By Cassandra Hendry, TLS staff writer

For numbers and equation-based courses such as engineering, physics or math, handing in printed sheets of paper with page after page of computer-drawn graphs or equations is not always the best use of time and resources. For the ease of both student and instructors, many have turned towards more advanced technology to get their message across.

For physics professor Etienne Rollin, moving class submissions to a dynamic, online setting is a no-brainer.

“[Hardcopies] are static. They aren’t very pretty. While on the computer, students can use colours and animation . . . It’s very easy, especially for physics students who are in general technologically inclined,” Rollin says.

Rollin uses cuPortfolio with his students, a relatively new electronic portfolio system for Carleton students to submit and showcase their assignments in an exciting, interactive way.

Rollin’s students, who are in a second-year lab-based course on optics, can record data and display graphs with different conditions that the viewer can toggle through. No longer do students have to submit a printed lab report with pages full of graphs. Instead, they are now condensed into one interactive image on cuPortfolio, which Rollin says he appreciates.

Liam O’Brien, an assistant professor of engineering, uses cuPortfolio’s capabilities in a unique way. His fourth-year students who are completing a large group project must submit memos, notes and presentations through cuPortfolio to demonstrate what parts of the project they’re contributing to.

With six professors all supervising the course due to the large number of students, O’Brien found that even though his students had used an online format previously to submit their work, cuPortfolio injected well-needed organization and reflection into submissions.

“We find it extremely useful to evaluate their work. Before they used to upload to a big Dropbox and it was a real nuisance to the professors,” O’Brien says. “Now, it forces them to think about the value of their work. They can comment on what they’ve learned and their individual contribution to the group project.”

Both professors highlighted that their students can easily show future employers, friends or family their work in a condensed, visually appealing way rather than emailing separate Word or PowerPoint documents.

Leah Morrell, a fourth-year engineering student in O’Brien’s class, says it’s her first time using cuPortfolio and she found it to be an excellent way to demonstrate her knowledge to employers as she approaches graduation.

“My favourite aspect of cuPortfolio is that I can use it as an addition to my job applications. Rather than attempting to put eight months’ of work into two sentences, I can put a link to my cuPortfolio.”

If you’re interested in learning more about how cuPortfolio can be used in a science course, Rollin will be presenting about his experience at our teaching and learning symposium on May 10.

For more information about cuPortfolio and how it can be used to promote student-centered learning in your courses, visit the cuPortoflio support page.