For the past two years, the First-Year Writing Program in the Department of English has implemented the ePortfolio program, which encourages students to create electronic portfolios, usually websites, to showcase their First-Year Writing essays. With the idea in mind that employers seek experience with online writing and web design, the FWP’s Dr. Natalie Loper and Professor Jessica Kidd have led the development of a First-Year writing curriculum that guides students through writing for an audience beyond the classroom, using the affordances of a website. Students use web design along with audio and visual components to enhance their readers’ experiences.
These customizable, personal websites allow students to showcase their work and practice the recursive revision process as they see their essays evolve. These semester-long projects capitalize on students’ differing interests and learning styles. Projects are writing-intensive but allow students to shape their work for digital audiences. Many students report feeling a stronger sense of ownership and connection to their compositions, as they learn to include pictures, podcasts, and links to their favorite social media in their writing. In on-campus years, the ePortfolio showcase provides a capstone moment for students’ finished websites. First-Year Writing classes finish the fall and spring semesters with a display of their websites to their peers and to other instructors. These showcase events prompt dialogues and conversations between writers and their audiences.
The ePortfolios draw on and leverage the technical acumen that many first-year writers bring with them to UA. Crafting websites for real-time publication also allows for peer-focused learning with the instructor acting as a guide.
The First-Year Program and Department of English also secured a Rising Tide grant, which provided funding for showcases, some technology needs, and two graduate teaching assistants who created resources and lesson plans for ePortfolio instruction. These technology assistants also offered consultations with classroom teachers to guide them through best teaching practices. In Spring of 2020, 45 sections of 100-level English courses participated in the ePortfolio program. The FWP looks forward to the ways students’ sites will increase the visibility of their voices as they move beyond the Capstone.