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Graduate Engineering Student Perceptions of ePortfolio and the Role of Departmental Culture

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

General Topics in Graduate Education

Tagged Division

Graduate Studies

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.647.1 - 23.647.23



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Paper Authors


Mahnas Jean Mohammadi-Aragh Virginia Tech Orcid 16x16

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Jean Mohammadi-Aragh is a Ph.D. Candidate and Dean’s Teaching Fellow in Virginia Tech's Engineering Education Department. Prior to joining the Engineering Education Department, Jean earned her B.S. (2002) and her M.S. (2004) in Computer Engineering at Mississippi State University. Jean was a scientific visualization and virtual reality researcher for the Geosystems Research Institute, and outreach coordinator for Mississippi State's Electrical and Computer Engineering Department. Her current research interests focus on technology in engineering education, human computer interaction, educational data mining, and scientific visualization.

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Lisa DuPree McNair Virginia Tech

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Lisa DuPree McNair is an Associate Professor of Engineering Education at Virginia Tech, where she also serves as Assistant Department Head of Graduate Education and co-Director of the VT Engineering Communication Center (VTECC). She received her PhD in Linguistics from the University of Chicago and an M.A. and B.A. in English from the University of Georgia. Her research interests include interdisciplinary collaboration, design education, communication studies, identity theory and reflective practice. Projects supported by the National Science Foundation include interdisciplinary pedagogy for pervasive computing design; writing across the curriculum in Statics courses; as well as a National Science Foundation CAREER award to explore the use of e-portfolios for graduate students to promote professional identity and reflective practice. Her teaching emphasizes the roles of engineers as communicators and educators, the foundations and evolution of the engineering education discipline, assessment methods, and evaluating communication in engineering.

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Graduate Engineering Student Perceptions of ePortfolio and the Role of Departmental CulturePortfolios and their electronic incarnation (ePortfolios) are popular in a variety ofdisciplines, including art, medicine, and education, and for a variety of applications, suchas undergraduate assessment and graduate student work showcases. Recently, the field ofengineering has shown interest in ePortfolios, with graduate engineering programsinvestigating the use of ePortfolios for graduate programmatic assessment. However, thetypical culture where ePortfolios have been used is quite different from the wayengineering culture is traditionally described (e.g., rigid, linear, efficient, logical,quantitative, and pragmatic). There is some concern that ePortfolios may not beappropriate within the traditional engineering culture. On the other hand, calls forchange, such as the one issued by the National Academy of Engineering in 2008,encouraged the engineering community to move away from the quantitative,mathematical, and scientific identifiers associated with the discipline. There is evidencethat some departments have embraced this idea, may have broken the traditionalengineering stereotype, and thus may have a more receptive culture for ePortfolios.This study surveys the students of a new engineering graduate department that has anePortfolio requirement in place. We explore student perceptions of ePortfolios andengineering departmental culture through an insider perspective. Specifically, this studyinvestigates: How do graduate engineering students perceive ePortfolio programmaticassessment tools and how do they perceive their own departmental culture? Key findingsinclude: 1) students perceive little value for ePortfolios, 2) students do complete therequired components but do not perceive a learning use, 3) students are resistant tospending more time on the ePortfolio process, and 4) the previous perceptions come froma non-traditional, engineering department. That is, even in a supportive, approachable,and current engineering department, students’ perceptions of ePortfolios trend towardsthe negative. This is worrisome for other, more traditional engineering departmentsinterested in using ePortfolios for programmatic assessment. A significant limitation ofthis work is that we surveyed a single, small, unique, and specific engineering departmentand the department’s ePortfolio implementation may have had an impact on results.However, this study contributes to the discussion of ePortfolios in graduate engineeringeducation by beginning the conversation on how engineering culture influences studentePortfolio acceptance.

Mohammadi-Aragh, M. J., & McNair, L. D. (2013, June), Graduate Engineering Student Perceptions of ePortfolio and the Role of Departmental Culture Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19661

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