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Reflection

The 2-3 Year Plan

I didn’t realize I’m a planner, but when Emily suggested I start brainstorming a 2-3 year plan for the e-portfolio program, I was so excited that I realized I might be.

My thoughts about the future of the e-portfolio program have been congealing over the past several months. To anyone reading this: I welcome your ideas!

Even though my experience in this position is limited, I’m beginning to think that requiring students to make e-portfolios may not be the best route. I know that Agnes students are self-motivated and resourceful, and most care a lot about their future life paths. I know this is true from both being a student here myself, and from working in the Center for Writing and Speaking.

If you don’t already know how amazing the CWS is, let me tell you. The national average for students who come for tutoring at a university writing center out of the student body is 10-12%. Guess what our number is?

Triple that, or 30%? No. 40%? No. 50%? Nope! Over 60% of the student body came in for tutoring at least once last year. Amazing.

Caro and Alice

tutoring in the Writing Center

While professors do sometimes require their students to come to the Center, the majority of students make appointments to talk about and improve their papers and presentations. I guess grades do play some part in their motivation… OK, a large part, usually… but they still come out of a genuine desire to learn.

I’ve already seen that desire to learn in the students who have jumped on making their e-portfolios. I’m especially impressed with two first-years, Julia Burdine and Gabby Nockelin. They are blogging and reflecting and making connections all over the place.

Based on the past three months, I’m wondering, what if we make an e-portfolio center that is structured somewhat like the Center for Writing and Speaking? With tutors and a coordinator/director? Or, what if an e-portfolio center were the third component of this same center? Speaking, writing and e-portfolio-making all connect to critical thinking and communication, after all. An e-portfolio is yet another way to “find your voice” here at Agnes Scott.

The WC director here suggested I check out Spelman College’s Writing Center because they put a large emphasis on e-portfolios. Do you know of other e-portfolio centers?

Writing Center

our cozy Writing Center

Another thought that the e-portfolio group at Agnes proposed is having a four-year class kind of like ASC 101, but titled something like “ASC experience.” The class would not be graded, but would be 1 credit per semester and a requirement for graduation. It would be a time and place for students to work on their e-portfolios within the context of other activities, like the sophomores’ academic statement of purpose, internships, study abroad, volunteer work, etc. It would also be a place for exploring a range of technologies, including blogs, wikis, podcasts, and social networking media.

It seems like the required class path would allow for more time and resources to be devoted to making e-portfolios, and it would be much more likely that every student would make one. However, I wonder if this direction would also reduce students’ motivation to do it. My sense is that once something’s required, it loses some of the fun.

I bet we can also brainstorm combinations of the above solutions, too.

Students, alums, faculty, staff, do you have thoughts about what you’d like to see in an e-portfolio program at Agnes Scott?

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Discussion

6 thoughts on “The 2-3 Year Plan

  1. I think a center for building eportfolios that is modeled after and linked to the CWS is the way to go. My sense is that this would then become a center for creative expression–encompassing writing, speaking, visual expression (eportfolios).

    I think the tutor training and development system that the CWS employs is outstanding, and have been looking at ways to emulate this on the design side for some time now. One problem I see is that while all ASC students enter school with some ability to write, very few (although increasing amounts) come in with a sense of how to design. I see visual literacy (and digital design tools) as fundamental to today’s graduate. Where the arts have traditionally been seen as idealistically important to the education of a well rounded person, I now see them as essential. If you want a voice in our current culture, you need to know how to communicate effectively visually.

    I think we can emulate the current model for writing tutors by catching incoming students with an interest in design, but the college’s support system and training for these students will need to be robust. The school systems do not yet teach visual syntax, and while some students may have an interest, few (maybe no) students will have mastery in this area. We would be so smart to figure out a way to support a generous digital design program. And if we had it I agree with you that students would be attracted to making their own portfolios–because good design makes you look good. Who doesn’t love that?

