Why ePortfolios Matter

by Janina Misiewicz

Any student who has taken Introduction to Interdisciplinary Studies with Dr. Robin DeRosa in the past few years is familiar with ePortfolios–or “ePorts” for short. DeRosa is an advocate for open educational resources (OER) and learner-driven education. In an effort to give students more autonomy in the classroom, DeRosa has replaced private Personal Learning Networks (PLNs), like Moodle, with freely accessible PLNs, like Twitter and Domain of One’s Own.


Domain of One’s Own, created by Reclaim Hosting, is part of a movement in higher education that started at University of Mary Washington to integrate technology and the internet into the classroom. With Domain of One’s Own, students choose their own domain, create a digital portfolio, and publish their work to a global audience. When students graduate, their ePorts don’t evaporate like discarded blue books; they remain active for as long as students choose to use them.

Public PLNs give students the opportunity to connect with scholars working in all parts of the world, not just at specific schools or classrooms. This kind of global networking and open educational learning can have direct, tangible benefits. At PSU, Kayleigh Bennett, a current Interdisciplinary Studies student, wrote an article that was recognized by the Association for Interdisciplinary Studies (AIS) and published in the May 2017 AIS Newsletter. Bennett’s article, initially published on her ePortfolio, was shared on social media and eventually picked up by the AIS. She wrote her article, called “First,” in December 2016 for Introduction to Interdisciplinary Studies, a required course for all IDS students.

Her article explores the value of interdisciplinarity in the landscape of higher education, and its personal impact on her as a student. Bennett explains how Robin DeRosa’s introductory course changed her perspective on education, stating: “for the first time, I was excited to be learning.” Bennett’s article is a first-hand account about why it’s important for students to have autonomy in the classroom.

Like most students who use public PLNs, Bennett expresses pride and enthusiasm for her work, describing her recent experience as an honor. She continues by saying, “what’s so funny about that work being published is that I never had any other intentions for it outside of just being a blog post, but that’s the power of Interdisciplinary Studies. The theory and approaches that Robin has for her class and her students were to help create moments like these, interconnected learning experiences that could be shared. It was really moving to see everything we learned in class (open pedagogy, personal learning networks, creative commons…) come out in this experience and have such a positive impact on my education.”

 Public PLNs give students’ work greater value by making it more relevant. When students publish their work on a public platform, it has the potential to make an impact on the world we live in. There’s power in that. Additionally, social media tools–like Twitter and Facebook–magnify the visibility of students’ work, giving it even more potential to make waves. The AIS probably wouldn’t have picked up Bennett’s blog post if it hadn’t been shared on social media. By contributing to a public PLN, Bennett doesn’t need to wait until she graduates to enter the “real world;” she’s already in it.

Domain of One’s Own is teaching students how to be actively involved with technology. In a rapidly changing world, it’s important for people to understand the way technology is influencing us. Rather than passively accepting the impact of technology in their lives, students from DeRosa’s classes are going to graduate from PSU with an ability to create and manipulate their digital presence, an increasingly important skill in today’s society.

If you’d like to learn more about the movement to integrate technology with education, check out Audrey Watters’ article: The Web We Need to Give Students.

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One Response to “Why ePortfolios Matter”

May 16, 2017 at 4:36 pm, Liz Ahl said:

Great piece! Wish there were a Twitter widget on this page so I could easily tweet it>

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