Reviewing My Most Valuable Post of CEP 813

OCE_CEP813In reflecting back on CEP 813 and the wealth of information learned, I believe my best post was one that actually wasn’t required for the course, but helped me develop as a learner (and a designer). The post I am referring to dates back to Module 4, the two week period crafting a formative assessment project within Minecraft. During this two week module, we were tasked with creating an initial screencast that displayed some of the challenges faced in using the application initially (week one) and then a screencast on a formative assessment that we had created in Minecraft (end of week two). However, in between these two weeks, I also composed an extra reflection piece in my blog, that allowed me to outline my thoughts on the formative assessment component, demonstrate my ideas on how to incorporate Minecraft with formative assessment, and finally layout a design that would make sense to the students/learners (who would be the target audience for the Minecraft project).

Minecrafty: Drafting for Minecraft Design

In honesty, I believe some of my more recent posts are more thorough and interweave course concepts directly into my reflection; however the reflection above truly defined the course’s foundational concepts of formative assessment. I used the post above to outline my ideas for the project’s topics (online course evaluations), the design approach and how I would display this information (using a bridge concept), and lastly allowed me to grow as a designer by adding a new tool to my repertoire. Meanwhile, I was thinking about the Minecraft application and the allowances/limitations of the tool to craft my design, and advanced my original design to include key areas not outlined in my original draft (student interaction with the bridge and quiz component). With this being said, I believe this post provides an overview of the numerous areas learned in CEP 813 related to formative assessment: focusing on the assessment of student learning, reviewing and revising a tool’s design to meet those students’ needs, and also developing ways that as an instructor you can truly capture and improve student learning through educational technologies (ensuring the technology enhances the learning the experience rather than being used simply for being a “new” technology).

Lastly, the post above was essentially a draft for my final Minecraft reflection that I posted less than a week later (linked below for reference purposes). I believe the final post shows my personal development and demonstrates my own learning within the week related to the Minecraft tool, design in practice and ensuring student understanding could be assessed through my creation. I believe my original outline started with the learning outcomes (the purpose of online course evaluations) and then focused on the bridge design to demonstrate the learning experience. The goal was to follow Wiggins & McTighe’s understanding by design approach, and focus on the desired learning before shaping the curriculum. Once I had identified the five key takeaways for online course evals, I developed the bridge concept with six learning hubs – one outlining how to use the bridge, and the other five covering the key concepts. Lastly, I included a quiz at the end of the bridge to assess student understanding of the OCE bridge. Again, all of these design components came to me as I developed my original draft and then revised the draft the following week. I believe my original outline reflection allowed me to start thinking about the backwards approach to design, and identify the key learning outcomes before jumping into the Minecraft tool and design.

Minecraft Round 2: Assessing Student Understanding of OCEs

Reflecting back on the Minecraft module, I believe the use of games as a form of assessment is truly a brilliant approach, as students are creating projects and crafting ideas in ways that don’t feel like traditional “home/school work”. Minecraft (and other games) allow students to visit an open field for design with no limitations on how they build/draft their own creations. They are not limited to the size of a piece of paper or a page length requirement – instead they have an open canvas to let imagination run free. The tool also allows students to develop communication skills, collaborate with others by working in teams, and also allows students to visually see concepts that the instructor demonstrates. My goal for the mid-week Minecraft post was not to simply add an extra reflection to my portfolio, but to brainstorm on the course concepts that could help me design a formative assessment module to enhance student understanding on online course evaluations within the Minecraft application.


CEP 813: Assessment Design Version 3.0 – Online Course Reflections within a Digital Portfolio

Well, I’m truly amazed at how fast the semester has flown by, and from reviewing the assignment sharetracker the vast quantity and quality of work put forth by my CEP 813 colleagues. As I’m aiming to contribute to this wealth of knowledge via creation, my final revision of the formative assessment design project below can be found both via the Google document and the direct Canvas link below. In my last revision I expanded the online course reflection (OCR) section to include a mid-term check-in component, allowing students to provide their thoughts on the course and their learning, while also providing instructors with a tool focused more specifically on formative assessment within their own course. Thanks in advance to those of you who have provided feedback on my assignments previously, I surely benefited from the advice passed along (and I believe my assessment design reflects those recommendations too!).

