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MU Social Work Professor Enhances Curriculum With ePortfolios

Students use individualized websites to showcase their work; School uses information to measure students’ competencies

October 23rd, 2013

Story Contact: Jesslyn Chew, ChewJ@missouri.edu

The views and opinions expressed in this “for expert comment” release are based on research and/or opinions of the researcher(s) and/or faculty member(s) and do not reflect the University’s official stance.

COLUMBIA, Mo. – Millennials are known as a tech-savvy generation; now, a University of Missouri social work professor has found a way to harness the digital prowess of  students using electronic portfolios (ePortfolios), individualized websites that showcase students’ coursework and accomplishments. Moreover, the professor has integrated ePortfolios into the curriculum in such a way that student learning outcomes easily can be observed, which helps the MU School of Social Work measure its own success in preparing future social workers.

Dale Fitch, an assistant professor of social work, recently received an award from the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) for the ways in which he has incorporated ePortfolios into his classes’ curriculum as well as the school’s curriculum. Essentially, ePortfolios allow students to create online displays of their classwork.

“It used to be that students would produce a portfolio for their capstone project consisting of a large 3-ring binder,” Fitch said. “Understandably, they did not take these binders with them to job interviews. Now, students are much more likely to share a link to their ePortfolio that has a streamlined presentation of their most pertinent work for that specific position.”

Fitch said senior-level classes at colleges and universities often include some type of portfolio component in which soon-to-be graduates compile their most impressive work into some type of tangible artifact, like a 3-ring binder or ePortfolio. However, Fitch has students begin working on their portfolios during their first social work class and throughout their entire degree program.

“The portfolio is the end product, but it is the result of an integrated, reflective learning process,” Fitch said. “At the School of Social Work, we’ve tried to establish a framework for our students’ curriculum by establishing certain skills we want them to develop in each class and even in each assignment. When students are creating their ePortfolios and selecting particular documents to include, students have to decide for each piece which competencies their work represents. So, faculty and students have to be intentional about learning. It’s no longer about doing an assignment for a professor and then forgetting about it after the grade is given; it’s about doing an assignment in order to gain the skills they need to perform as a social worker.”

Fitch says other schools and degree programs could tailor ePortfolios to fit their individualized needs and says he hopes ePortfolios are used more intentionally and more frequently.

David Reid, associate director of ET@MO (Educational Technologies at Missouri), helps oversee educational technology programs at MU. He said Fitch has maximized the potential of ePortfolios.

“Dale has found ways to use the ePortfolio system above and beyond how many others have used it previously,” Reid said. “What he’s doing by integrating ePortfolios into his curriculum to show competencies benefits his students and also the School.”

The School of Social Work is part of the MU College of Human Environmental Sciences.

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