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EPortfolios — those increasingly indispensable online collections of student essays, papers, blogs, multi-media presentations and other work — have become such a major part of higher education that they have spawned an entire organization devoted to their use: The Association for Authentic, Experiential and Evidence-Based Learning. This year, AAEEBL (the acronym is pronounced “able”) held its annual conference on the campus of Bronx Community College, where ePortfolios are as much a part of teaching as whiteboards and Blackboard.

The three-day conference started on the morning of Tuesday, July 15, and ran through Thursday morning. Some 120 conferees from around the country gathered in the Hall of Fame Playhouse in BCC’s Roscoe Brown Student Center as President Thomas A. Isekenegbe launched the days of addresses, panels and workshops with a brief introduction to both Bronx Community College and The City University of New York. “Most of our students are the first in their families to attend college, so we are in the business of truly transforming lives,” said the President.

The participants then dispersed to sessions exploring the many ways ePortfolios can play a part in that transformation. Topics included ““Across the College and in the Classroom: ePortfolio as an effective and efficient High-Impact Practice,” “Building a Digital Learning Archive,” “Transforming At-Risk Students into Successful College Students: The Role of Reflective ePortfolios” and “Engaging Ethics in ePortfolios.”

Among the presenters was Dr. Tracy Penny Light, the President and Board Chair of AAEEBL. She helped lead the workshop on “Developing and Implementing an ePortfolio Scholarly Research Agenda.”

“We’re the international professional community of practice for educators who engage their learners with ePortfolios, helping students to document their learning and develop authentic representations of themselves that they can share with different audiences for different purposes,” said Dr. Light. “We used to think of learning as only happening in the classroom — now we’re interested in learning across the various contexts in which they live and work.”

The first and second days of the conference each featured their own keynote addresses. Dr. Amelia Parnell, Vice President for Research and Policy at the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators, spoke on Tuesday on “Collaboration as a Lever for Change: New Partners, Relationships, and Priorities.” She was followed on Wednesday by Natasha Jankowski, Director of the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment, whose topic was “Documenting Learning: Transforming Assessment with ePortfolios.”

The Batson Lecture — entitled “From Ed Tech Fad to Field of Study: Maintaining the Momentum of ePortfolio Transformation — was delivered by Dr. Helen Chen, a research scientist with the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Stanford University. She had particular praise for Bronx Community College’s promotion of ePortfolios and the work of Professor Jordi Getman of BCC’s Department of History in organizing the conference. “That kind of recognition of portfolios is something really valuable here at Bronx Community College. There has been a lot of innovation at BCC, especially under Jordi and his colleagues.”

Over the three days, there were many opportunities for the participants to share and network, such as a barbeque among the marble columns and statues of BCC’s legendary Hall of Fame for Great Americans. A panel from Australia offered its input via Skype.

By the end of the gathering on Thursday, enough ideas had been presented and exchanged to fill a host of ePortfolios.

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