Episode 142 The Powerful Role of ePortfolios in Accreditation & Student Success in Dietetics & Nutrition Programs Part 2

Welcome to Digication
Scholars Conversations.

I'm your host, Kelly Driscoll.

In this episode, you'll hear Part Two
of my conversation with Amy Urbanus,

Assistant Professor in the Dietetics
and Nutrition Program at University

of Alaska Anchorage's School of
Preventative and Therapeutic Services.

More links and information about today's
conversation can be found on Digication's

Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Full episodes of Digication Scholars
Conversations can be found on

YouTube or your favorite podcast app.

You know, when you were kind of speaking
about the, you know, for the students

to have, you know, between 20 and 30
competencies that they're working towards,

I know in when I was teaching was in an
education program and I think that maybe

there were Maybe 15 to 20 at the time.

And the language of them is
not always crystal clear.

And um, what an incredible, you know,
experience for the students to have that

year where they are, you know, as part
of that kind of culminating experience,

given the opportunity to work with you
to, you know, do that self assessment.

I think that that's huge.

Um, giving them some time to, you know,
be really honest about where they feel

like they may still have some gaps,
um, to be able to use the ePortfolio

as a reference for where they have
been able to achieve various companies

and have competencies and have a
record of that with their reflections.

And I'm imagining that there's times
when you've been reviewing those with

them where you've said, well, You
know, you're, you're communicating to

me that you feel like you have this
gap, but when I'm looking at your

ePortfolio and some of your reflections
about this experience, it sounds to

me like you've really achieved this.

So what other opportunities
might you need?

to have for, you know, you
to feel confidence that you

have achieved that competency.

And I'm imagining, you know, for you to
be able to work at that with them from the

beginning and starting to kind of learn
some of that language in the competencies

and incorporate that into their own kind
of thinking about what they're doing

and Why their different assignments and
projects and site experiences have been

created for them that you're probably also
finding times where you can see, you know,

as students going through this reflective
process may not quite understand what the

competency is all about, but you're able
to kind of through this trajectory guide

them in that direction, um, So as students
are kind of, you know, at either point in

the beginning or at the end, kind of going
through this reflective process, have

you identified times where, um, you know,
maybe a student discovered that there

was something about their current path
that may be revealing either, you know,

where maybe they need to make a hard turn?

Or, um, maybe it's solidifying
something, but in a different realm.

So, for instance, you found your dream
job working with people that had diabetes.

And I'm imagining that some people coming
into your Program, maybe thinking that,

you know, they're pointed at, you know, X.

And as part of this experience
end up in different directions.

How have you kind of seen that
maybe reveal itself through some of

these experiences and reflections
that you have in the portfolios?

So, you know, it's kind of interesting,
um, I would say, I don't know if I've

ever seen a student who is like completely
pivoting, you know, by the time they're,

um, finishing their undergraduate degree,
mostly just because I, we as a department

really try to foster this idea that
the world of dietetics is very broad.

And so, you You know, this is now,
you know, the next step in where you

have to get a master's degree and
you know, do supervised practice is

really where you're going to be able to
really decide, you know, kind of what

area you might be most interested in.

But what I will say is that
I think students forget like

the work that they've done.

Uh, because, oh my gosh, you know,
if you're taking 15, and I forget

too, if I take 15 credits and you're
just like, I just have to get through

biochemistry, like, this nutrition
thing that I'm doing over here, it's

fine, it's easy, I like, because I like
it, I just have to pass biochemistry.

So I think sometimes they forget
about the things that they are.

You know, that they've been working on
and doing, and so one of the things I do

really like is, you know, they pull out
these projects or assignments or things

and really are forced to think about, you
know, gosh, you know, I, I like, I think

I, I did really enjoy this clinical case
study or, you know, really, as I'm playing

with this portfolio and I'm uploading
these education materials I developed

using all of these Fancy software
programs that I don't know how to use.

And they realize that they really
like, and part of the ePortfolio

that speaks to them the most
is the design and all of that.

