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Matthew Koehler

CEP807 / ED870: Proseminar Ed Technology
Honorable Mention - Online
“Learning principles are embedded in technology”
- Matthew Koehler -

One innovative aspect of the Capstone Portfolio course is in how learning is structured. Four design principles (which are enacted using technology) make this course different from many others.

Authentic Audience

Portfolios are designed for an authentic audience, and that audience differs for each student in the program. For example, some students in the program are looking to change careers, while others are not. Other students may wish to use the portfolio to in their existing classrooms, to communicate to parents or students about their work, or as a repository for their work and thoughts. That is, depending on the audience, the portfolio should be designed to impress peers, potential employers, students, parents, significant others, or even its creator.

Learning by Doing

The capstone portfolio course helps students to progress from consumers to producers of content. For example, early in the course, students examine previous portfolios looking for inspiration in the designs, and items they would like to emulate. From there students quickly move into producing their own portfolios, through an intermediate project that asks them to create two sample pages in their portfolio using two different web platforms. After that project, students are guided to create portions of their final portfolio through a technology of their choosing. The creation of portfolios instills general qualities of good instructional design, but also has the specific result of empowering students as web designers with skills that generalize well beyond the portfolio project.

Peer Learning

Students are grouped in four-member “houses” and are also individually partnered with a “study buddy.” The purpose of the study buddy and the other housemates is to provide an opportunity to students to both give and receive feedback and support, beyond what is provided by the instructors. This approach creates a community of learners (Palloff & Pratt, 1999) within the capstone portfolio course, creating additional technical, social, collegial, and design resources for students to draw upon during the semester-long portfolio project. While this community of learners provides specific scaffolding for the portfolio, our intention is that after completion of the Capstone Portfolio course, students will be more willing to search out (or create) such communities in their own professional lives.

Public Scholarship

In achieving a masters degree, students are not only conferred the degree, but with it an accordance of status as education and educational technology leaders within their field. In this way, the portfolio is designed to be a public argument showcasing students’ learning, skills, and leadership. Thus, the portfolio is not only for fellow students and their instructors/evaluators, but also for students’ colleagues, peers, and the field of education more broadly. In order to prepare students for this public display of their skills and scholarship, students present their finished portfolios in a synchronous exhibition. The audience in the exhibition is a group with individual houses and the instructors.

A second innovation in the course website, designed in WordPress™ and augmented with some unique properties. (http://www.msuedtechsandbox.com/CapstoneSS2013/)

Open Design

The course shares an important property of a massive open online course (MOOC): it is open. Because the course website is open to the public, students have no login or password to main course website. Students, as well as others interested in the Capstone Portfolio course, or interested more generally in portfolios and their development, can see their assignments, instructor videos, and student’s public portfolios without logging in.


Students are asked to create a profile called a Gravatar (http://gravatar.com) to provide the course website with their name and URL of their portfolio. This subverts the need for Wordpress to manage user accounts, and also provides students with a web- based profile used in a variety of other websites.

Instructor Videos

Each module begins with a short (approximately two minute) video from one a course instructor. These videos briefly introduce the content and goals for the unit, with a focus upon clarifying for students new or difficult aspects of the Capstone Portfolio course. These videos are uploaded to and embedded from YouTube.

Private Discussions

The main place for private discussions is in Piazza (http://piazza.com). Piazza is a well-designed web-based discussion forum, which also provides mobile apps (for Android and iOS). Students are grouped in Piazza based upon their house assignment.

Capstone Coffeehouse

Using GoToMeeting (http://gotomeeting.com), we set up a video conferencing room that we call a “coffeehouse.” Students can join anytime to talk to instructors or fellow students. We use this “coffeehouse” to hold office hours (twice a week), meet with students who need additional help, and run the final exhibitions. An important feature of this coffeehouse is that it allows screensharing – an essential tool when for troubleshooting layout or other problems during web-design sessions.

OTHER TEAM MEMBERS(Doctoral Student TA/Designers):

Andrea Zellner

Joshua Rosenberg

William Cain

Chris Sloan

Michelle Schira Hagerman

Penny Thompson

Chris Shaltry

Sean Leahy

Denice Leach

Mete Akcaoglu

Ammon Wilcken