Fairfield Now - Fall 2007
Tracking and tapping into lessons learned
By Alejandra Navarro
During the past three years, nursing major Marissa Glassman '08 has collected (electronically as well as mentally) a treasure trove of knowledge in the healthcare field. So when a friend mentioned that she wasn't planning to breastfeed her baby, Glassman went back to review the in-depth research she had done on its benefits. After thinking it over, she delicately approached her friend and shared some specifics that ultimately helped the mother-to-be make an informed decision about whether or not to nurse her newborn.
The story clearly reflects Glassman's grasp of her classroom learning, her ability to apply it in real situations, and her skills in communicating sensitive health information. But it's an example that doesn't necessarily have a place on a résumé. And for most students, it's an instance that would easily be forgotten. Not so for Glassman.
Glassman has the event and her reflections of it preserved in her ePortfolio account. Similar to its hardcopy counterpart, ePortfolio is an electronic portfolio - a digital tool that allows a person to store information, save documents, and share them with invited guests. For students, ePortfolio is a place to record educational and clinical experiences - along with their reflections about them. Past projects and papers remain readily available; accomplishments can be noted, goals recorded, and résumés updated.
"It's a great tool," says Glassman, noting the way the program helps track individual growth during the course of a semester. She first began using the tool in her "Health Care Delivery Systems" course, taught by Dr. Suzanne Campbell, associate professor of nursing. "On ePortfolio, you can put down goals and continue to work toward them. For a person who is organized, it's a dream come true. And for a person who may not be organized, it's a great way to start planning ahead and begin assessing your progress. It forces you to look at what you've done and where you are going."
For nursing major Marissa Glassman '08 (right), the technology tool, ePortfolio, has been an invaluable asset for tracking and reflecting on accomplishments. Dr. Suzanne Campbell (left), associate professor of nursing, was sure it would benefit all School of Nursing students.
Dr. Campbell requires her students to use ePortfolio to keep their coursework organized and to begin gathering information that will be invaluable when they apply for internships, jobs, or graduate school. "It also assists us in providing an opportunity for reflection, which is such an important aspect of the Jesuit mission and identity," she says. During the semester that she teaches them, Dr. Campbell has access to student accounts and monitors their progress. "There is so much potential for learning and accountability."
Electronic portfolios have been gaining popularity during the past five years. The Connecticut Distance Learning Consortium, a state agency that supports online learning for Connecticut colleges and universities, provides access to ePortfolio. Thus far, 32 universities here and in Puerto Rico use this particular program. Other consortia across the country use similar software.
In 2005, Fairfield University received a three-year grant totaling $25,000 from the Davis Educational Foundation, which funded the ePortfolio project. Since then, Dr. Campbell has worked with colleagues in the School of Nursing to brainstorm ways to incorporate the tool into their courses as well. She has also been invited to speak at other campuses about its benefits. Of one thing she is quite certain: For today's Web-friendly generation of students, it is easy to learn.
"It's really meant to be a professional development tool," says Dr. Campbell, who uses it to document her own professional progress. As long as the University subscribes to ePortfolio, students and alumni may continue to use it. Thus far, she notes, employers who have used ePortfolio have been very impressed. "It's going to be a tool for the future."
Students may allow others to view their full portfolio, or portions of it. A student applying for several jobs, for example, has the option of showing only relevant information to a specific employer. When someone "visits," the program notifies the ePortfolio owner and indicates where the guest (who can post comments) has looked. In the job search, students find ePortfolio a great way to keep track of cover letters, thank you notes, and specific versions of résumés.
Jenna LoGiudice '06, who is currently enrolled in a master's degree program at Yale University, used her ePortfolio account when she was applying to graduate school. "I was able to include files from my freshman year that I wouldn't have been able to find otherwise," explains LoGiudice, who first began using the program with Dr. Campbell. Her ePortfolio account includes research papers, PowerPoint presentations she created for courses, accomplishments, evaluations, and work experiences. The account is efficiently organized so that a guest can read an evaluation of a research project and have access to the actual project as well.
Even though some nurse managers were unfamiliar with electronic portfolios, LoGiudice received positive reactions to hers. In many ways, it made her stand out from other applicants, she says. "Having this gives us an advantage."
Fairfield students like Glassman are counting on that. In addition to her classroom accomplishments, Glassman also adds the experience and training she gains on the job.
She is currently employed as a student-nursing technician in the family birthing center at Saint Vincent's Medical Center in Bridgeport. She also works as a postpartum care doula at Birth Partners of Connecticut and is a volunteer emergency medical technician in Trumbull.
"These have been a very exciting three years," Glassman says. "Every year I've made changes to my life. ePortfolio offers me a way to keep track of my accomplishments."