Embanet and Abilene Christian University Partner to Develop New e-Portfolio System for Moodle LMS

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Dr. Thomas Downey and Dr. Gary Tucker to Present Software that Enhances Assessment of Student Learning and Skills

In part as a result of our own education in partnering with Embanet to develop our online courses, ACU has become more focused on the benefits of reflective learning

New e-Portfolio software will enable online students in higher education to demonstrate their learning by sharing authentic examples of academic work and achievements with their instructors, colleagues, grad schools and potential employers. Much like the portfolios that art and design students generate and use to market their work to potential employers, e-Portfolios are becoming more common for students in online business and other courses to develop and manage documentary evidence of their learnings and capabilities. The e-Portfolio system was developed through collaboration between Embanet ULC , an integrated, full service provider of online learning services to schools, colleges and universities across the United States and Canada, and Abilene Christian University (ACU), a national leader in Christian higher education. Dr. Thomas Downey, Chief Academic Officer for Embanet, and Dr. Gary Tucker, Director of Distance Learning at Abilene Christian University, will demonstrate the system at the upcoming Educause Southwest Regional Conference.

Embanet has worked with ACU since 2007 to develop and deliver ACU's highly successful online Masters Degree programs. In 2008, the partners began collaborating on the development of an electronic portfolio system that provides an assessment of a student's skills and achievements that is more meaningful than traditional grades and transcripts. The software is an add-on to the open source Moodle learning management systems that ACU uses for its online programs. The benefit to the student is the ability to build and store a virtual portfolio of work, i.e. PowerPoint presentations, research papers, and even video, for each course they take. This results in a portfolio of authentic learning at the end of the student's program.

"In part as a result of our own education in partnering with Embanet to develop our online courses, ACU has become more focused on the benefits of reflective learning," said Tucker. "The exciting aspect of this software is that it not only allows students to build a strong portfolio of representative work, but it requires them to reflect on what they learned and why it is important."

When a student posts work to ACU's system, he or she is also required to post a "reflection" that addresses why the student chose a particular approach or topic, how the work demonstrates what the student has learned and is capable of doing, and how it is applicable to real-world work in the student's field of study. The reflection is reviewed by the instructor, creating an opportunity for dialogue with the student on mastery of the material and potential outcomes.

"This kind of reflective learning requires the student to take more responsibility for what he or she accomplishes in a course and enhances the student's meta-cognitive skills," said Downey. "ACU's unique commitment to this type of learning and the development of the software to support it demonstrates the institution's dedication to ongoing innovation in online education."

Recently rolled out to students and faculty in ACU's online programs, the system is already earning rave reviews. Once it is fully tested, say Downey and Tucker, it will be made available to the entire Moodle community.

The Educause Southwest Regional Conference (http://net.educause.edu/swrc09) will take place in San Antonio, Feb. 24-26, 2009. Downey and Tucker will present at 3:45 p.m. on Feb.24.

About Embanet, ULC

Founded in 1995, Embanet (http://www.embanet.com) is an integrated, full service provider of online learning services for postsecondary educational institutions. Embanet safeguards academic integrity and maximizes student enrollment and graduation by providing capital and expertise in program development, marketing and admissions, student services and technology support. The company serves over 50 colleges and universities offering more than 40 degree programs.

About Abilene Christian University

ACU's innovative, diverse learning environment attracts about 4,700-plus students from nearly every state and 60 nations to its beautiful 208-acre Texas campus. Exceptional academic programs include business, pre-med, theatre, physics, journalism, psychology, education and biblical studies. ACU alumni are sought out by graduate and professional schools, companies and organizations for their integrity, leadership and professional excellence.

The student experience at ACU is unique, combining challenging classes in excellent, high-tech academic facilities, professors who are scholars and mentors, and a dynamic Christian community. Our students, faculty and staff are actively involved as volunteers and as problem-solvers in our community and in locations across the country and throughout the world. ACU's global network includes 86,000 former students who live in every state and more than 100 countries.

Distinguished alumni include best-selling Christian author Max Lucado, Duke Medical Center neurology professor Dr. Janice Massey, CBS Sports executive producer Lance Barrow, The Rosewood Corporation president Don W. Crisp, U.S. Congressman and former Houston judge Ted Poe, and Detroit Lions' coach and former NFL football standout Wilbert Montgomery. ACU was founded in 1906. For more information about ACU, go to http://www.acu.edu.

For Embanet:
Lynne Baker
Intus Communications, Inc.
(847) 404-3462

For Abilene Christian University:
Lynne Bruton
(325) 674-2692

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