Our main data collection instrument this year was a student survey: 70 students from five different sections of WRD104 who had recently composed digital portfolios in WRD103. Email Michael for a copy of those survey responses.
In addition we held a Student Portfolio Roundtable, which revealed very helpful information and feedback:
- With the exception of one Computer Science major, students reported perceiving no benefit to being required to manipulate the CSS code and having a color themes for their portfolios. They saw it as taking away time for more pressing writing- and editing-based activities. They were also quick to add that if students already know how to create colors and background effects -- or want to learn how -- they should be encouraged and allowed to do that. That seemed reasonable to faculty in the room, and also seems to align well with our FYW portfolio assignment, which does not require CSS manipulation or any color themes. (We should add this issue to a future D-WRD session. If you've ever had a course in color theory, you know how quickly it can become complex.
- One student mentioned her appreciation for having the choice between a structured, Learning-Outcomes based portfolio or a more personalized, curated model, where she could focus on what she perceived to be materials and reflections most important to her, and most relevant to her development as a writer.
- One student who had Digication experience in WRD102 (online), WRD103, and currently in WRD104, did not like having to learn Digication on her own in the online class, but also pointed out that students were eventually able to help and to support each other, and that she sees the value, overall, in online portfolios because she likes having her work available for wider, public audiences.
- One student mentioned that he liked being exposed to the digital platform, as he was able to use the layout, formatting, and typographic skills later in an internship. He is also going to be a Chicago Quarter Mentor, where students will be making portfolios, and he thinks he can be a better mentor by bring his Digication experience to that role.
- One student discussed her process for revising her portfolio, which had initially required -- out of context, she thought -- some "visual theme," for which she gamely supplied cat pictures. She knew that this was an unprofessional presentation and described how she revised it for her entry in the Writing Showcase, removing the cats and focusing on the uncluttered, more professionally conventional presentation of her work.
- All of the participants confirmed a healthy and robust digital-portfolio culture in the residence halls, where students know how to seek out expertise when they need it. They were less clear, however, about how to find other campus resources, such as those available in the Writing Center and via https://depaul.digication.com/gethelp .
In each case, students made productive connections between portfolio practice and their writing practice, which is encouraging, and they seemed overall very supportive of the FYW digital portfolio program. It was inspiring to be in the company of people who are willing, active, productive problem solvers who can meet challenges more than halfway, and who can perceive their individual efforts as part of a larger initiative. Impressive! Although, to be fair, students who would agree to come in on a Friday morning to participate in such an event are already a self-selected group of committed professionals conscious of collaborative learning and community efforts.
In a short post-roundtable debriefing, D-WRD participants shared their own observations, including a renewed effort to help students perceive the point(s) and the value(s) in a portfolio-composing process, which was supported with student-survey examples supplied as a pre-session reading. There are certainly enough issues here to discuss in future sessions.
Thank you again, Sarah Brown and Salli Berg-Seeley for inviting current and former students to join us.