ENFL-116 Expository Writing for Foreign Students

The course that was the focus of my project was ENFL-116 --Expository Writing for Foreign Students—Spring 2015 Semester with an enrollment of 9 students—all non- native speakers of English.

Through this project, I was attempting to give the students in the class an opportunity to compile their written work in one portfolio in order to present their academic accomplishments for professional and academic purposes. This was this first time I had suggested that the students embark on such a project. Students had collected their drafts and final papers in other semesters, but this was the first time they had the opportunity to use technology to create an ePortfolio and to incorporate translations into their native languages.

The goal for the project was for the students to work throughout the semester to build portfolios of both written and oral samples of their work. Many of the students in this class would be seeking internships, further education, or jobs in which English skills would be essential. The ePortfolio would serve as a means of enhancing their academic studies in addition to supporting their subsequent aspirations.

The guiding questions of the project were as follows:

  • What components would be most important for the students to include in their ePortfolios?
  • How would the revision process reinforce strong academic and professional writing skills?
  • How would the students’ reflections enhance the learning process in general and ePortfolio specifically?

The use of technology allows students to compile portfolios of their written work to show supervisors, prospective employers, academic admissions panels, and scholarship sponsors. With the ePortfolio, they are able to include both electronic files of their written work and documentation of their oral presentations highlighting their level of English skills. The process requires a great deal of reflection on and revision of academic work thereby fostering a rich learning environment.

The feedback from this project was self-reported by the students. They were keen about the idea and value of an ePortfolio but also realistic about how much time would be needed to complete the project. I learned that advanced planning is needed to structure the process; the project needs to be introduced and begun right at the start of the semester as opposed to introducing it after the course is underway. The time constraints of the course were daunting particularly considering that this project was in addition to the complete course syllabus of prior semesters.

Since the ePortfolio is a repository of representative academic work and credentials that are displayed in a well-designed and accessible format, it is a worthwhile project for my students. The ePortfolio highlights academic and professional accomplishments and abilities. In addition, the ePortfolio can be expanded in the future—it operates as an organic entity. The challenges, however, include the time constraints in completely and thoroughly completing the project during the course of one semester. There is also the issue of “selling” the idea to students –giving assurance as to confidentiality, control, and portability. Knowing about and addressing these issues will be essential in getting the project off the ground in subsequent semesters.