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How Eric Williams is Evolving His Class Into a 90 Minute Creativity Concert of Active Learning

Want to know one of the secrets to turning an “okay” class into a “great” one?

The secret is understanding the “snowball effect.” The snowball effect is a process which begins with one small change that builds upon itself, becoming larger and more significant along the way, like a ball of snow rolling down a hillside. If properly guided, this evolutionary process can have a majorly positive impact on a situation just by taking small steps along the way.

If anyone knows the merits of this process, it’s Eric Williams, an associate professor in the School of Media Arts & Studies at Ohio University’s Scripps College of Communication. Eric teaches a course called MDIA 1020: Media and the Creative Process, which he has been evolving over time into an incredible active learning experience for his students.

MDIA 1020 Student Showcase

Best Practices for Connecting Classes to Careers

Bringing Best Practices to Life: Competency Based Learning at the University of Michigan’s School of Social Work

Seelio Best Practice: Define explicit learning outcomes at the beginning of the student experience so that students know from the beginning what they are working toward and can recognize and document mastery of skills along the way.

University of Michigan's School of Social Work on Seelio

We’ve seen this best practice along with many others in our work with the University of Michigan’s School of Social Work (UM SSW). Mary Ruffolo, Ph.D., a UM SSW Professor and Director of the Continuing Education Program, has been using Seelio in her classes for over a year and has invited us into the process of exploring how portfolios can impact student confidence in connecting learning experiences to career goals.

Last summer, we collaborated with Mary to develop a web-based course that UM SSW graduate students could take to build a professional online portfolio to demonstrate the 13 core competencies they develop throughout their master of social work program at UM SSW. The 1-credit web-based course employs online modules, virtual meetings, and virtual group work to support students in developing an integrative learning portfolio.

The course curriculum explicitly focuses on helping students identify their professional goals and develop adaptive expertise, or the ability to draw connections between their studies and experiences as a professional social worker. With self-paced reflective activities, students are challenged to reflect on their key learning experiences, their top skills, and how they want to present those experiences in their upcoming job search. Group feedback through virtual meetings as well as community features on Seelio like comments, likes, and private messages, allow students to share their experiences and gain valuable insights from their peers and advisors.

Validating Our Hypothesis on the Impact of Portfolios on Student Confidence

We hypothesized that this combination of competency-based learning, reflection, and portfolio development would increase students’ confidence in their ability to articulate skills and learning experiences in a professional context. Two rounds of pre- and post-surveys of participating students validated our hypothesis–  students reported increased confidence and optimism in their professional development and their ability to apply competencies from their degree program to their future as social work professionals.

Specifically, across two semesters, students in the web-based course showed significant gains in their:

  • comfort applying facts, theories, or methods to practical problems or new situations (p=.0001);
  • confidence articulating their goals (p=.018) and key learning experiences (p=.049); and
  • confidence presenting their work to potential employers (p=.009).

Hear From Students & Learn More About Our Process

Two students recorded brief video segments to share more about their experience in the course. See what Aaron and Katie had to say. You can also find more details about the course and our work with UM SSW in a presentation we gave at the Online Learning Consortium’s Annual Meeting last October:

At Seelio, we apply these same best practices in our portfolio implementations across our partner programs, collaborating with faculty to identify the best fit for their courses and measuring and evaluating progress at each step along the way. At the end of the day, our goal is to empower students like Aaron and Katie to confidently pursue their professional goals with a digital identity that allows them to easily showcase their 21st century skills.

Learn more about our best practices here, and see examples from UM SSW students in the UM SSW Seelio Showcase.

2015 Forum on Digital Learning and ePortfolios: Join Us to Share Strategies for Student Success

Join Us at the 2015 Forum on digital learning and eportfolios

In just a few short weeks we’ll be gathering with educators around the country to discuss strategies and methods for using ePortfolios to advance student success in higher education at the 2015 Forum on Digital Learning and ePortfolios. We’re delighted to be sponsoring a roundtable discussion at the forum’s keynote luncheon to discuss best practices for ePortfolios across programs and contexts.

We’re also pleased to be presenting with Gail Luera, Ph.D., an associate professor of science education at University of Michigan – Dearborn. Joining her will be Tiffany Marra, Ph.D., Seelio’s vice president of academics and services. Together they will share insights from their years of experience using ePortfolios at the University of Michigan as a pathfinder for students throughout their educational experience.

We hope you can join us for what we expect to be fruitful conversations about how we as educators can support student success with ePortfolios. Learn more in our flyer below or please reach out to schedule time to meet with one of our experts.

Flyer with information on Seelio ePortfolio Roundtable Discussion and Workshop at AAC&U ePortfolio Forum

Learn more about our approach to ePortfolios | See examples of student work