MODULE 0 (before Aug 30)

Welcome to the Capstone Portfolio Course! We know you’re looking forward to getting started, and we are looking forward to getting to know you and seeing the capstone portfolio you’ll create.

In Module 0 of the course, you’ll complete some assignments that allow us to better organize the course and allow you to get ready to hit the ground running. Module 0 also serves the purpose of easing you into the structure and rhythm of the course. Like for every course module, you can get started on Module 0 by watching its introductory video. After that, we always provide you the “Basic” version of the assignments you need to complete and end each module with an “Elaboration” section that contains all sorts of additional detail about the module, the course, and assignments.


Basic Assignment(s)

  1. Familiarize yourself with the course – Make sure to read through the course syllabus, and click on a few modules in order to get the feel for how the course is structured. You might also consider looking at a few completed portfolios from previous semesters in order to get a better idea of what you will be building over the course of this semester. You shouldn’t feel like you have to do a lot of portfolio reviewing here, because in Module 1, we will be doing a formal review of last semester’s portfolio to further develop your understanding of the final product.
  2. Take a survey – Please fill out this survey and give us some information that we need to get this course running.
  3. Set up your Gravatar – Here are the very brief instructions. Below in “Elaboration,” there are detailed steps provided if you need them. In this course, we use to manage some basic information, such as your name, email address and the address of your portfolio. Go to and create an account and login to an account that uses your MSU EMAIL address. This is very important: You must create your account with your MSU EMAIL address. Edit your profile to include: A rated G image, your first and last name, and links to any websites you have. If you have a site for your portfolio already, add that too. Your portfolio site must be first in the list for this to work correctly though. If you do not yet have a website or a portfolio website, that is okay&emdash;that’s what we’re going to do in this course! Test your Gravatar! See if your picture and name appear. If they do, you’re done. If not, go back to the above steps and try again. You can contact us with any questions.
  4. Check out the “Elaboration” Section –  Every module will have a section called “Elaboration” at the bottom of the page. Here we provide additional information about why we are doing things, provide additional resources, and more detailed instructions beyond the basic steps. Everything there is optional reading, but make sure you at least check out what’s there so you can decide what’s worth reading and what’s worth skipping each week.

Grading Summary

The assignments for Module 0 are not graded, but it is in your best interests to do them so that the start of the course goes smoothly. We will start grading assignments in Module 1. The completeness of your Gravatar (name, photo, and link to a website) will be graded in Module 3, so the work you do here is progressing you forward.


Why make a portfolio? Why a focus on authenticity?

There are lots of good reasons to build an online portfolio. One major reason is that your program (MAED or MAET) will use your portfolio as summative and formative assessment as you conclude your master’s degree program.

That is, you will use your portfolio to collect all of your demonstrated learning, skills, competencies, and reflections in one place. Because it is online, it’s available not only to us (the course instructors) but also to other faculty and students in the program and the College of Education. This is your chance to show everyone what you know and what you can do!

There are reasons beyond finishing your program, however, for building a portfolio. We think that a portfolio can serve you well in professional, social, and personal contexts. That is, the work you demonstrate in your portfolio is a great professional resource for communicating with colleagues and perhaps even landing a job. Your portfolio can also be a point of social connection with others, including friends and family members. This is especially true if you add social components to your site such as a blog, a Twitter feed, or photos. And finally your portfolio can have personal purposes—it can serve as a digital archive for any work that you want to share with others

These purposes for your portfolio beyond meeting program purposes are about authenticity. We want to help each of you end the course with a Web portfolio that is written for an authentic audience and that shows in a rich, thoughtful way the work you have done in your master’s program. An authentic audience is your ideal audience: the people who you want to see your portfolio, be it students’ parents, colleagues, future employers, etc. We do ask you to meet certain criteria but don’t by any means have a prescriptive formula in mind for what your portfolio should look like—you should use your authentic audience to guide those decisions.

So, please think of your audience as consisting of more than just your instructors; more importantly, please think of this as your portfolio, not ours. Also, think of your portfolio as something to be shared with others in the future, not something to be left in some dusty corner of the Internet when this course is over.

Because we are focused on you and your audience, we encourage you to be creative and diverse in the portfolios you create. This makes our job harder (and our expectations perhaps a bit ambiguous at times), but we really do want you to finish the Capstone Portfolio Course with a portfolio you are proud of, a deeper understanding of the power of the portfolio concept, an expanded set of Web publishing skills, and some deep reflections about the power of Web publishing in the lives of those you teach. That is not to say, however, that there are not some common requirements and guidelines that structure the great diversity, creativity, and originality that will span the range of portfolios created in this course. We’ll say more about that as we go along.

Why is the course designed this way?

There are any number of ways (perhaps an infinite number!) to design a course such as this one.

In this course, we have embraced an “open” approach to education – an approach that removes barriers to access, making as much of the course open and available to all whenever possible. We’ve also embraced an idea that every course should be different — no “cookie cutter” courses! A portfolio course should look different than a science course or an English course.

