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English Studies ePortfolio team receives 2011 XCaliber Award


BLACKSBURG, Va., April 28, 2011 – A team of graduate students, faculty, and staff working collaboratively on Virginia Tech's English Studies ePortfolio project received the university's 2011 XCaliber Award for excellence in creating and applying technologies on a large-scale team project.

The 16-member team included those from the Department of English in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, Learning Technologies and InnovationSpace, and the Office of Academic Assessment. Individual members are

  • Nancy Metz, associate professor of English and director of the undergraduate program in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences (project coordinator);
  • Elisabeth Bloomer, senior instructor, Department of English;
  • Steve Culver, associate director, Office of Academic Assessment;
  • Virginia Fowler, professor of English and director of the literature, language, and culture program;
  • Kathryn Graham, senior instructor, Department of English;
  • Anne Laughlin, assessment coordinator, Office of Academic Assessment;
  • Jennifer Lawrence, senior instructor, Department of English;
  • Victoria Le Corre-Cochran, instructor, Department of English;
  • Julie Mengert, advanced instructor, Department of English;
  • Steve Oakey advanced instructor, Department of English;
  • Vanessa Ruccolo, instructor, Department of English;
  • Jennifer Sparrow, director, Emerging Technologies and New Ventures, Learning Technologies;
  • Todd Stafford, graduate student, Department of English;
  • Teggin Summers, assistant director, Pedagogy, ePortfolio Initiatives, Learning Technologies;
  • Ray Van Dyke, director, Office of Academic Assessment;
  • Marc Zaldivar, director, ePortfolio Initiatives, Learning Technologies; and
  • Hongbo Zhang, graduate assistant; ePortfolio Initiatives, Learning Technologies.

Established in 1996 by Office of the Provost, the XCaliber Award (shorthand for exceptional, high caliber work) is presented annually by the Virginia Tech Center for Innovation in Learning to recognize individual faculty members or teams of faculty and staff who integrate technology in teaching and learning. The award celebrates innovative, student-centered approaches to learning activities. Awardees receive a cash award and are called upon to demonstrate their work.

The English Studies ePortfolio is by more than 500 students majoring in English at Virginia Tech.

The ePortfolio begins in a required two-credit course introducing students to how and why one would create this kind of dynamic, multidimensional archive. The course is supported by a lab component organized through InnovationSpace providing hands-on assistance with the challenges of mastering multimedia technologies.

The ePortfolio is the centerpiece of the department’s undergraduate program assessment, providing the means for annual faculty review of student learning outcomes. In addition, it is a tool for student development, making a purposeful space for, and therefore encouraging, long-range planning, student engagement, and synthetic approaches to undergraduate education. It is also a means by which the department identifies and cultivates student leadership potential.

In the process of creating their ePortfolios, students create a digital narrative (iMovie or video) reflecting on some dimension of the person behind the ePortfolio; archive demonstrations of program-specific learning outcomes; analyze growth and development in a specific domain of learning; reflect on non-academic experiences and activities and their connection to classroom learning or engagement; map out their entire undergraduate course of study; design and prepare a resume that could be shared with an employer or faculty; synthesize and reflect on the various strands of their undergraduate education; and incorporate these elements into a well-designed whole.

A collaboration among many individuals and institutional groups, the project continues to evolve.  This team helped a department and the university model for students a concept of education that demonstrates a record of accomplishment distinct to each individual; a dynamic representation of growth and development; a meaningful collection of artifacts selected by an author and representing the author’s best work; a site where connections can be articulated across subject areas, genres, and forms of experience; and a window into what students actually learn.

Dedicated to its motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), Virginia Tech takes a hands-on, engaging approach to education, preparing scholars to be leaders in their fields and communities. As the commonwealth’s most comprehensive university and its leading research institution, Virginia Tech offers 225 undergraduate and graduate degree programs to more than 31,000 students and manages a research portfolio of $496 million. The university fulfills its land-grant mission of transforming knowledge to practice through technological leadership and by fueling economic growth and job creation locally, regionally, and across Virginia.