Sabrina Maginnis is Interim Assistant Department Head in the Department of Kinesiology.

Editor’s note: This is the sixth in a series of posts called HIPs Implementation related to the ongoing USG-directed effort to document and promote HIPs at UNG. In this post, Dr. Maginnis provides insight into how her department is using ePortfolios — and inspiration for others who might want to do the same.

Close your eyes and imagine this — you’re a faculty member who’s committed to engaging students in their learning and who constantly explores new ways to increase student ownership of the education process. Now open your eyes! If you’ve just imagined yourself, and if your imaginary experience seems similar to your current reality, then you may be interested in (or already using) High-Impact Practices (HIPs). In short, High-Impact Practices are active learning experiences that allow students to engage meaningfully with content. These experiences support students in developing or modifying their learning schemas to increase engagement with and retention of content. Some examples of HIPs include collaborative projects, experiential learning opportunities, service learning, and student research. A recent addition to the list of HIPs is ePortfolios. To compose an ePortfolio, students compile exemplars from their learning over a period of time and share those products with others as they see fit. Students reflect on their experiences and processes in order to produce those exemplars, with the result that they can demonstrate their progress and philosophy.

Sabrina Maginnis

The MS in Athletic Training program (ATP) at UNG uses ePortfolios to increase student ownership and guidance of their educational experiences. The ATP is externally accredited as a health sciences program, and our students must demonstrate didactic and clinical knowledge, skills, abilities, and attitudes consistent with those of other healthcare professionals. We use a type of ePortfolio in OneDrive to monitor each student’s growth and encounters and to plan their individualized future learning. The basic idea is this: each student has an Excel spreadsheet in OneDrive with a tab for each semester of clinical education (our program entails five semester of clinical placements). Each tab contains the same structure: rows for each week of the semester and columns to represent the types of engagements we’re tracking. These engagements include items such as different types of injuries and illnesses, instances when patients at the students’ sites were positively or negatively affected by social determinants of health, and numbers of times students observed or completed evaluations and treatments plans. In each column for each week, students simply enter the number of times they encountered each type of engagement. A final column allows students to briefly journal about experiences from that week. The spreadsheets are formatted to sum the weekly encounters for each semester, and then the tabs are linked to provide a running total throughout the entire program. Students track data weekly for assignments that contribute to course grading.

Each student’s Excel spreadsheet is also shared with program faculty, and each week a faculty member reviews the journals from the previous week and interacts with students using the comments feature. These interactions help students make connections between experiences and course content or current literature, encourage students, and pose questions for further reflection. In this way, the faculty can monitor each student’s growth and can support and challenge each learner individually each week.

The real benefits of this type of tracking occur near the end of the ATP. In the final two semesters, students complete assignments that are based on their individual encounters. They use the tracking document to calculate the value of the care they provide at their clinical sites, to identify opportunities to advocate for resources for their sites (one student was able to advocate for the medical records system at the site to include preferred name and pronouns), and to draft policies to better serve patients at those sites. Additionally, they identify the types of engagements they have not had and then seek meaningful ways to encounter those conditions. In the past, students have completed literature reviews, interviewed healthcare professionals who have expertise with those conditions, made case presentations to the clinicians at their sites, and prepared resource documents such as flow charts and infographics that address specific needs at their clinical education sites. Through these types of assignments, each student contributes to a mutualistic relationship with their clinical site that allows them to feel like a member of the healthcare team.

Our example of an ePortfolio is just one of many. Have you noticed the ePortfolio option in D2L? Ultimately, we’re thrilled with the result of our implementation. We can vicariously attend clinical education with our students and we generate massive amounts of data to inform our clinical placements, guide the types of discussions and activities we use in our classes, and determine topics to support and guide our clinical educators. For example, we use a simple metric of “encounters per week” to help our preceptors evaluate the times during which they schedule our students to attend clinical education — a higher ratio means more opportunities for our students to be actively engaged with patient care.

Excited about the ways ePortfolios might serve your students and want to learn more? The Center for Teaching, Learning, and Leadership, as well as the University System of Georgia, already offer a variety of self-paced and interactive academies dedicated to demystifying HIPs and to helping faculty answer the question “… but how can I use this in MY class?” If you haven’t looked into those resources, then I highly recommend you start there. Happy HIPing!