In our efforts to be open, we’ve chosen to go with the most widely-used web-authoring (and blogging) platform in the world—WordPress. It’s easily customizable and can (with some work) be repurposed from a blog to be a course management site. In doing so, we often have to mimic basic CMS functions with plugins, use of 3rd party sites, and sometimes our programming (in PHP). What this means for you is you will be using many different sites that together do what closed sites like D2L can do out of the box. Let’s walk through them, and we’ll explain why we’re using each:

  • Gravatar – We need a way for you to share with us (and the world) where your work is.
  • Flipgrid – Flipgrid is a way for us to interact and share through asynchronous video conversations. We use the site to post thoughts about our work, and provide feedback to each other.
  • Qualtrics – We use this survey service for the beginning survey It’s a secure way for us get data from you. No login or password needed (whew!).
  • Zoom – This runs our online office hours (also known as the Capstone Coffeehouse) and our end-of-semester exhibitions. We would need something like this even with D2L.
  • D2L -We use D2L to securely handle grades. We could actually do this in WordPress via the use of a plugin, but it would violate university policy about storing certain types of data on 3rd party sites. So, we do ask you to use D2L with us for grading purposes (with your university login and password).

The good news is that you’ll be using a site that is open—you’re joining the open education movement, seeing several examples of “repurposing” technology, and hopefully learning how to use technology flexibly in your own educational settings.

You should be seeing a site that isn’t like other courses you’ve seen before (in a good way, we hope). Moreover, you’re getting a site with the best discussion forums, the best surveys, and what we think is a thoughtful combination of technologies. We welcome your questions and comments and hope you enjoy this approach.

How do I set up my gravatar?

What’s a Gravatar?

There are a number of ways for Internet users to create an avatar, or an iconic representation of themselves. In this course, we use the Gravatar (Globally Recognized AVATAR) service.

You’ll sign up, upload a picture, attach that picture to an e-mail address, and add a link to your website. Here is the cool part: Gravatars are widely recognized on the Web, so if you use that e-mail address to sign up for a new service or website, chances are that your avatar will be automatically recognized.

How do I set up my Gravatar?

We’ve made a video that explains all the steps. We hope you enjoy:

Checking to see if it works

If you’re in the capstone portfolio course, you can check your Gravatar on the course roster page (after Module 1), or on the Gravatar checker tool.


  • Gravatar sometimes takes as long as 10 minutes to update.
  • Make sure you’re using your MSU email address. That’s the only address we will use for you in this course.
  • If your image is not showing up and you’re sure you set it correctly, be sure you uploaded an image with a “G” rating. We cannot display anything without a G-rated image.
How can I prepare for this course?

Here are some general suggestions to help you get started on the course goal of building an authentic portfolio:

  1. Find and secure regular, reliable, fast access to the Internet.
  2. Start thinking about what tool or resource you will use to publish your portfolio. Don’t worry if you’re not sure: The first two modules will give you a chance to work through the process of selecting a platform to use. These resources are available online, and most of them are free! You can get a jump start on this by thinking about these choices early.
    • If you already have a website and have a familiarity with publishing webpages, you can simply build on these skills and on your prior work.
    • If you have never published a webpage (or have not done so recently), not to worry. In the past, students who have taken this course without prior experience have produced excellent portfolios, and so will you! The early assignments in the course will take you through the decision process, so if you’re feeling a little nervous about this, please relax. In the eight years or so that the Capstone Portfolio Course has been taught, everyone has succeeded in getting a portfolio up.
  3. Back up your hard drive! Save a copy of all your work in the master’s program to a backup system such as a hard drive or large flash drive. It seems like each semester there is one person from whom we get an “Ouch!” email… “Ouch! My hard drive just crashed, and I’ve lost all of my work from past courses.” So please back up your work: This is good advice beyond just this course.
  4. Edit your profile on See Module 0 or our Gravatar page for instructions on how to do this.
  5. Organize your master’s work. There is at least one part of your capstone portfolio where you will link to work that you’ve done in your master’s courses. You can begin organizing your materials from previous classes in preparation for this section.
  6. Reflect, mull, ponder, reminisce. There are required essays in this course that will ask you to look back at where you were when you began the master’s and look toward the future of learning given what you know now. There is also a major synthesis essay that asks you to write about how what you learned in your MAED or MAET courses has changed your thinking or enhanced your teaching. As you organize your materials and present them in your portfolio, get a jump start on these essays by figuring out the “big lessons” you learned.
  7. Explore possible portfolio platforms. There is a large and growing set of options you might choose for publishing your capstone portfolio. For now, if you don’t know what “publishing software” you’re going to use, consider “poking around” to learn more about Google Sites, WordPress, Weebly, or other systems to familiarize yourself with the choices.

Contact us whenever you have questions

We ask that you feel free to contact us with any questions at all that you have. Please put “Capstone Portfolio” in the subject line of emails to us so we can make sure to identify it as an important message to which we will respond quickly.

Still have questions?
If you still have questions, contact us. The option to ‘contact us’ will always be available under the “communicate” menu at the top of this website.
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