International health professor documents learning in unique ways

One of the greatest challenges facing educators is to document and assess the learning that takes place in and outside the classroom. For several years Professor James Wolff at the School of Public Health has found Digication e-portfolios to be an exciting and innovative way of reflecting on the learning experience, documenting the competencies and skills acquired during a course, making learning visible by creating a permanent record of classroom activities, and assessing the progress and competence of students.

Wolffy, as he is known by colleagues and students, teaches several courses for master’s students in the School of Public Health, all of which have successfully integrated e-portfolios. His first experience with e-portfolio was in IH 790, Leading Organizations to Achieve the Millennium Development Goals. In this course students reflected on the leadership skills they are acquiring and the e-portfolio was used for both formative and summative evaluations.

In IH 744, Program Design for International Health, taught with Monita Baba-Djara and Cristin Morona, students used e-portfolio to collect and present evidence of the specific program design skills they were learning in the classroom and reflect on the team process in which they were engaged. Subsequently they modeled this type of reflection by providing their own reflections of what is taking place in each class on a class e-portfolio linked to the students own individual e-portfolios.

In IH 887, Developing and Managing Maternal and Child Health Programs, students were not required to keep their own e-portfolios, rather the e-portfolio was used to document course activities and present the work done by student teams. The 2012 e-portfolio for IH 887 currently under development by the 2012 IH 887 class includes a student generated on-line textbook and a student-faculty collaboration on a Facilitators Guide for an MCH Training Program: Planning and Managing Child and Maternal Health Programs in Low Resource Settings.

Most recently, in IH 743 Implementing Health Programs in Developing Countries: Making Programs Work, taught with Associate Professor Malcolm Bryant, students created their own e-portfolios to record bi-weekly reflections. Students link their individual e-portfolios to the course e-portfolio where the professors collect and present their own reflections of the class in multiple formats including texts, photos, and videos. The class e-portfolio is also the home for the four consultant team e-portfolios where the course teams chronicle and display the work that they are doing for their clients.

For Wolffy keys to success have been to introduce e-portfolio on the first day of class, to dedicate time for each student to create their own e-portfolio and to create regular assignments requiring students to reflect on what they are learning in the class. He is careful to provide a structure for student reflections linking assignments to key issues covered in class, but not to be too prescriptive. He has successfully encouraged widespread use of e-portfolio in the International Health Department and its use throughout BUSPH continues to grow.