That there is a whole world of
dietetics in education and materials

and graphic design and a lot of
things that they can really dive

into and tap into their creativity.

And so I think it, you know, kind of
sometimes provides that opportunity

to think about, you know, Because, you
know, when you look at a project that

you might have worked on, it will bring
up You know, maybe what was going on

in your life at that time or, you know,
what they were doing and if they enjoyed

it at all or not, you know, whatever.

And so I think it can provide, you
know, additional like thought about, you

know, what they might be interested in.

Where I've seen the most
pivoting, um, I also help co-teach

a class called Health 151.

I think you're familiar with it.

It's called "Breaking Trail..."

um, "on your Health and
Social Services Career."

And it's an interdisciplinary
or interprofessional.

I always say interdisciplinary cause
that's hospital speak education.

We say interprofessional.

Um, so it's an interprofessional.

Education type course.

And it is also very much like an entry.

I'm a new student in
the College of Health.


Um, and we explore, we
use e-portfolio heavily.

Uh, and they build an e-portfolio,
but their, their students are

really diving into different
career paths, different things.

And it's that where I really
do see pivots happening.

Um, and, which is great.

I, I mean, it's fantastic.

I wish somebody had done that for me
when I was, you know, starting out,

because you don't know what you want to
do, um, you know, you think you know,

um, you know, and a lot of students
at the College of Health are in the

Nursing Program, you know, and then
they start to learn about other health

care professions and realize, oh,
there's more than just nurse and doctor.

You know, I had mentioned a while
ago in the beginning of this, uh,

of our discussion, I talked about
how much I really like advising.

So, One of the things that I love
about this class and then the use of

portfolio where they really are again,
um, introduced to the idea of reflection

and, and, um, and in this class, they're
not, they're, we're not measuring their

knowledge and their competence, you know,
we're, We're asking them to think about

where they fit, um, and what's going to,
you know, help them be most successful.

And so it is really fun to read, you
know, that I have had a couple students

where I've read their reflections and
their personal statements and things

like that and have reached out and
said, Hey, you know, like I'm super

excited for you and I'm super happy
that you're on the path that you are.

I sense some hesitation, you
know, have you thought about

this program or this program?

And, and just to kind of, you know,
make that connection, I think all of,

you know, all faculty are looking to.

You know, we just, I mean, I'd love
to fill, you know, my seats, uh,

in my classes, but if it's not the
right fit, it's not the right fit.

And so, it's a great, it's really
nice to use that tool to help

pull some of those things out.

Some students, especially in Alaska,
we serve, um, a large rural population.

So we have, especially like
in our online programs.

And so that could be a really big,
you know, to be a freshman in college,

you know, trying to do some online
education, living in a rural community

in a village, um, you know, where maybe
a student doesn't know any, you know,

that's been their whole, um, You know,
they're, that's their world and they

have professional aspirations and a
lot of times it comes from a gap and a

need in their home community and they
have a desire to seek this education,

but it can be extremely, scary...

Um, you know, the idea of hopping
on zoom and just talking like

this, you know, with somebody is
not, you know, super comforting.

So in these reflections, I'm
like, Oh my goodness, you're

like, you have so much to offer.

And they, you know, through their
writing are able to share all

of these amazing experiences.

Um, and so it.

It does, it can really provide an
opportunity to identify a student

that you may want to connect with,
um, that you just wouldn't otherwise

see, um, when they're, you know,
submitting their assignment by

midnight on Sunday night of the same
assignment that everybody else is doing.

So, um, so in that regard, You know,
so for that class specifically, I

think that's where I see more, you
know, kind of pivots or, um, you know,

changes that they're life changing
things that they're thinking about.

Yeah, and it is such a wonderful
course and the design of it to really

be this time for discovery, right?

And for so many of the students, many
first generation college students,

many, as you mentioned, coming from
Rural communities where, um, exposure

and access are so different than
what, you know, many would envision

as your typical college student.

Um, and I think what has
also just been remarkable.

