An innovative faculty project in the Master’s in Learning and Organizational Change (MSLOC) program has received a 2017-18 Digital Learning Fellowship from the Office of the Provost at Northwestern University.
The funding will support MSLOC’s “Digital Portfolio Learning Ecosystem Project,” an initiative to help students create a personal website documenting their learning journey and professional capabilities while graduate students in the MSLOC program.
The project was designed and developed by Jeff Merrell, associate director and lecturer of the MSLOC program; Melinda Turnley, assistant director and lecturer; Michelle Albaugh, lecturer; Terri Cramer, assistant director and program advisor and Alyssa Dyar, senior instructional technologist at the School of Education and Social Policy.
“It’s more than creating a simple collection of individual work projects,” Merrell said. “Students will reflect on and discuss the learning process with their colleagues while creating the portfolio as they work through multiple courses. Developing this type of collaborative learning community is an essential aspect of our vision for digital portfolios.”
Multimedia digital portfolios (or eportfolios), which are expected to play a larger role in MSLOC’s approach to teaching and learning, involve setting up a website with a homepage, a biography section, and work samples. The content can include articles, photos, videos, and presentations and more.
Digital portfolios have been used for the past three years by graduate students pursuing MSLOC’s Organizational and Leadership Coaching Certification. The Fellowship funding supports research to better understand how students utilize and benefit from digital portfolios as part of the coaching certification, and to expand their use to MSLOC’s new Designing for Organizational Effectiveness Certification.
Learning about WordPress and creating the portfolio “pushed me to gain a deeper understanding of the coaching process as well as potential models, since I needed to be able to communicate them clearly to others,” said William Campbell a current MSLOC student who recently completed the Organizational and Leadership Coaching Certification. “It really tapped into my own creative side, allowing me to lead with my visual style. I'm not sure I would have gotten to this place without the portfolio.”
The funding also supports creating two new websites to support the two certification programs. These sites will aggregate content from individual portfolios, providing a learning “hub” for students.
The cross-program, online, collaborative format is a critical piece of the design and builds off of more than five years of using and studying student learning in MSLOC’s private social network platform called “The Hive.”
Scott, Merrell and Keeley Sorokti, former MSLOC assistant director, describe the benefits of platforms like the Hive in supporting informal learning in the study “Learning ‘Beyond the Classroom’ Within an Enterprise Social Network System,” published in the journal The Internet and Higher Education.
“Ideally, students won’t just become digitally savvy; they’ll also gain skills in critical thinking, public reflection, and self-directed learning, all critical parts of MSLOC coursework,” Scott said.
The award was sponsored by the Office of the Provost and the Faculty Distance Learning Workgroup, which promotes innovation in learning and teaching through the use of educational technology.