Blackboard Portfolio Tool: Faculty Perspectives

Blackboard Portfolio ImageDuring the summer of 2015, the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center team worked collaboratively with many faculty and staff to prepare for the Fall 2015 implementation of the new Blackboard Portfolio tool. Blackboard portfolios were created in a variety of courses including UNIV 101 and First Year Composition courses, as well as other undergraduate and graduate level courses and programs.

The easy-to-use portfolio tool allows students and faculty to create several portfolios for different purposes. For example, portfolios may be created for a specific course, program of study, or job search.  Faculty can request templates to serve as a guide for students and grade the portfolio assignment in the Blackboard Grade Center. Students can upload completed assignments, projects from co-curricular activities, and career information using the portfolio tool. Students can then share their portfolio by submitting it to a course or via email to NIU users or non-NIU contacts with only an email address.

NIU faculty who have used the Blackboard Portfolio tool found it beneficial for their students. Some of the comments from faculty include:

It was easy to set-up.


The portfolio gave me (as instructor) far deeper insights…what really had an impact on their learning and how beneficial different teaching strategies or activities were from the students’ perspective.


For the students, I believe this portfolio really helped them explore and recognize everything that they accomplished in a very short time frame.


The portfolio also helped the students reflect on what type of learner they are…and how to adjust their approach to their own education and learning in the future.


It is so important to have all of the resources…in one place and this functionality in Blackboard made it especially convenient.


Students were able to include a variety of media (ppt, animation, audio, documents, links, etc.).


I was able to create a checklist/rubric to go along with the portfolio assignment, which made grading painless.


I was very pleased with the pilot of the e-portfolio. I would like to experiment with setting up an e-portfolio for another class I am teaching this semester.

We have extensive information and tutorials on using the Blackboard Portfolio tools at, including tutorials specifically for faculty and students to help you get started using Blackboard Portfolios. Contact us at for more information on using the Blackboard Portfolio for your course or departmental ePortfolios!

New Blackboard Portfolio Tool: Upgraded Features are Easy to Use

blackboard portfolio sampleThroughout the summer and fall, the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center team has been busy working on implementation of the new Blackboard Portfolio tool that was released during the May 2015 Blackboard Learn Upgrade. Over 130 faculty and staff from more than 40 departments across campus, including many instructors for UNIV 101 and First Year Composition courses, have been trained on the portfolio tool. Students in these programs as well as in a variety of other courses will be building their ePortfolios during the fall 2015 and spring 2016 semesters.

In the new portfolio tool, students can easily create multiple portfolios for different purposes. Students can share their academic, co-curricular, and professional accomplishments in unique ways to tell their stories using the Blackboard Portfolio tool. Faculty and programs can request templates to provide a portfolio structure for students to follow. As students build their portfolios, they can include photos and videos, as well as upload any file as an artifact. Students can also integrate files they have submitted as Blackboard Assignments in any course they have taken at NIU, including the assignment instructions, their file, the grade assigned, and any comments or rubric submitted by their faculty.

When the portfolio is complete, students can submit it to a Portfolio Assignment, so that faculty can review and grade the portfolio in the Grade Center. It is also easy for students to share the portfolios with NIU users as well as people outside of NIU, with only an email address.

Extensive resources and tutorials have been created to support faculty and students who will be using the Blackboard Portfolio. Quick Guides, instructions, and step-by-step video tutorials are available for faculty and students on the Teaching with Blackboard website.  Check out our website at for step-by-step instructions on how to use the new Blackboard Portfolio tools. Contact us at for more information on using the Blackboard Portfolio for your course or departmental ePortfolios!

High-Impact Practices for Student Success

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High Impact PracticesHigh-Impact Practices (HIPs) are specific learning experiences that can have a high impact on students’ engagement and retention. These practices have been researched and tested in the field of higher education (Kuh, 2008). Successful HIPs engage students in a range of activities in which they interact with faculty and peers, experience diversity, focus on reflection and feedback, and participate in real-world applications. In addition, high-impact practices are closely tied to higher order learning opportunities in which students are fully engaged in their learning by analyzing, synthesizing, and creating new ideas and concepts of what they learn in and out of the classroom (Stephen F. Austin State University, 2014).

The LEAP (Liberal Education and America’s Promise) initiative of the Association of American Colleges & Universities identifies ten high-impact educational practices that have been shown to improve academic performance (LEAP, n.d.). The ten practices are described below followed by a representation of how these practices are being implemented at NIU.

First-Year Seminars and Experiences
“First-year experiences place a strong emphasis on critical inquiry, frequent writing, information literacy, collaborative learning, and other skills that develop students’ intellectual and practical competencies” (LEAP, n.d.).