You know, from, from Digication's
perspective and working with the

university too, and you, you mentioned
this a little bit and, you know, these

opportunities to use the ePortfolio to
learn about their students is they're

just, just seeing this incredible, um,
culture and comfort with storytelling

and that when they, the students are
given this opportunity to, uh, Talk about

the experiences that they have had in
their families, in their communities.

Um, tied to their kind of cultural
backgrounds and histories and connections

to the area that, um, I mean, it
almost seems like many of the young

people there or people, you know, even
those that are older and now coming

to school or coming back to school.

There's this almost need and, um, desire
to have this space to share these stories,

and that this technology kind of came to
the institution at a time where, you know,

access to the internet, although it's
not perfect everywhere, you know, it's

starting to become more accessible and
giving people this opportunity to suddenly

be able to share things beyond the, you
know, Um, you know, close communities and

individuals within their families in ways
that they haven't been able to before.

And um, you know, in our collaboration
with the different programs there and

through our wonderful relationship working
with Paul Wasco and being introduced to

folks like You and so many of the faculty
there, you know, doing the, um, hard

work with the students, it has just been
this incredibly inspiring experience to

see all of the different ways that, you
know, that are uniquely University of

Alaska very often in ways that you're
innovating the use of the, the platform.

So, you know, I think for those that
are listening, um, E portfolios have

had a long history in being tied to
accreditation and assessment for being

able to gather data for accreditation.

Um, but the way that the institution
has been able to, you know, open up

the opportunity for students to really
use it as that space for much more.

Personalized storytelling and connections
to, you know, the passion that's led

them to pursuing, um, you know, different
interests and fields at the college.

It's just been huge.

Um, yeah, so and, and
I'll give it something.

No, no, no.

I've been wanting to talk in a while.

I will give a shout out to my,
uh, to my colleague here too, Dr.


She, um, teaches a, uh, community
nutrition class, which is

one of our capstone classes.

It's a 400 level class.

And she does, uh, you know,
does a project using ePortfolio.

So it's not building a portfolio in the
sense that we've been talking about,

like, um, you know, for accreditation
or for those kinds of things.

Um, but she, you know, it's a multi-step
project and one of the coolest things

when she first started utilizing it was
she actually gives students the option,

the option to provide in one piece of it,
you know, to provide written, uh, written

work or to do verbal and, uh, you know,
and record themselves, uh, talking about

stuff and, and gives them the choice.

And she said it's really been, you
know, it's really been easy to, to see.

You know, how some students really shine.

When they have the opportunity to
provide that, um, you know, the

oral response versus, you know,
versus writing and vice versa.

Um, so I think it can, again,
I think once, you know, once

faculty and students get over.

The idea of, it's another platform,
you know, it's something else, right?

Like it's not, you know, a part of
Blackboard or it's not a textbook, it's

not, you know, those kinds of things.

Um, and then I would just say too
that, so this is my sixth year.

I make tweaks and do different things.

Not huge, but you know, constantly
kind of thinking about how to

make it better or do, you know.

And so, it's okay to start out having it
kind of just be, you know, what we would

consider a more traditional portfolio.

I'm going to put, I'm going to
put my work in here and then

somebody else can view it.

Um, and I think that
that's perfectly fine too.

I think there's purpose in that.

Um, and just having, you know,
kind of a, a single place that

somebody can do that outside of,
like I said, like a Google Drive.

Um, and so, you know, I think that some
faculty Get the sense might be intimidated

by it because they do see these like high
level, you know, innovative ways of using

portfolio and it doesn't have to be.

You know, it doesn't have to be
that necessarily start with a,

a single, I mean, I, I, I know
that Paul does a lot of workshops

around the kind of six word story.


We use that a lot.

I love can be the creation
space for a, a story.

It can be the creation space for a single
project or reflection on an experience.

And that is.

A very different kind of approach
than some of the, you know, more

longitudinal, you know, program
wide kind of experience portfolios.