Google document recapping the design thought process and components

Digital Portfolio and Online Course Reflections on Canvas

CMS Assessment in Review: Developing Electronic Portfolios for Student Use

In a previous portfolio reflection, I had discussed the use of Canvas as a Course Management System, and one of the powerful features that instructors/administrators can utilize to enhance student engagement: electronic portfolios. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a current instructor, so my area(s) of focus are not on a specific subject or topic, but more so on student learning on a broader perspective. With the use of digital portfolios, I had really hoped to capture the student learning experience through the lens of the student, allowing them to shape their expectations for their learning at Stanford University, and then reflect on their achieved learning experiences. Through the feedback from Larry Jacques, I expanded the electronic portfolio to include areas that were “unknown” to the student – allowing the student to provide questions or thoughts on areas that Stanford advisors/administrators/instructors can provide guidance. The decision to include such a section, was to again strengthen the student’s desire to use such a portfolio if they know that the portfolio is not only a personal reflection, but an area where they can reach out to peers/advisors on campus for guidance in reaching their goals.


In addition, I wanted to provide clarification on the online course reflections (OCRs), which acts as a formative assessment piece within the portfolio. So based on Larry’s feedback, I also tried to clean up the portfolio layout and separate the OCR directions, from the actual terms in which the OCRs would be completed.


Lastly, based on Module 6 and the focus of the effective use of ‘feedback’ within the module, I tried to expand the digital portfolio to allow more valuable areas for feedback: including adding areas on the OCRs, final reflection, and the “unknown” section mentioned above. This way advisors/instructors can provide direct feedback to the student (that remains private only to the student), in helping them digest or discuss some of the points they have analyzed in their portfolio.

I do apologize in advance for the longer than normal screencast, but I also wanted to use th screencast as an example of my own learning in CEP813, so I chose to craft the piece in a manner that I could look back on as a signature of my learning in the MAET program at Michigan State (within my own WordPress portfolio). Thanks for any feedback and/or comments you provide!

Digital Portfolios: A Sandbox for Professional Growth

wordpress_eportfolioWhile it may seem odd, this is my first academic digital space that I’ve consistently updated, in either submitting required entries or brainstorming on topics related to CEP813. I previously have spent time as a writer and editor for a college football website, but never found time to personally reflect on my learning. Thankfully, both CEP813 and WordPress have allowed me to engage and express my understanding through written form in the creation of my digital portfolio. I personally am much more eloquent in writing than in person (as are most other introverts), but the blog space has allowed me to be free with my thoughts on course concepts, course projects and most importantly reflecting on my own learning. One aspect that I’ve grown to really appreciate is that these blog assignments are never graded or critiqued by others. I can feel free to really express how I feel and demonstrate my understanding without any repercussions. Even if the posts were graded, I think my interests are more aligned with actually creating a reflective and encompassing blog that I’m proud of – one that I can look back on and demonstrate my learning process not only to others, but to my future self.

I’ve found most of my assignments directly relate to my day-to-day job at an institution of higher education, but in creating reflections on these assignments, that I am able to take a deeper dive into my learning process. Looking back on the Minecraft module as an example, I was able to build a Minecraft creation that focused on online course evaluations. I found the assignment quite engaging and unique, but with the help of the blog, I was able to outline my ideas, design and draft an entry specifically related to my blueprint. I was then able to build on this initial exercise by reviewing my initial design, making modifications and executing both the Minecraft creation and my final Minecraft blog. In essence I was using the blog not to simply complete an assignment, but to assess my own understanding of the assignment, reflect on my approach, and then build on this approach to complete the final assignment.

In looking at the actual medium used for these posts, WordPress has been a quite simple tool, one which can easily be integrated with other applications (Twitter, etc) and customized to embed external resources. Acting on a “blog” framework, the users benefit from its ease of use and flexibility to be designed to the user’s desired specifications. In addition, I believe the WordPress site has allowed for a more comprehensive display of my learning, thanks to a collection of both reflections and digital artifacts that express my understanding of the course concepts covered in CEP813. I’m amazed that more courses don’t integrate a portfolio feature, as coursework can easily be forgotten in digital folders and passed over for remembering a course simply by a grade. The actual creation of post, self-reflection or even a tweet, allows for the student to create a digital snapshot of the learning at that point in time – one that can be referenced for years to come.

Defining Learning Experiences Through the Use of Digital Portfolios

Transcript-imageElectronic portfolios are slowly making their way on campus at Stanford University, and I intend on contributing to the advancement of these important collections of the student learning experience. As I am not an instructor or teacher, my focus in utilizing digital portfolios revolves around strengthening the students’ learning experiences through course reflection, self assessment and a collection of digital artifacts that reflect the learning accomplished during their academic career at the university.

