Published: 10 February 2020, 12:45 | By: Till Bayer
When exams are drawing near or assignments are due, many students become anxious. There can be many reasons for the tension – one factor being that with exams, only the student’s performance on the day counts and the result is final. For the final grade, students’ learning processes and whether or not they were attentive and active in seminars are often irrelevant.
However, change is in sight. Digitisation is throwing up many creative ideas for ways in which universities, with the help of digital media, can move away from traditional but rigid forms of assessment. One such idea has been developed by the Romance languages scholar Diana Di Maria of Friedrich Schiller University, Jena. For her project ‘E-Portfolio as an assessment format to accompany the study programme’, 34-year-old Di Maria has won an award in the Thuringian competition ‘Innovation in digital university teaching’. The prize is accompanied by funding of 30,000 euros.
“The E-Portfolio is a kind of online folder that students use throughout their course,” explains Di Maria. “In this folder, they collect their exam and other assessment results, as well as course materials, and they can also use it to discuss with lecturers and fellow students.” In her project, Di Maria will develop such an E-Portfolio for the planned interdisciplinary Master’s programme ‘Literary Translation’. Students will start by choosing a major subject from the many different language and literature options at the University of Jena, such as Slavonic Studies, Latin or Romance Languages. A supervisor from that subject will then be assigned to them. Through the E-Portfolio, the supervisor will have an overview of the student’s academic progress and will carry out assessments, which will be chosen in consultation between the supervisor and the student.
However, the E-Portfolio offers more than just the benefits of individual supervision. Students will be able to discuss translated texts, which they have uploaded to the portfolio, with lecturers and other students. The long-term archiving of texts will make it easier for students to build up their strengths and improve weaker areas. In addition, through the E-Portfolio – accessible at any time and from anywhere – they will be able to keep in contact with translation experts who come to the University for workshops over several days. Last but not least, the digital facility will include a function that students can use to collect together their outstanding texts and assessment results to create a profile. In this way, all their documents will be virtually a click away, so that they can easily apply for grants, internships or their first job following graduation.
Diana Di Maria developed the idea for the E-Portfolio during a number of professional training courses at Jena University’s “LehreLernen” (Learn to Teach) service centre. With the funding provided by the Thuringian Ministry for Economic Affairs, Science and Digital Society, and the Stifterverband (joint German industry initiative for promoting science and higher education), she will soon be able to make her idea a reality. From March, she wants to test, in selected lectures and seminars, which software is most appropriate for the E-Portfolio and how it can best be integrated as an aid into the study plan. Afterwards, she wants to train the teaching staff how to use the software and she will write a manual, to be complemented by video tutorials.
“After the training phase, all teaching staff in the new study programme should be familiar with the E-Portfolio and be able to answer questions from students,” says Di Maria. “If the project is a success, it could even be extended to other Master’s programmes at the University of Jena.”