And absolutely that, you know, as faculty
are learning about different ways and kind

of options that they have and flexibly.

using it in ways that really suit their
own needs and, and purposes and, you

know, letting students kind of take the
reins in those cases and kind of design

it in ways that work, work best for them.

As you mentioned, it could be the
incorporation of video or audio

and, um, and sometimes students
are just marrying images and texts

together in ways that, um, Really
kind of become their own art form.

I had the opportunity to have, um, Jill
from dance, uh, joining me on one of

these conversations and she would often
describe the portfolios as almost a dance

in, in her cases, you know, the students
are really trying to create an experience.

with the, with the platform.

Um, so there's lots of different
ways that it can be kind of

molded and, um, evolve over time.

I love that you spoke a little bit
about how, you know, as the years go

by, that you're always kind of making
Refinements and iterating on things.

And I think that that's, you
know, a very healthy part of

the whole practice in teaching.


And that, you know, with every group
of students that comes in, you know,

every cohort also has its own kind of
Needs and aspirations and, you know,

they always teach us something too and
from that we, you know, it informs us

and kind of getting ready for the next
group to come in so it is something that

I think, you know, it's quite different
from one's course shell in a, in a

learning management system because you
can so easily take something from a prior

semester and make Adjustments to it as
needed and then make it available to the

next, um, group of students that come in
that things don't have that kind of hard

stop and end date and then disappear.

Well, and it's interesting.

So I'm building a promotion portfolio
right now, um, and which our university,

I'm sure lots of universities do that
same thing for promotion and tenure files.

Um, And so, I am not a very, I do not,
I, I like clinical stuff, I am not a

super creative person, um, and so that
part of it is a little harder for me, um,

but I like things to look aesthetically
nice and pleasing, so it's like this,

I'm like, oh, it needs to look better,
but I don't know how to do that.


So I just this morning was actually
looking in old classes, um, of my

students and I, there's a, there are
always these, a couple of students that

I just always pop into my head cause
I, they were just, usually they're the

ones that are doing amazing work in
culinary nutrition and then they're

just, you know, they're just so in with.

Their environment, and the food, and
gardening, and all these wonderful things.

We all love food.

So do I.

I know.

It's so wonderful.

I love culinary art.


So I'm thinking of this, so I was like,
Oh, I should see what her, you know,

what she used as a background, right?

So I'm thinking of the students, and I'm
like, her stuff was always so beautiful.

Let me just see if I can
spark my creative juices.

So I opened up her portfolio and
she's now a practicing registered

dietitian, uh, so she's finished a
master's degree and all the rest of it.

And I opened up her undergraduate
didactic program and dietetics portfolio,

um, that I still have access to.

And she had given me permission to
utilize it to help, you know, as

like guidelines for other students.

And she has, it's now like a
full, like professional portfolio.

Like so she, I still see some pictures.

I see some examples of projects
that she was most proud of

probably in her undergraduate work.

Obviously she's now grown.

She has children, you know, things have
moved on, um, but it was really neat to

see that she took what she developed and
created in DN 492, um, and has built it

into a professional portfolio, got rid
of the stuff that she didn't need and,

um, but has continued to utilize it.

So I just saw that this morning and I
was, um, that was pretty cool to see

that it's not, you know, it's not,
you know, some students, like I said,

are never going to look at it again.

Um, and that's.

Perfectly fine, but it's nice to know
that some take it with them and, you

know, continue to build and grow with it.

Absolutely, yeah, and when we were
creating Digication, even from the

very beginning, um, you know, we really
wanted it to be something where alumni

could take it with them and continue to
utilize it in whatever manner, you know,

they really felt like they needed to.

Maybe they just wanted to keep it as a
record of what they did during that time.

And then others, you know, really
get in there and sometimes create

multiple versions of this, for
different employment opportunities.

Some as you mentioned come back, and
start filling it out with, you know,

professional practice experience
that they have with, um, professional

development kinds of experiences that
they've had, um, different certifications

that they may get over the years.

And, you know, at this stage, it might be
something that they just Return to every

few years, but they've got all of that
history now that they can refer to, things

can get moved around and reorganized.

