MODULE 1 – Review Past Portfolios – (Aug 28-Sep 3)

In this module, you begin your journey toward your own online portfolio by browsing portfolios from the previous semester. In doing so, you will learn what you might like in a portfolio, become familiar with the key features of portfolios, and begin to form ideas for your own portfolio. We know you’re looking forward to getting started, and these activities are designed to help you do just that. We look forward to getting to know you and seeing the capstone portfolio you’ll create!

Work in this module is due by Sept 3rd (at or before 11:59 PM Eastern Time). We encourage you to begin early in the week – it is not possible to complete the entire module at the last minute.


Basic Assignment(s)

1️⃣ 📌 Review portfolios

Spend about 1 hour reviewing 10 portfolios (not just the first ten) from last semester in order to better understand what they look like and begin to understand your own preferences. Pay attention to features you like, resumés that you might like to emulate, showcase examples that might inform your own designs, etc. Take notes about things you like about the portfolios and specific ideas you’d like to re-create in your own portfolio. You will use these notes when you discuss this experience with your fellow classmates.

2️⃣ 📌 Send an email to the author of your favorite portfolio

Email the person whose portfolio you like best. (Their contact information should be on their website somewhere or on the bottom left corner of their Gravatar, which can be found on their Roster page). Make sure you write in your own voice. Please put “Capstone Portfolio Course” in the subject line and include “” in the “cc:” line of your email. If a “cc:” line is not available (for example, if you send your note through a “Contact” form on their portfolio), copy the text of your email and send it to us at “” in a second email.

You can begin by saying something like “Hello, I am taking the Capstone Portfolio Course — the professor asked us to look at portfolios from previous classes and email the person whose portfolio we liked the most. I chose yours because…” (They will have done this assignment themselves before so this really won’t be too strange – they will appreciate being selected). Continue on to say a few nice but specific and substantive things about what you like about the design of their site. This care and attention should be given to the questions you ask, as well — this shows appreciation to the author, and the act of crafting a thoughtful email about why you selected this portfolio and what questions you have about the process they undertook is also a good way for you to reflect on aspirations for your own portfolio. This should also offer you some good insight and help for this course. As a general rule, this email should be a good 2-3 paragraphs long with specific praise and genuine questions.

3️⃣ 📌 Post a video reflection

This will be your first post to our video discussion forum, Flipgrid. The goals here are twofold: (1) Learn how to make Flipgrid postings, (2) Reflect upon what you learned from your review of past portfolios. When you’re ready, do the following steps to make your first Flipgrid post:

  1. Go to our first Flipgrid and sign in with the password (it has been emailed to you).
  2. Record your response–follow the prompts we give you. You’re free to use video or not, but please use audio (make sure your microphone volume is high enough for others to hear you!)
  3. Fill in the informational fields–fill in your full name (first and last) and give your video a descriptive title.

If you need more detail on using Flipgrid, there is additional help in the “Elaboration” section later on this page, which we ask you to check out anyway

4️⃣ 📌 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, extra 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

Each assignment in this course is important for developing your abilities to design and implement your portfolio. There are 100 total points assigned in this course; the specific assignments in this module will count towards your grade as follows:

  • (Up to 1 point) – Email to previous student – Send an email to a previous capstone student and cc:
  • (Coming up) – The quality of your video reflection in this module will be self-assessed (with some guidance) at the end of Module 5. There, you will give yourself between 0 and 5 points for your efforts across Modules 1 through 5.


🔍 A Team Teaching Approach

The capstone course is taught by Dr. Matthew Koehler (professor at Michigan State) and a teaching assistant, Aric Gaunt (Ph.D. Student in Educational Psychology and Educational Technology).

We teach as an integrated instructional team. When faced with a decision, we employ group decision making. Specifically, the whole team meets each week to talk about the course, make decisions, and troubleshoot any issues that have arisen.

What does this team approach mean for you? Mostly, you will experience the team approach in the way you converse with us. For example, we ask you to send email to us through the email address because that means the entire team receives your email. Only one person may answer your email on behalf of the entire instructional team, but the entire team has received it and thought about it.

Even though we teach as a team, there are some specific roles that individuals serve. For example, most of the all-class emails will be sent by Aric. Many of the other roles are behind the scenes. However, it is worth noting that Aric will conduct most of the day-to-day operation of the course, including checking for submitted work, grading work, and troubleshooting student questions and issues. Dr. Koehler, on the other hand, is responsible for the developing the curriculum, creating the website, managing the technology, leading the instructional meetings, and providing overall direction for the course. He is also responsible for signing off on each of your qualifying exams at the program level. Dr. Koehler also gets involved in the day-to-day operation of the course when an issue becomes complicated, or special circumstances warrant extra attention.

🔍 Detailed Flipgrid Instructions

Basic Posting

On camera, make sure you start each video by saying your name. For example, “Hi, this is Matthew Koehler, and today I’m talking about …. ”

After you record your video, there are a couple of fields to fill out. Make sure you pay particular attention to how we use these fields in the capstone course:

  • First Name – Put in your first name.
  • Last Name – Put in your last name.
  • Email – This is optional, but if you give your email address you will be able to delete or update this video by yourself without instructor intervention.
  • Title – Give your video a descriptive title (e.g., “my awesome resumé page”, “need help with Weebly formatting!”, etc.).
  • Link – Give the full link to the website or page you created for this assignment so that others can visit it and provide feedback to you.

App for your Phone

There is a Flipgrid app for your phone that you may wish to use instead. Visit the appropriate app store for your phone to download it.

The app may have several advantages over using your computer, in that if you wish to discuss something you see on screen, it is easy to film the screen with your phone and point to what you’re talking about.

