Enrollment Outcomes of the Students Experiencing the Student Wiki Interdisciplinary Group (SWIG) High Impact Practice in Fall 2012 at Queensborough Community College

During the fall 2012 semester at Queensborough Community College (QCC) there were 345 students who participated in classes which incorporated the High Impact Practice (HIP) of Collaborative Assignments and Projects.  The type of Collaborative Assignment and Practice utilized is called Student Wiki Interdisciplinary Group (SWIG).   This type of HIP is essentially a virtual learning community which fosters the sharing of ideas (through written, visual, audio and/or multimedia modalities) in a virtual environment.   It was hypothesized that students who experienced SWIG would benefit in terms of their persistence rates, as the SWIG experiences would more deeply engage them with the college. 

Of the cohort of students from fall 2012 who took courses with SWIG, the half-year and one-year QCC persistence rates were calculated.  To account for students who did not persist at QCC, but rather transferred to another CUNY institution or graduated from QCC, transfer and graduation rates were calculated.  Table 1 shows the enrollment outcomes for spring 2013.  To allow for very rough comparisons, the outcomes were also presented for all fall 2013 students who did not take courses with SWIG.  Table 2 shows the enrollment outcomes for fall 2013.


Table 1.  Spring 2013 and Enrollment Outcomes of the Fall 2012 Students Experiencing SWIG.


Fall ’12

Spg.  ’13 QCC Persisted

Spg. ‘13 QCC Graduated

Spg ’13 CUNY Transferred

Spg 13 Persist*, Grad. † or Transfer






























         * = Persisted at QCC.   † = Graduated from QCC.


Table 2.  Fall 2013 and Enrollment Outcomes of the Fall 2012 Students Experiencing SWIG.


Fall ’12

Fall  ’13 QCC Persisted

Fall ‘13 QCC Graduated

Fall ’13 CUNY Transferred

Fall 13 Persist*, Grad. † or Transfer






























         * = Persisted at QCC.   † = Graduated from QCC


At Queensborough Community College, all incoming students were enrolled in First Year Academies. One sector of the Academies used ePortfolio, the other sectors did not. Compared to College benchmarks, the Academy approach demonstrated significant improvement in pass rates and next semester retention. The improvements in the ePortfolio group were larger still (Table 3).”

08 Queensborough Retention Data
Table 3

The inspection of tables 1 and 2 reveals that the students enrolled in courses with SWIG had higher persistence rates than those who were not enrolled in SWIG.  Caution must be exercised in interpreting these differences as there were no controls used to determine which students enrolled in SWIG or non-SWIG courses.  The size of the population of SWIG students is much smaller than the rest of the fall 2012 student population.  Sometimes, phenomena related to smaller groups show greater variability (unrelated to the intervention) as a virtue of the smaller size, rather than a benefit from some intervention or treatment.  Also, there may have been other factors at play, besides the SWIG experiences, behind the differences in persistence rates.   Students in SWIG might have been in particular courses which typically include students with higher persistence rates.  This will be examined in future studies.

Overall, the persistence results could be considered to be a beginning in establishing some evidence that SWIG experiences may be related to higher persistence rates.   The CUNY transfer and graduation rates in tables 1 and 2 are higher in the SWIG group, showing that the higher persistence rates in the SWIG group were not due to lower transfer or graduation rates.  The last column in tables 1 and 2 “spg. or fall 2013 persist, QCC Graduate or CUNY transfer” shows the number and the rate at which a student group either persisted at QCC, transferred to another CUNY institution or graduated from QCC.  It accounts for all three enrollment outcomes in one quantity (N) and rate (%).

Final Reflection:

Queensborough Community College’s (QCC) ePortfolio project has grown and evolved over these past three years in a variety of ways. Until 2011/12 the ePortfolio initiative consisted of a number of grass-roots projects based in the English, education, nursing, speech, business and basic skills departments. Reflecting the growing stature and success of these initiatives, in 2011/2012 ePortfolio become a designated High Impact Practice (HIP) at QCC. This made an enormous difference to the status of the project, and partly because this HIP designation was incentivized through stipends, release time and access to specialized training, the project grew exponentially. Perhaps the single most import initiative was the recruitment of students which expanded to include all first-time, full-time incoming freshmen enrolled in the ST 100 program. All students in ST100 were required to open an Epsilon account and complete three reflective assignments which were then assessed using a purpose built rubric. A competition was held among ST100 students for the best ePortfolios. This project helped create a buy-in among our incoming students.