A critical component of electronic portfolios, that I strongly believe is lacking in higher education, is the course reflection and self-assessment of student learning. Often we consider a course is a success based on course evaluations, which focus on the course itself and the instructor’s teaching methods. However, as Wiggins and McTighe suggest (2005, p.15), we need to also place ample consideration to the student learning component and how the student has not only advanced their understanding on course concepts by taking the course, but also how that student has grown as a learner thanks to the course concepts, instructor’s teaching, peer feedback and self development. The electronic portfolio can therefore act a tool of formative assessment as students reflect on their courses, assess their own learning, and collect artifacts that define their own interpretation of learning. As Shepard suggests (2000, p.4), utilizing electronic portfolios as a method of formative assessment, allows these tools to act a central part of the social processes that mediate the development of intellectual abilities, construction of knowledge and formation of students’ identities while at Stanford University.

I believe we have a great opportunity in higher education to provide students with the ability to create an encompassing reflection on their learning experience that starts with the student’s academic interests. Students currently graduate with four (or more) years of memories, a framed diploma and a transcript full of text and grades. But does this really reflect what the students have learned, how they have learned it, and why they learned it? Can an employer look at the transcript and identify a student’s ability to succeed in real life settings, simply due to a high GPA?  Or does a student’s future-self even look at the transcript and remember the key concepts (both course focused and learning related) that helped mold them into the person they are today? We have the ability to help students not only reflect on a course-by-course basis but also actively capture their learning processes and document their greatest academic achievements through electronic portfolios. Students currently create LinkedIn profiles, resumes and websites to display their ability to tackle professional challenges. But why not arm students with an even greater tool in the form of digital portfolios that allows students to display what they have learned, how they have learned it and why they decided to learn these specific concepts.

Lastly, and thanks to the advancement in educational technologies, we can include information from all different sources, various forms of media and unique systems to integrate with electronic portfolios. We can embed content from YouTube or Piktochart, or extract data from student information systems (PeopleSoft or Banner), which ultimately provides students with the ultimate sandbox to truly define themselves, their learning experiences and their goals – both academically and professionally. We now have the tool to define learning experiences in more than a simple transcript; we owe it to students to actively integrate and design these portfolios for their use.


Shepard, L. A. (2000). The role of assessment in a learning culture. Educational researcher, 29(7), 4-14.

Wiggins, G.P. & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by design. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. Retrieved from

CMS Assessment in Design: Electronic Portfolios

Please note: I am not currently an instructor/teacher, so I am focusing my efforts on the learning experience at Stanford for all undergraduates, rather than a specific subject (ex: History/Biology) for a student population.

Electronic Portfolios, also known as ePortfolios, allow students to expand on their learning through reflection and additional collection of their digital artifacts. In choosing Canvas as my course management system (CMS) platform of choice, I really aimed to find a product that allowed students to easily incorporate previous assignments/projects/creations into their ePortfolio. Thankfully, Canvas allows for such integration. Within Canvas, students can embed previous assignments from classes created within Canvas and students can also embed a number of assignments from outside sources (YouTube/Piktochart, etc). One of the neat features with Canvas, is that an application programming interface (API) can be exported from the student information system (SIS) of record, to import the student’s class information directly into Canvas. Instructors can then create course material for these imported classes within Canvas, while students can import their class lists for course reflections (as section housed in my ePortfolio design, labeled by terms, ex: Autumn 2014, Winter 2015). The goal of the ePortfolio is to allow students to both reflect on their learning and to create a visual representation of their academic career. Currently students rely on a transcript with a GPA notation, or a visually striking diploma that lacks substance, to highlight their college experience. With the creation of an ePortfolio, students can reflect on their learning of course concepts and interactions/experiences outside of the classroom, while also creating a digital artifact that displays their undergraduate learning experience. I aim to provide students with a method to reflect not only on each of their classes, but their learning experiences at Stanford University, rather than leaving with a handful of undocumented memories and a transcript of grades and text.

Thanks in advance for any comments or feedback you may have!

