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Managing Communication and Professional Development in Online Graduate Programs with Electronic Portfolios


Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration Volume 17, Number 2 ISSN 1556-3847


Four years ago, two online graduate programs at a mid-size university in the western United States implemented ePortfolios to foster communication and connectedness among students and faculty, develop community that extends beyond course boundaries, and promote professional goal formation and achievement among students. This article describes choices made by administrators prior to and during implementation that resulted in current practice. It highlights successes and challenges associated with ePortfolio development in online programs, including coaching needs for students and faculty, access to ePortfolio content, and sustained production. Suggestions are provided for practitioners wishing to implement similar activities in their own online, graduate programs. The number of online courses and programs offered by educational institutions in the United States (U.S.) has steadily grown over the years and continues to increase in order to meet demand. Online enrollments grew 21.1% from fall 2008 to 2009. Almost 5.6 million higher education students enrolled in an online course in fall 2009 and approximately 30% of students in higher education took at least one online course (Allen & Seaman, 2010). Undergraduate students make up the majority of higher education students who enroll in online courses. However, in the academic year 2006-2007, over 1.7 million (14%) online students enrolled in graduate-level courses at degree-granting postsecondary institutions in the U.S. (Parsad & Lewis, 2008). Numerous accredited universities offer online graduate certificate, master, and doctoral degree programs. Although online degree programs are comparable in quality and rigor to face-to-face programs (Tabatabaei, Schrottner, & Reichgelt, 2006), geographic distances between faculty and students can create difficulties with communication, feelings of isolation, or perceived support (McInnerney & Roberts, 2004; Rogers, 2003). In an effort to reduce potential problems and promote learning communities, some programs recently introduced electronic portfolios (ePortfolios) (Authors, 2010; Chen & Chen, 2009; Gaytan & McEwen, 2007). The implementation of ePortfolios is not an easy task. Portfolios in traditional programs require buy-in from faculty and students. Faculty must align portfolios with course and program goals, communicate expectations pertaining to the selection of artifacts, and develop assessment criteria (Delandshere & Arens, 2003; Zeichner & Wray, 2001). This paper describes how faculty members at a research university integrated ePortfolios into graduate-level online education programs to facilitate a programmatic, systematic graduate student supervision approach.


Shepherd, C.E. & Bolliger, D.U. Managing Communication and Professional Development in Online Graduate Programs with Electronic Portfolios. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, 17(2),. Retrieved March 8, 2021 from .

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