The focus of our program has gone from perfecting our ePortfolio driven Social Pedagogy, to creating assignment opportunities for students to use to evidence disciplinary competencies on ePortfolio.  For example, Nursing students create artifacts such as patient self-care information videos, Education students create multimedia presentations depicting action-research and service learning activities, and English students partnered with students from a variety of disciplines evidence course competences through digital stories.

The New Faculty Institute included an explanation of ePortfolio and provided an encouragement to new faculty to participate in training institutes. Through CETL and Academic Computing as well as initiatives undertaken by the SWIG leadership team, various workshops and seminars were developed to improve faculty confidence and competence in using and teaching with ePortfolios. CETL developed a semester long seminar series designed to aid faculty in the development of their own teaching and professional ePortfolios. While ePortfolio was a designated HIP, QCC was proactive in recruiting new faculty participants.

Spreading the word – QCC faculty presentations of ePortfolio practice in international, national and local higher education conferences: As the number of student artifact increased, and as institutional data seemed to indicate a very positive impact of HIPs on retention, graduation and passing rates, ePortfolio faculty become active in the wider academic community, sharing their finding and student work at various conferences and publishing in various journals (see who we are: Scholarship)

Development of virtual learning communities to facilitate student academic success, skills and dispositions. The Student Wiki Interdisciplinary Group formed a central core of our ePortfolio initiative at QCC. As the name suggests these interdisciplinary, virtual (online) learning community met in the Epsilen wiki and enable students to share disciplinary perspectives and knowledge with students from other disciplines. Through sharing work and giving and receiving comments and thematically consistent multimedia gifts, student learning in the Epsilen environment became visible to the students themselves. These online learning communities resulted in each student producing a “digital product” which could then be showcased on their ePortfolios (digital narrative, online text books and others). Post assignment reflection often indicated the transformative impact of this assignment on student learning. (See What We Do: Reflective practices and Social Pedagogy)

It has been apparent due to a drop off in participation in our ePortfolio project since ePortfolio lost its HIP designation, that institutional commitment is crucial to the success of ePs at QCC. While the project continues and is regaining momentum, the loss of this designation and significant personnel changes took their toll in 2013.


Leading by example – C2L staff development and training was a veritable catalyst in itself. Participation in jams and in-person meeting, seminars, workshops and conferences has been a fast track to developing a deeper understanding of eP pedagogy. Having the opportunity to participate in a national conversation and to share in the success and challenges of a diverse range of institutions has provided and invaluable insight and spur to our project.

The QCC C2L ePortfolio team’s appreciation of the connection between the student outcome evidenced benefits has grown with each iteration of the pedagogy. Our staff development has become more focused and based on the rubrics we have developed in SWIG as well as the AAC&U VALUE rubric for integrative learning. These rubrics and the national conversation provided for through jams has given our project context as well as content.


Among the most valuable impact of participating in this network is the integration of reflection into our pedagogy.  It is no longer possible for many of the participating faculty member to teach without reflection on their own pedagogy practices and to integrate the experience gained by other institutions and faculty members on their practices. Teaching reflection ensures that our students develop this invaluable habit of mind at an early stage. Through SWIG and the Value Integrative learning rubric it has been possible to allow students to navigate the threshold between high school and college in a more integrative and accepting way, ensuring that they validate and expand on past experience as well as integrate new disciplinary knowledge into their own academic path.


Our campus is honing in more sharply on the transfer aspect of ePortfolio. As a two-year college we are working toward our students’ successful transfer to four-year institution. Through reflection we hope to empower students to use their ePortfolios to focus on successful transfer. SWIG and other practices provided students with the opportunity to reflect on their chosen disciplines and majors and to distinguish these from other disciplines and majors. We now hope to move another step down this road to ensuring successful transfer.

We are aware of the importance of institutional backing for an initiative such as this and hope that ePortfolio will continue to enjoy institutional favor.

The campuses on the Catalyst site provide models of practice which represent the diverse institutional goals, student populations and cultures of their respective institutions. This unique resource also offers faculty, administrators and other stakeholders multimedia illustrations of a multitude of approaches, student artifacts, and learning and career objectives for other campuses to emulate, compare and adopt. And thus, the Catalyst site has the greatest potential to promote student success and selected reform objectives throughout the nation’s institutions higher education.

Authors: Anita Ferdenzi and Jillian Abbott