If you do use your phone, you will be prompted to “enter a code” to get to the right Flipgrid. The code for our class is “msu_capstone”.

Technical Problems

Flipgrid does require Flash installed on your computer. It also requires a working camera and microphone—these are things you would need for the exhibition and tech check or office half-hours anyway. Consider using your phone if you don’t have one on your desktop. If you have problems beyond simply installing Flash, a camera, and a microphone, try the excellent Flipgrid support page, or contact us.

🔍 Policy for due dates, early work, and late work

Due Dates

Unless stated otherwise, all work for a given module is due at 11:59 PM Michigan time on the last day of the module.

Early Work

The course dates we have laid out are minimum pacing requirements. Please feel free to complete the course faster than these required dates. The only minor hiccup may be around the final exhibition (Module 11), which we tend to schedule during a specific week. If we have enough people wanting to finish faster, we can likely have an early exhibition (or two).

Late Work

We have worked hard to design the course around modules and due dates that keep you on pace to complete a high-quality portfolio on time.

Most of our weekly modules ask you to just design “something”—a start, a first draft, a placeholder—rather than a finished product. You can always improve on it later. In most cases, you’ll get credit for the activity as long as you do “something.” In short, it is better to get something for an assignment posted on time (like a draft of a resumé) and to improve upon it as we go than to wait for everything to be perfect. There will be time to revise and improve later.

We realize, however, that circumstances arise from time to time that may require to you need extra time for an assignment. That is okay, so long as you contact us before the due date to make a suitable alternate schedule that fits the circumstances. If you do not contact us prior to the due date, our late work policy takes effect. Work received up to 48 hours after the deadline without prior notice may receive up to 1/2 credit; however, you must inform an instructor of its completion. Work received 48 hours after the deadline will receive no points.

If you recognize that unexpected circumstances are going to interfere with your ability to complete your work, we encourage you to consider dropping the course—ideally by the “refund” deadline and definitely by the “no grade reported deadline”—so that you can re-take the class another time when you can focus more fully on the work. We suggest this course of action because we don’t want you to pay for a class that you cannot complete or for a poor grade that doesn’t reflect your ability or potential to appear on your transcript. You can find these dates through the MSU registrar. Please use them to make the decisions that are best for you.

🔍 The parts that make up a portfolio

The portfolio you make in this class has several components. The first component is the technology used to create and display your online portfolio (Weebly, Wix, WordPress, Google Sites, etc.). The process of deciding what technology to use is a scaffolded choice that happens throughout Module 1, Module 2, and Module 3, although you can revisit this decision at any time.

Once you have chosen a technology, this course helps you build 7 required pages that go in your portfolio, although there can be great flexibility and individuality in how these required pages are implemented in your portfolio. These seven pages are:

  • A home page (Module 3) – You create a landing page, or the first page that viewers see when visiting your online portfolio.
  • A resumé / vita (Module 5) – You create a page that highlights your professional preparation, appointments, skills, and goals.
  • A showcase (Module 6) – You create a page that shows examples or artifacts of your best work from your master’s program.
  • An annotated transcript (Module 8) – You create a page that lists the courses and topics covered as part of your master’s program.
  • Three reflective essays – You reflect upon your past, present, and future learning in the form of three essays:

In addition to the seven required pages, you will add three or more components that are specifically tailored to you and your portfolio. We call these Pieces of Flair, and you mix and match these components in a way that adds breadth and depth to your portfolio. You might, for example, add a page that describes your classroom (that would be one Piece of Flair), or connect to your presence on LinkedIn (that would be another Piece of Flair).

One website technology, PLUS 7 required pages, PLUS 3 (or more) pieces of flair will give you a website that will be uniquely yours and that you can be proud of.

🔍 Why look at past portfolios?

In Module 1 you look portfolios from the previous semester, and you may also consider looking at these portfolios at other times. Why? There are several reasons.

  • Better picture of the goal — You may have only a vague understanding of what a capstone portfolio might look like at this point. By looking at some finished portfolios, you will develop a much better understanding of your final goal in this course: a portfolio to be proud of!
  • Appreciation of features — By looking in depth at portfolios, you will be able to think about what features go into making a good portfolio. Is it aesthetics? Easy navigation? Good content? By looking somewhat analytically at the evaluation of “good portfolios,” you will start to develop your own design sensibilities.
  • A source for ideas — Looking at past portfolios will likely give you plenty of good ideas that you may want to use in your own portfolios. If you see something you like, bookmark it!
  • Accolades for previous students — Students who finished the course would love to have some feedback and praise from you if you liked their portfolio as part of this review process. When you’re ready, contact the author of your favorite portfolio. That email will reward that previous student for all their hard work. Hopefully you’ll receive an email next semester, too!

🔍 What are the results of the survey?

One pedagogical principle is to “know your students,” and a related principle is to “know what your students know and don’t know.” Another principle is to create a learning community within your classes.

The initial survey helps us plan this course, but we would like to encourage you to also consider this as an example of using a technology. In this case, a Web-based survey can quickly provide you with lots of information about your students and allow you to share the results via the Web to foster discussion or reflection among students in the class.

As you view these survey results, think about your own answers to the survey questions and see where you fit into the larger class demographic. There are others like you—you’re not the only one without webpage experience (or the only webpage expert), and you’re not the only one teaching your subject—but there is a lot of diversity in our course as well.

Click to see the survey results for FALL 2019 .

🔍 Why is this 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:

  • 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 what we think is a thoughtful combination of the best technologies for different purposes. We welcome your questions and comments and hope you enjoy this approach.

🔍 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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