Capstone Course ePortfolio

Capstone Course ePortfolio

Community-based learning, Capstone, General Education,
  • Assessment
  • General Education Requirements
  • Accountability
  • Community Engagement
Portland State University (OR)

Portland State University. Public four-year university with ~30,000 students located in an urban setting. The general education program (University Studies) requires a community-based capstone as a culminating experience.

  • Institutions
  • Institutions


The culminating general education experience for students at Portland State University is a community-based course focused on creating a collaborative final project that meets a direct need for a community partner. Assessing student achievement of learning outcomes is difficult in a course where the final project is group-produced, much of the learning happens in the field, and the projects and experiences vary widely from course to course. Our challenge was to identify a method to conduct meaningful direct assessment of these community-based group-focused capstone courses.

  • Create a manageable and ongoing assessment process for capstone courses that includes, among other approaches, the review of student work.

  • Build on previous assessment projects, responding to lessons learned in those efforts.

  • Engage faculty across the Capstone program in this assessment process.

  • Produce meaningful information that leads to program and student learning improvement.


Portland State’s Capstone program offers approximately 200 sections each year engaging over 3,800 students annually in projects that directly address the needs of our community partners. In order to assess student learning in these courses, we developed an electronic course portfolio review process. The course portfolios are designed to investigate whether students are meeting the learning outcomes set out in a course. In these course portfolios faculty upload student written work, often reflections, which address the one of the goals such as “appreciating the diversity of the human experience.” Faculty also include their course syllabus, course description, the instructions for the assignments they submitted, and a narrative explaining how they address the goal in their course and where they see the most meaningful evidence of student learning related to the goal. This course portfolio provides evidence of individual student learning (the student assignments) with the context (the course materials and faculty narrative) needed to interpret that evidence. We assess course portfolios from about 25% (18 courses) of our 70 unique Capstone courses each year. Since we have 4 goals, we assess a different goal each year and involve 25% of our courses annually. As a result we assess almost every course and each goal within a four year assessment cycle. Throughout the year a small faculty committee designs clear criteria to evaluate the Capstone course portfolios. Each summer, a group of faculty is recruited to review the course materials and student work and determine if the learning outcome being assessed was achieved at a course level, if the course was exemplary at demonstrating the learning outcome or if it was insufficient. The aggregate data from these course portfolios helps us understand how well we are meeting our general education learning expectations in these courses.

  • The University Studies Capstone website serves as a communication tool to students and external audiences as well as repository for course portfolio assessment materials.
  • On the public site, there are example syllabi, assignment instructions, descriptions of course final products, and lists of course community partners, information that is helpful to students as they choose their Capstone courses.
  • The public site is searchable by topic area, faculty name or community patner.
  • When faculty log in, they have access to their course pages, can upload student work and have access to other resources related to the capstone program.
  • Assessment reports for the Capstone program are available on the University Studies Assessment website.
  • Percent of courses/faculty that have been through the course ePortfolio assessment process.

  • Number of courses that are considered adequate or exemplary for a particular goal.

  • Use of assessment data to inform faculty development activities.

  • Improvement of courses and student learning over time.

  • A deeper understanding of how University Studies’ goals are expressed and achieved in community-based learning settings.
  • A set of best-practices related to each of the four learning goals.
  • Involvement of almost all Capstone faculty in the assessment process.
  • An archive of course materials, student work, and faculty reflections – evidence of our pedagogy and student learning
  • A website showcasing our Capstone program.
This work and the assessment data have informed our Capstone faculty development activities including retreats, readings and brown bag conversations. Because of the public website, students are much better informed about the options available as they select the capstone they will complete. PSU won a Council for Higher Education award for Outstanding Institutional Practices in Student Learning Outcomes largely based on the assessment work represented in the Capstone electronic course portfolio


We worked with developers in PSU’s IT unit to build a website in house to support the Capstone electronic course portfolio process. The existing Capstone and Assessment Directors collaborate each year to identify faculty who will participate and to track their submission of all portfolio documentation. Four to six faculty participate in a review process each summer.

  • $10,000 web site development

  • $1,000/year pay summer reviewers

  • Focus on program and course improvement not faculty evaluation.

  • Build on previous faculty-led efforts

  • In complex community-based courses, including both faculty and student voices as well as course artifacts such as syllabi and assignment instructions provides critical context for assessment.

This assessment tool/approach has been in place for five years. As we move forward, we will continue to have faculty produce course portfolios each year, but we are also going to pilot a series of conversations among faculty who are developing the portfolios so that there are more opportunities for peer support and sharing ideas and expertise.


Rowanna L Carpenter
Director of Assessment and Upper Division Clusters
Portland State University
P.O. Box 751 - UNST
Portland, Oregon 97201
Phone: 503-725-3445

Rowanna L Carpenter
Director of Assessment and Upper Division Clusters
Portland State University
P.O. Box 751 - UNST
Portland, Oregon 97201
Phone: 503-725-3445