So, um, and it is very joyful for
educators to also be able to look back

at what their Students have done and
share it with other students the way that

you're doing it to get them inspired.


, um, you know, about what that kind
of finished product may look like

during their time as a student, right?

This is something that you can
strive for or you may present it

differently, but you know, these are
the kinds of things reflect Yeah.

Quality of the reflections
that we're looking for, and.

Um, maybe, you know, presentation
kind of design ideas and things

to think that that's all.

Modeling and um, you know, the fact that
you've kind of gone through the process

of creating your own P & T portfolio.

I know that, you know, from, from
those being very open and students be

able to take the reins, that the P & T
portfolios can be much more structured

because they have a different utility.

Um, but that it does, so again,
kind of give you the opportunity

as a teacher to be able to.

Familiarize yourself with different
ways that the tools can be used and,

um, and think about how you want to
present yourself, right, for audiences.

I've always been, uh, interested
in how many, uh, your institution

do choose to share their P & T, uh,
portfolios publicly, um, because it

has become something that they use not
only for the purpose of, um, promotion

and tenure within the institution.

But something that they're really
proud of, that they want to be able

to share with external audiences.


Well, and the one thing I always
tell my students, too, it's like,

um, you know, we all have that memory
of trying to apply to jobs the first

time when you have no work experience.

Uh, you know, I mean,
beyond, you know, I, I.

Worked to pay the bills while I was
in school and that kind of stuff.

And, and how do you compete against, you
know, applicants that might have that.

Um, and so to me that's
something else as well.

I'm, you know, I always try to tell
students that like, you really can

utilize, you know, portions of, or
all of, or whatever you can utilize.

Portfolio and providing, you know, and
sharing like your depth and breadth of

experience, even though in a resume, it
may not jump out at a Um, you know, at

somebody, at somebody who's looking to
hire somebody, um, you know, in a resume,

it may not jump out as like, you know,
you look at their work experience, you're

like, Oh, okay, well, you're pretty green,
you know, it's like, there's not a whole

lot, but in any portfolio, they might have
done some amazing project that gives them.

An example of what they're
capable of, um, and how they might

fit within their organization.

So um, much information
about cultural fit.


And that piece of it.

So, you know, again, maybe
one student does that.

I don't, you know, I.

There's really not a whole lot.

You know, we try to track
students, um, you know, and, and

their careers and things, uh, you
know, even just for our program.

Um, but, you know, I'm hopeful that
some students, you know, are able

to, to utilize a little bit of it.

Yeah, absolutely.


And I think, again, as the, um, as
kind of, The time goes by that those

that are doing the hiring, even if a
job description said, Oh, you know,

one of the requirements is three to
five, three to five years experience

that, you know, that students should
have some confidence in the experiences

that they have had as students, you
know, these field experiences and, and.

Um, even if they're creating
their own kind of fictitious

case studies, an example.

But when they're able to show that,
even if they just graduated a few

months ago, when they can show that
they've done, they've done the work.

And now, you know, there may
be things that they need to be

taught in the field, but those
things can be taught when, right.

People that are hiring can see, okay.

They've really done, they've done this.

They've done this, yeah.


We can see that they've got, you know,
a mindset or work ethic or, you know,

the profile of this person is really
fitting the kinds of things that we're

looking for that very often, even if the
job description may have been listing.

You know, X years of experience
that the people that are really

making the final decisions.


And especially as we move into
so many professions requiring

a graduate degree, their, their
experiences are above and beyond.

Like when I was entering the workforce,
you know, with a bachelor's degree.

So, um, yeah, so it's nice to be
able to showcase that a little bit.






Well, Amy, thank you so
much for joining me today.

You're welcome.

It was fun.

We'll chat with you again, and I can't
wait to share this, uh, conversation

with our listeners, uh, your experience
and perspective is so valuable.

So, thank you for sharing
your story with me today.

You're welcome.

Thanks for having me.

It was super fun.




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