1. Students have been able to meet objectives for my courses without this type of project, so why bother?
It's Coming: An attempt to get out ahead of University Mandated ePortfolio that should be coming to the entire university within the next 3-5 years. They may pilot their plan in the A&L College sooner than that.
Career Prep: Beyond "Career Services," the next point of involvement where students connect the dots about employment is their coursework. This involves the projects, writing, and conversations we lead them in which we claim is helping prepare them for informed citizenship and productive employment. By making modest changes to what we ask students to do in our 300-400 coursework we can (at best) get them to craft online identities that are viable resources. At the very least, an awareness of another way to present ourselves online engages our students in places that we're really currently not doing (outside of the QEP grant, and the few classes that require Web 2.0 competencies).
Better Projects, More Interest: Rather than complete another random writing assignment, the fact that students have to think about potentially presenting this online to an employer encourages critical thinking about a) the audience, b) the topic of the project, & c) the quality of their work. In essence, this has the potential to inspire greater purpose for some students, beyond a grade.
2. The Professor's WIIFM: What's in it for me? (What would I gain by adding this to my coursework?)
Better projects, Better students, Better alumni.
Beyond the above, you're helping students help themselves when it comes to "beyond ODU" thinking. It's too easy for many of them to live paper-to-paper, semester-to-semester, and then arrive at graduation with that "I guess I'll figure it out" plan.
3. I teach in PR/Film/Production/Dance/Theatre/Media Studies/Lifespan. This doesn't fit my content area very well, and I don't know how much my students would care about this sort of thing. How do I pitch it to them?
Actors, Directors, Production people have been using portfolios for years; Any applicant for job would benefit from an organized space that is set up and ready to go with a latest resume, project or writing examples, and even YouTube links to productions, samples of work or techniques.
I pitch this to my students that it's a competitive advantage. You might not need it, but if someone you are competing against has one, chances are they'll look more "polished" or "ready" than you (and you'll wish you had it).
4. This seems nice, but I have a packed class as it is. How can I be expected to add new content to my pre-existing classes that are already full?
For most classes, there are only two new components: Getting students to establish or check-in with their ePortfolio with the "Part 1: Create or Curate" option, and the Class Reflection short essay (1-2 pages). These are both minor assignments that can easy fit in the very first week and last week of the semester.
To have your course fit in with other current ePortfolio courses, you'd need to add at least the first two assignments mentioned, as well as one other writing assignment.
You likely have other projects that can qualify for the writing assignments we'd suggest in the ePortfolio. It is not about rebuilding the course, but taking what is already being written, produced, or completed and directing students to showcase their student work in an online space.
5. I’ve heard about this on campus from other departments. How is this approach different from other departments or ePortfolios I've seen online?
The main difference is that there are two schools of thought with getting students to work with ePortfolios:
Archiving ePortfolios: Works with the assumption that students should develop habits of recording and safe-keeping the process of learning/writing; Enhances the process of learning objectives inherent to our courses
Showpiece ePortfolios: Works with the assumption that students should develop the mindset of what they want to present to potential employers, as best demonstrations of their abilities and professional identity. Developing a showpiece shell, and then filling it with best works throughout your courses enables the student to achieve leading up to graduation.
The university approach is more "Archiving" but they also suggest working in a "Showpiece." Putting both in coursework is impractical for most content courses
NOTE: As an aside, ideally all freshman would start using Google Drive as a secondary submission spot for all their coursework. It's essentially the same as keeping a flash drive, or an organized computer (assuming the computer doesn't crash/gets stolen). That way when they get to us in 300-400 COMM courses, we can get them going with the showpieces. (The same goes for graduate students.)
6. Well, that sounds cool. I'm a little more interested now. But how much web design knowledge or technical experience do I need to know to use WIX or to evaluate student ePortfolios?
Little to none. Wix is very intuitive and the ePortfolio team have set up many tutorials for both you and your student. The ePortfolio team also serve as point people as you get started!
The Student Success Center has peer tutors that they have funded for ePortfolios. The more we use them with our students, the more funded they become.
7. What if a student comes to me and says their ePortfolio was already done in another course? Or if they try to use an already completed ePortfolio in my class?
Cool, that is an informed student that likely won't need much persuasion to get them on board. The challenge some these students in they may want previous experiences to count, or might want to use the Wix.com platform for ePortfolios.
For the time being, all our training materials and experiences are geared toward Wix. We've discussed adding support for WordPress down the road, but for now we're doing Wix.
Students that have an on-going ePortfolio that they're using should use that for your course. It's like a briefcase that they bring with them, right? They add your course content to it (the "Course Projects" area, the Blog).
At the conclusion of the course if they'd rather not have that content available for an interview they move that to a "not visible" page of the ePortfolio.
8. How might a student use their ePortfolio after they have completed a class or graduate?
After a class, a student could just continue to add content, until they prepare for an interview. Or they could make "semester by semester" decisions about which writing/projects/pictures best represent them to any potential employer. Our students will undoubtedly do either option, but the point is this material is now there, and a polish and edit away. Which is way more professional than not doing it.
In preparation for graduation, the most obvious way is to include the link in their signature at the bottom of the email, on the top of the resume under their name/address, and on a business card. Students can also make mention of it in a cover letter or in an actual interview.
9. Ok, I'm in, but what resources or assistance are available to instructors that adopt this approach? Are there any costs I can expect to encounter?
COMM focused WIX tutorials
Sample assignments & assessment tools
Ongoing Faculty Training opportunities offered by the COMM eP Coordinators
Student Success Center peer tutors (C.H.I.P.)
Ideally none, but perhaps only the ‘professional’ level costs if an individual chooses to purchase their domain from WIX.
10. What challenges can I expect in the first 1-2 weeks of a semester as students begin this project?
Course Design: You'll need to make your own choices as to how to best add the ePortfolio elements to your course. We have materials in support of all of it, so you'll just need to make adjustments to the grade breakdown and timeline.
Set-up: Assuming online delivery, you'll need to add a few components to your Blackboard/Canvas platform. You'll also need to build in some clear direction about where to add content as assignments are due.
Questions: Out of 25 students, 2/3 figure it out on their own with the materials we provide. Of the 1/3, about half of that number will reach out with questions. The other half "wings-it." Usually the ones asking are looking for pretty straight-forward clarification. Anything confusing we'd be happy to help with!
To read about Design Tips for Students, please click here.