  • NIU’s First- and Second-Year Experience (FSYE) helps freshmen, sophomores, and transfer students by implementing and supporting programming that ensures student academic, personal, social, and career success

Common Intellectual Experiences
Students enroll in “a set of required common courses or [in] a vertically organized general education program that includes advanced integrative studies and/or required participation in a learning community” (LEAP, n.d.).

Learning Communities
“Students take two or more linked courses as a group and work closely with one another and with their professors. Many learning communities explore a common topic and/or common readings through the lenses of different disciplines” (LEAP, n.d.).

  • Themed Learning Communities consist of two or three interdisciplinary courses taken in conjunction to analyze themes and connections for an integrative learning experience
  • Living Learning Communities are part of the Division of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management — the goal is to strengthen connections between students and faculty within their course of study

Writing-Intensive Courses
“These courses emphasize writing at all levels of instruction and across the curriculum, including final-year projects. Students are encouraged to produce and revise various forms of writing for different audiences in different disciplines” (LEAP, n.d.).

  • Writing Across the Curriculum is a pedagogical movement based on the premise that students learn critical thinking best when they actively engage in the subject matter of a course through writing
  • NIU’s Writing Across the Curriculum and the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center co-sponsor Designing a Writing-Enhanced Course, which is offered each May as a day-long workshop for faculty to incorporate writing and critical thinking into their courses

Collaborative Assignments and Projects
“Collaborative learning combines two key goals: learning to work and solve problems in the company of others, and sharpening one’s own understanding by listening seriously to the insights of others, especially those with different backgrounds and life experiences” (LEAP, n.d.).

Undergraduate Research
“The goal is to involve students [from all disciplines] with actively contested questions, empirical observation, cutting-edge technologies, and the sense of excitement that comes from working to answer important questions” (LEAP, n.d.).

  • Research Rookies links undergraduate first-year, sophomore, and transfer students with faculty mentors in their major or area of interest to conduct small-scale research projects
  • Undergraduate Special Opportunities in Artistry & Research program (USOAR) is a program for students from all colleges, departments, and majors that funds student-generated research projects on campus, somewhere else in the United States, or overseas

Diversity and Global Learning
“[The emphasis is on] courses and programs that help students explore cultures, life experiences, and worldviews different from their own, [which often] are augmented by experiential learning in the community and/ or by study abroad” (LEAP, n.d.).

Service Learning and Community-Based Learning
Students participate in “field-based ‘experiential learning’ with community partners [as] an instructional strategy—and often a required part of the course. The idea is to give students direct experience with issues they are studying in the curriculum and with ongoing efforts to analyze and solve problems in the community” (LEAP, n.d.).

Internships “provide students with direct experience in a work setting—usually related to their career interests—and give them the benefit of supervision and coaching from professionals in the field” (LEAP, n.d.).

  • NIU Career Services offers many resources (Huskies Get Hired!) and events to connect students with internship and co-op opportunities in order to gain real-world experiences
  • Many departments require and/ or make available direct work experiences to students before they graduate

Capstone Courses and Projects
“These culminating experiences require students nearing the end of their college years to create a project of some sort that integrates and applies what they’ve learned” (LEAP, n.d.).

  • Many departments include capstone courses and projects as part of their curriculum such as the Comprehensive Exam-Portfolio from the Department of Educational Technology, Research and Assessment in the College of Education. Included in this high-impact practice are portfolios, which are valuable at many stages of a student’s academic career.
  • NIU’s campus-wide electronic portfolio (ePortfolio) initiative supports and connects students by integrating general education and baccalaureate goals with authentic assessment and career preparation

Although HIPs are not new practices to higher education in and of themselves, bringing them together under the umbrella of high-impact practices allows faculty and students to easily select characteristics within those practices that best meets the need of academic goals. When successfully implemented, high-impact practices affect students in meaningful ways

  • Students spend considerable amounts of time on meaningful tasks
  • Faculty and student peers interact about substantive matters
  • Students experience diversity through contact with people who are different than themselves
  • Students receive frequent performance feedback
  • Activities have applications to different settings on and off campus
  • Authentic connections are made with peers, faculty, community, and/ or the university

If you are interested in learning more about high-impact practices, plan on attending one or both workshops of the Spring 2015 Teaching Effectiveness Institute on Thursday, January 8, 2015. In the morning session, NIU faculty will share some of the high-impact practices they have implemented in their courses. During the afternoon session, we will focus specifically on Portfolios and how they can impact student career success.

