Director continued to facilitate faculty participation and statewide presentations.

While implementation of ePortfolio as a tool was occurring throughout 2006-2008, a new common curriculum was being planned to include five (now six) ADN nursing programs in the CT state system. Reflective pedagogy was integrated throughout all of the levelsThree Rivers Community College implemented the new curriculum in 2008 and continued incremental use of ePortfolio to facilitate a successful transition to the new curriculum.  Some learning activities continued while others were revised or newly created. The information literacy activities continued throughout the semesters fostering the connection to community between students, faculty and librarians. All participants evaluated the introduction, evidence based practice searches, preconference sharing and development of annotated bibliographies as fun and effective. Weekly clinical reflections by the student provided a connection for feedback and discussion with faculty members.  This written work was and continues to be critical so that the student can reflect on action and develop reflective in action abilities.

Judy Snayd joined in 2008 as a member of Cohort B, in the FIPSE, LaGuardia Making Connections grant. She was a super user of ePortfolio reviewing process recordings, giving feedback, assessing outcomes and facilitating growth in use of the process recording rubrics for students and faculty. Both Lili and Judy focused on ePortfolio for pre-nursing general education and nursing students. Monthly Friday trips to LaGuardia Community College inspired continued learning with leaders and cohort members. During 2009-2010 teaching strategies and rubrics were enhanced to facilitate reflection and outcome measurement.  Super users were assigned as point faculty in all courses and members of the grant. Faculty were chosen who had a predisposition for technology and the joy of learning.   Edie Ouellet, in NUR102, developed assignments, using feedback each semester to refine the effectiveness of the curriculum, teaching and learning. This resulted in a triangulated assignment connecting clinical practice, with theory and gerontology group presentations.  Heather Bader helped students develop their professional voice and identity in NUR201 (the 3rd semester course) and Lili and Judy solidified program outcome identification and reflection by the senior students. This leadership group introduced TRCC’s ePortfolio pedagogy at the Rutgers’ International Nursing Technology Conference and National League for Nursing Summit. Presentations were also given at the Annual AAEEBL ePortfolio conferences.  Professional interest in ePortfolio as a tool and pedagogy was expanding.

“Marketing” with professional organizations, articulating schools and local employers became a focus. The Connecticut League for Nursing (CLN) was interested in the tool and process as were articulating schools not for connecting or transfer but rather for their new visions.  In 2007-2008 TRCC received feedback that graduates were not clearly articulating their practice strengths in interviews. The Nursing Director, Academic Dean, and College President, Grace Jones, have strong relationships with community partners and feedback is shared through advisory boards, employer surveys, and anecdotally. After review, a variety of strategies were implemented to increase student skills. Increased feedback on program outcome reflections was given. Humorous mock interviews were role played in a senior leadership and management course. Participants included students, faculty, a human resource employer and college career specialist. In 2010 individual behavioral mock interviews with the Director of Nursing were added into the tool kit. Currently students apply for positions or residency programs through an essay and panel interview process. Students state their education has prepared them for that process. Some local employers open the portfolio at the interview but most currently do not, however local employers state students are interviewing at a “higher” than novice beginner level. Students are telling stories that demonstrate critical thinking and appropriate clinical decision abilities.

In 2011-2012 Nancy Czarzasty replaced Heather Bader, who took a hospital professional development position. Nancy enhanced the assignment to develop students’ professional voices with a reflective exercise and use of a reflective rubric. New members were also added to the leadership team: Dave Ferreira who focused on FYE and Nina Stein, supporting technology, teaching and learning. In 2012 longitudinal outcome assessment was reviewed and improved methods to track students were implemented. The former Director of Institutional Research, (G. Rezendes) facilitated data review.  Focusing on assessment and dedicating time to review beyond our standard systematic evaluation plan (SPE) is a theme of our work. There is a “tension” between additional “in the moment time” needed for student learning and “planned for time” needed for assessment. Without the focus on student learning positive outcomes will not occur, without the focus on assessment the need for change may not be seen. Time or dedicated staff for learning and assessment is critical for educational success.

In 2013-2014 a new ePortfolio platform has been purchased for college wide implementation. A new Director of Learning Initiatives Jodi Calvert and  Kem Barfield, the Director of Educational Technology will lead implementation with the help of the ePortfolio Leadership Team.  And we welcomed a new Director of Institutional Research, Laura Qin this is an exciting time and a future story to tell. ePortfolio is a journey.

Connections to Core Strategies

Although each of the core strategies is important to scaling up our ePortfolio project, we will address two which arise from the mission of our community college.  They are intertwined: Building a culture of learning and engaging students while leveraging resources and making use of the evidence.

At Three Rivers Community College we work on multiple levels in our college, the CT-CCNP, and our profession building synergy, while engaging students, promoting their learning and desired outcomes.  Students are ecstatic when they give permission to share their work with others for exponential growth of all!  Faculty engage and feel rewarded when the mentor relationship grows on campus and reemerges when graduates return who are seeking help with advanced degrees.  It even inspires you to leverage resources and make use of the evidence! It definitely inspires the ePortfolio leadership team to share the positive potential and results ePortfolio can give with the rest of the college.

Our Next Steps

We plan to  “scale up” through and within our walls by:

  • ·         Continued presentations within our professional and educational discipline, working together with students
  • ·         Evaluating the effectiveness of our current program in Nursing & FYE through developed rubrics & the SEP
  • ·         Refining learning activities, incorporating Simulation activities & Sim Chart into ePortfolio reflections
  • ·         Evaluating longitudinal assessment, persistence and retention
  • ·         Collaborating with other CT-CCNP and ConnSCU partners synergizing work
  • ·         Assisting the Director of Learning Initiatives & Educational Technology in college wide implementation
  •           Working with the General Education Task Force to implement assignments connected to TAP outcomes
  •           Providing professional development to faculty and staff r/t Digication and General Education
  • ·         Listening to others & continuing to grow the pedagogy & technology
  • ·         Having fun with learning