    Posted by Nell | October 29, 2009, 2:40 pm
    • Nell, a digital design program would be fantastic! And I agree that a robust visual literacy training for tutors would be ideal, but I think a lot can be acheived in a small amount of time if a student is interested enough in becoming a tutor. Maybe a month or so training session that counts as class credit over the summer? Social media technologies and basics of visual communication could be covered… of course, there’s also your intro to digital design class and Dana Design. The e-portfolio tutors would need to be strong writers as well, though, especially if they’re keeping up a blog and training students in blog writing. I think we could start small, though, with a few interested students…

      I was speaking with a student (a writing center tutor in fact) yesterday about eportfolios. She was actually totally against the idea at first because she was concerned about putting her name out there on the internet. She then said she wants to work in PR. I showed her Lauren and Catherine Lee’s blog, http://asiancajuns.com/. She loved it and now has a meeting with me to plan her own. You’re right–who doesn’t want their name attached to great design?

      Posted by digitaldesignfellow | October 29, 2009, 3:44 pm
  2. I also think we simply HAVE to think of a name that’s more exciting and easier to use than eportfolio. Don’t you?

    Posted by Nell | October 29, 2009, 2:40 pm
    • I’ve been brainstorming, but I have no idea! Maybe we just need to help everyone realize how cool an “e-portfolio” can be…

      I’ve seen “eFolio” and just “portfolio,” but these aren’t much better.

      Posted by digitaldesignfellow | October 29, 2009, 3:48 pm
  3. Shannon,

    You raise some excellent points! I like the idea of partnering the e-portfolio with the Center for Writing and Speaking and I think your idea for the ASC experience could be really cool too (lots of details to work out with that one, but it could be really neat). After coordinating ASC 101 this year, I agree that requiring something makes it a lot less exciting and more challenging (especially when there is no course credit to offer). We are continously looking for ways to improve ASC 101 and part of me wonders if partnering with FYS is the way to go here (both for ASC 101 and the e-portfolio). From the little bit I know about FYS, I understand that it encourages students to develop their critical thinking and writing skills – just like the e-portfolio, right? In regards to my email about Weebly, I think students would be more likely to create e-portfolios if they didn’t have to learn and memorize the technical aspects of saving things to certain server folders (see…I don’t even know what I’m talking about and I’ve seen the presentation more than once). Anyway, there is a link to a Newsweek article on Weebly’s website (here it is): http://www.newsweek.com/id/34734. It says the guys who created Weebly were from Penn State and that they created it because the university required students to create web portfolios. Definitely look into that! Oh, and I do agree that “e-portfolio” could use a different name…I definitely didn’t understand what it meant when I first started working here. Let’s come up with something totally off-the-wall…not sure what that would be, but something fun could make it more enticing. 🙂

    Posted by Erin | November 10, 2009, 3:00 pm
    • Erin, thanks so much for your response! Penn State actually has a pretty impressive e-portfolio program, so I’m not surprised the weebly creators came from there. Good to know!

      I think you’re right about e-portfolios going really well with FYS–this semester we have two pilot “class e-portfolios” and they’re both FYS courses (even though that wasn’t planned).

      http://fysingram.wordpress.com/
      http://fys190a.wordpress.com/

      From working as a writing center tutor in many FYS courses, I’m not sure how well ASC 101 could be incorporated into them… my understanding is that ASC 101 introduces students to the many resources on campus. I bet a lot of resources could be worked into FYS syllabi via assignments (like going to the library for a research paper, getting tutored at the CWS, and making an e-portfolio), but I’m not sure how the other departments that don’t have direct ties with academic assignments would fit in. Combining them is certainly something to think about though… especially because students already tend to do a lot, and I think their time in general is stretched thin. I know one problem I’m facing is that students are so busy with class and extracurriculars that they don’t have time or energy left to build a website or blog. If e-portfolios and maybe ASC 101 were incorporated into other things that students are already doing (like classwork), I wonder if they’d feel like they had more time to devote to them. However, at the same time, I don’t want students to feel like e-portfolios are something they’re being forced to do. And I imagine you feel the same about ASC 101… it’s a dilemma!

      Posted by digitaldesignfellow | November 11, 2009, 12:01 pm

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