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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

Addressing Job Skills Expectations By Helping Students Recognize and Apply Skills

Seelio Ed Tips

When I read articles like Job Skills Expectations Unmet (Inside Higher Ed, August 28, 2014), I immediately start to wonder—do students need to develop new job skills or is the challenge that they need to know how to recognize and appropriately apply the skills they already possess?

The article linked above states that:

“Nearly nine in 10 presidents said an emphasis on ‘critical thinking’ skills and personal development is very important throughout college in order for graduates to get jobs. But only about 40 percent of the presidents think their own institution is very effective at providing students with those skills and that kind of development.”

Knowing the structure and nature of college courses, it seems to me that critical thinking is built into the core of most college courses.  This can be evidenced by terms in assignments and syllabi like—assess, evaluate, compare, conceptualize, critique, theorize, reason, etc.  

I think the challenge is that when we ask students to develop those skills, we often forget to teach students how to apply those skills beyond the classroom.

As an example, imagine a class where students are asked to critically assess an article that is core to their field of study.  That is critical thinking.  Now, imagine if the second part of that assignment were to reflect on their assessment of the article and to relate it to their developing philosophy toward their field of study.  That is critical thinking with real life application.

At Seelio, when we work with faculty to integrate portfolios into the curriculum, we emphasize how they can be useful tools for getting students to reflect on their learning as a part of their professional growth.  Portfolios allow for students to constantly take stock of what they have done, to consider what best represents them as a developing professional, and to refine their professional identity over time.

When I look at student portfolios, I find myself gravitating towards those that create connections between their life experiences and what they are learning in the classroom. Just today, I read a profile of a student, Karessa, that starts with…

“College can be extremely tough when you are a full time mom, employee, and wife. Frankly sometimes college can be a big challenge because of those three things.”

And ends with…

“I am very thankful to CTU for helping me to develop not only as a student but also giving me the skills to apply that knowledge to my personal and professional life!”

Students just like Karessa are the ones that make me believe in the value of helping students tell their stories and helping institutions shape their curriculum to make it possible.


Dr. Tiffany Marra is Seelio’s Vice President of Academics & Services. She works closely with Seelio partners to integrate portfolios into curricula so that students are able to make connections across their experiences and prepare for their careers from day one of their college experience. Learn more about her research and background in educational technology: seelio.com/tiffany

Have a topic you would like to see in a future #EdTips post? Let us know at educators@seelio.com

Welcoming Tiffany Marra as Seelio’s Vice President of Academics

We’re excited to welcome Dr. Tiffany Marra to the Seelio team. Tiffany is joining us as Vice President of Academics and will be leading our Educational Services team, advising on portfolio curricula and outcomes in higher education for our university partners.

Before joining us, she was an Adjunct Faculty member at University of Michigan-Dearborn teaching in the College of Education, Health, and Human Services; directing the Women in Learning and Leadership program (WILL); and overseeing the Hub for Teaching and Learning Resources as its managing director. In her role in the Hub, she served as a consultant to faculty, helping them consider pedagogical and technological solutions to meet their teaching and learning goals.

Tiffany’s particular area of focus is helping programs, departments, and units develop online portfolio models that encourage learners to reflect on their learning and growth over time and across contexts.  She has undertaken research to examine how curriculum shapes learner’s perceptions of self and expectations of success, specifically in their ability to transfer knowledge and skills across contexts. Prior to working at UM-Dearborn, she worked at the Ann Arbor campus for 10 years in various roles, including guiding the MPortfolio initiative and managing SmartGirl.org for the Institute for Research on Women and Gender. She earned her Ph.D. in Educational Technology from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

We’re thrilled to have Tiffany join our all-star team and look forward to the great work we’ll be able to accomplish for students and their universities!


Want to join us in making a difference for students? We’re hiring! Check out our open positions here: seelio.com/about-us.