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Monday, 15 August 2011

Attraction, Retention and Inclusivity - Part 2

Image: Ball and Chain from FlickR-IndiamosAt a time when institutions are being pressurised to make serious cost-cutting economies, administrators might well be looking at the principle of retention. However, 'Retention' is a much bigger subject than just that of the efficient retaining numbers of students in courses.

As alluded to in my previous post, what is the point of 'Attraction' if once the students have 'signed-on' they then find that the course is not what they expected or that they cannot get on with their peers? Students should not feel a sense of entrapment, that they have entered upon a course of study from which they cannot escape. There is no worse feeling than, "This is not what I expected."

I therefore see the ePortfolio as being a powerful tool for supporting retention. - I am currently writing on this topic for a chapter in a book to be published later this year - where I attempt to think through these matters in some depth.

Attrition, or the falling away of students, invariably happens within the first term of joining a course of study, but, as explained in my previous post, this can be significantly overcome by establishing good relationships with mentors, established students and alumni, even before 'going up'.

There are not many recently published works that deal seriously with the subject of retention and significantly only one that I can find, (Bret Eynon 2009) that deals comprehensively with the benefits of the ePortfolio for supporting retention. (see:

However, Eynon does not claim for the ePortfolio that it is some sort of 'magic bullet' but, in accepting a sea-change of institutional thinking, the ePortfolio has had a significant part to play:

' What happens if we shift the focus of our teaching and learning innovations from a single classroom to an entire institution? What new kinds of questions and possibilities emerge? Can an entire college break boundaries, moving from a focus on “what teachers teach” to a focus on “what students learn?” Can we think differently about student learning if we create structures that enable thousands of students to use new media tools to examine their learning across courses, disciplines, and semesters? What is possible if, as John Tagg has suggested, we stretch our frameworks, moving from course-centered to student-centered frameworks for encouraging and examining student learning? '

Accepting, therefore, that the ePortfolio can only come, hand-in-hand, with a 'student-centred framework', I would ask readers to suggest ways in which they have discovered their ePortfolio system to be encouraging retention.

If you have any data that illustrates the 'before-after' effect of an ePortfolio culture on retention I would be most appreciative - your institution could even get quoted in the forthcoming book!

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