Association of American Colleges & Universities (n.d.). About LEAP. Retrieved from

Kuh, George D. (2008). High-Impact Educational Practices: What They Are, Who Has Access To Them, and Why They Matter. Washington, DC: Association of American Colleges and Universities. Retrieved from

LEAP (Liberal Education and America’s Promise) (n.d.). High-impact educational practices. Retrieved from

Stephen F. Austin State University, Office of High-Impact Practices (2014). Retrieved from


Blackboard Portfolio Tool Now Available Campus-Wide

With the August, 2011 upgrade to Blackboard’s Service Pack 6 in Version 9.1, the Portfolio tool is now live and available to all NIU users.  Bundled with Blackboard’s Content Collection system, NIU students, faculty, and staff will now be able to assemble, present, and share their Portfolios online.  This allows all students, faculty, and staff to document academic growth, highlight career evaluation, or demonstrate professional development.  Portfolios can then be presented to individuals or groups of users.

Sample Portfolio












Portfolios have long been used in higher education with a recent and natural transition occurring from paper-based to electronic.  The benefits of electronic portfolios are numerous, and include ease of management, ease of ability to update information and artifacts, the ability to share with numerous people simultaneously, the ability to provide feedback, and the ability to easily store numerous artifacts.

Aside from the convenience factor that electronic portfolios provide, their uses and applications in higher education are significant.  Perhaps most importantly, “e-portfolios can help address the call to facilitate and document authentic learning experiences” (Reese & Levy, 2009).  Through the assembly of and reflection on portfolio artifacts, learning outcomes become transparent to both the student and the faculty member.

Blackboard’s portfolio tool provides up to 300 MB of file storage to each student.  Faculty and staff have up to 500 MB of storage each.  The interface and functionality of the tool is the same for all users, and as long as users are actively affiliated with NIU, they will have access to their portfolios.  If a student or faculty member leaves NIU, their portfolios can be exported for offline access outside of Blackboard or archived to a remote storage device, preserving both the content areas and the artifacts themselves.  Additionally, because the portfolio tool resides within Blackboard’s Content Collection system, portfolios are not dependent upon enrollment status in a Blackboard course.

The owner of the portfolio controls who has access to the portfolio.  In order for a person to view another’s Blackboard portfolio, the owner will grant access to view and optionally to comment on his or her work.  Both NIU users and external users can be granted access.

In the coming months, Blackboard will enable a variety of themes, making it easier for users to personalize the look and feel of their portfolio.  Additionally, the provision of “certified artifacts” that are commented on by faculty can be highlighted and represented by the student as point-in-time work.

For more information, visit


Reese, M. & Levy, R. (2009). Assessing the future: E-Portfolio trends, uses, and options in higher education. Research Bulletin 4, CO: EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research, Boulder. Retrieved from

Blackboard’s Portfolio Tool Piloted During Fall 2010

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NIU is currently piloting Blackboard’s electronic portfolio tool and any interested NIU faculty/staff, graduate teaching assistants, and leaders of Blackboard communities are encouraged to try the this tool with their Blackboard course section(s) and/or Blackboard communities, thereby testing the initial implementation templates and features and providing feedback.

Blackboard’s Portfolio tool enables students and faculty to assemble, present, and share information online for documenting academic growth, career evaluation, and course preparation. The Blackboard Portfolio tool is bundled with the Blackboard Content System and allows users to collect and organize files and other digital content representative of their learning into custom Web pages. A portfolio can then be presented to individuals and groups of users. Users can grant access to other NIU Blackboard users and non-NIU users to view their portfolio as well as export the for offline viewing.

Sample Faculty Portfolio

Q Is the Portfolio tool for both student and faculty use?

A Yes. As a faculty member, you can create your own electronic portfolio to highlight your professional accomplishments and post your CV. Student portfolios can be used to archive and document artifacts of their best work, provide for reflection of their work, and serve as an evaluation tool of a selected body work.  If you wish your students to have access, ITS will need to be notified in order to enable the tool for your selected course section(s).

Q Can anyone view a Blackboard Portfolio?

A No. The owner controls who can access their portfolio by selecting who to share it with.  Once shared with fellow students or faculty, the portfolio owner can receive feedback from those viewing or assessing the portfolio.

Q What happens to the Portfolio when a student or faculty member leaves NIU?

A Portfolios can be exported for offline access outside Blackboard or archived to CD, preserving both the content areas and the artifacts themselves.

Q How do I get started?

A Faculty can schedule a hands-on training session that will cover initial set-up and an overview of the Blackboard Portfolio tool by contacting Jason Rhode at or 815-753-2475.  Additionally, an archive of the Blackboard Portfolio Tool Preview held on October 8, 2010 can be accessed here:

You can also visit for more information.