Book Reviews

Book by Jeff W. Garis & Jon C. Dalton
Review by Linda Mayhew
Red McCombs School of Business
The University of Texas at Austin

e-Portfolios: Emerging Opportunities for Student Affairs illustrates the range and potential for university sponsored web-based programs that allow students to document their academic and extracurricular experiences. The book consists of several chapters, each composed by a different author, that examine various factors to consider when selecting a system and approaches for incorporating e-portfolios into the curriculum at both small private and large public schools.  The contents address every stage of adopting a web based system, including designing the program; marketing it to students; and utilizing the portfolios for learning outcomes and career searches.  

A key component of implementing an e-portfolio program, addressed in many of the chapters, is defining the program’s purpose and goals, as well as technical system requirements. Several chapters, including case studies, list questions posed during the planning stage, as well as the on-campus departments involved in the decision making. Diane Goldsmith, in Chapter 3: Enhancing Learning and Assessment through e-Portfolios, writes about the challenges of selecting an appropriate platform for their online system.  HTML editors allow creativity and flexibility, but require staff to assist students. On the other hand, a template is extremely easy to use, but offers a very rigid structure.  

Aside from how the university initiated the process, other common theme addressed in several chapters is how the university marketed the new program to their students and incorporated e-portfolios into the curriculum.  These two stages are inherently intertwined, and reveal opportunities to utilize web-based systems creatively within a university.  In Chapter 2: A Collaboration Between Student Affairs and Faculty, Glenn Johnson and Jack Rayman describe the introduction of e-portfolios in First Year Seminars, encouraging students to use web space to publish academic information, draw connections between coursework across disciplines, and explore links between the classroom and co- or extra-curricular activities. In this case, the e-portfolios reflect the trend towards outcomes-based education, asking students to define and evaluate the learning taking place during their college years. This example also focused on a student’s ability to draw together disparate strands of their college experience, simply for the sake of recording it, or to demonstrate their skills to employers or for post-graduate education through web space.  However, an e-portfolio with a narrower focus can have equally broad implications, seen in Florida State University’s Career Portfolio, examined by Jill Lumsden in Chapter 4: Development and Implementation of an e-Portfolio as a University-wide Program. In this case, the documentation of skills and accomplishments was meant to assist with career and degree planning, but has also assisted students with skill identification, graduate school searches, and been utilized by the university as an accreditation tool.

The material covered in this book will be most useful for those at the beginning stage of designing an e-portfolio program for students, and who need some suggestions on how to get started or inspiration for maximizing the benefits of such a system. Most of the examples in the book are too general for someone trying to visualize portfolio contents, as the emphasis is on the opportunities to transform how students reflect upon their education and represent themselves to employers.  However, the case studies provide some concrete examples that will benefit readers in the more advanced stages of implementing e-portfolios, who are looking for more specific ideas.

e-Portfolios: Emerging opportunities for Student Affairs(2007) Book by Jeff W. Garis & Jon C. Dalton. Review by Linda Mayhew. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 110 pp. $29.00, (paperback), ISBN # 978-0-7879
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