A Critical Review of the Assessment Capabilities within Course Management Systems

After testing the features in a handful of different CMS options, I have decided on Canvas as the CMS to host my assessment project for CEP813. The three CMS portals that I took a deeper dive into were Canvas, Weebly and Google Classroom. I’ll first start with why the other applications failed to meet the needs of both the instructor and students in providing formative assessment tools to develop learning. First, I was highly disappointed with Google Classroom, as this tool focuses solely on the teaching component and fails to acknowledge the learning aspect of assessment. Google Classroom appears to be a simple blend of Google Plus combined with Google Drive capabilities. Instructors can set up streams of announcements and/or assignments, and then provide grades and comments to the students after they have submitted the work. I believe the Google Classroom simply tries to offer instructors the ability to communicate with the class and track assignments in one location, without relating these assignments or announcements to course content or learning objectives. Classroom also fails to provide the student with an ability to promote further discussion with peers (or instructors) besides the simple comment feature. Overall, I am not enthused with the lack of focus on student engagement, student learning and failing to promote formative assessment in which students can grow from their submitted assignments.

The next application I reviewed was Weebly. After spending time in Google Classroom, I decided to focus more specifically on a platform that is very open and customizable to the instructor and students. Weebly has some positives but also comes with a handful of negatives when considering assessment as a key component within the CMS. Weebly allows for instructors to design a course to his/her desires, with very few structural limits. I have the feeling that Weebly could be best used for standalone courses (professional development, etc) that are not related to a student’s academic career. Weebly (like WordPress) could also be very beneficial for student portfolios, allowing for design and layout preferences decided by the student. However, Weebly is very much a standalone application in that students cannot view all of their courses and academic progress within one platform. Each instructor would design an individual course that has its own website – I see this as an issue for students if they really want the ability the reference their learning throughout their academic career, and even revert back to old courses/assignments that they had previously submitted. While Weebly fails on a number of areas, it does have some foundational prospects such as discussion forums, quiz abilities and design flexibility to act as a solid CMS option for a standalone course.

Finally, I decided to test drive the Canvas application, and I must say it thoroughly met my CMS needs. As my formative assessment project will focus directly on ePortfolios and more specifically online course reflections, I needed to find a CMS that first offers ePortfolios, and then allows students to build within portfolio throughout their academic career. Canvas’ ePortfolio feature is not tied to each course within the CMS; meaning, the student can link to discussions, assignments, achievements, etc. within Canvas, but that the student does not have one ePortfolio for each course he/she completes. Rather, the ePortfolio is a collection of work that the student can access during their academic career and beyond, as long as they still have a login to the SIS (in Stanford’s case, a login to PeopleSoft, which we provide to all graduates). Students will be able to reference their assignments, ePortfolio and course reflections both during and well after they have finished their degree. Along with this beneficial portfolio feature, students have the option to make their portfolio public, or keep it private. Students can then comment on each others’ portfolios, adding another aspect of assessment into the fold with peer feedback. Lastly, Canvas also acts as a highly organized and detailed CMS, providing both instructors and students with the ability to share thoughts on the course content and learning objectives (through discussions, messaging capabilities, assignment overviews, rubrics, gradebooks, quizzes and surveys to name a few). I look forward to diving into Canvas as I begin to design my ePortfolio and online course reflection assessment project, and will provide an update in a future blog post.

Assessing CMS Options in terms of Assessment Capabilities


Minecraft Round 2: Assessing student understanding of Online Course Evaluations (OCEs)

In this week’s tutorial I focused on online course evaluations (OCEs) at Stanford University (where I currently work) and the grade hold process tied to OCEs. As a brief background, grade holds are placed on the student’s record prior to the OCE session opening, and students are required to complete all OCEs before the grade hold will be released. I decided to focus my Minecraft design on a bridge format to essentially bridge student understanding between OCEs and how they relate to the grade holds on the student records. As outlined in my previous blog post, found in the link below, I crafted a rough draft of my expectations for the Minecraft design, and what points I wanted to touch on:

Minecrafty: Drafting for Minecraft Design

The tutorial below highlights the design and the main concepts I hope to cover, but also knowing the time restrictions on the tutorial video, it unfortunately does not focus on every little detail I put into the design. My goal is that students would clearly spend more than 5 minutes reviewing the bridge, and I encourage you to explore the OCE bridge and provide feedback below.

Lastly, in putting together the tutorial below, I honestly found the time limit of 5 minutes quite challenging. I think I went through about 12-15 attempts on the video, each time timing out around 5:15 or so, exceeding the 5 minute requirement. Since I had spent roughly 3 hours a night for the last week building this bridge, you can imagine how frustrating it was to then not be able to eloquently state your design in the time limit. My video below is timed at 5:06, so hopefully this won’t be an issue with Michelle or Sandra when reviewing.

Despite my struggles with the video aspect, I really enjoyed spending the last week building and designing an area of instruction, assessment and feedback within Minecraft. As I’m not a teacher, I tried to put together a topic, assess student understanding of that topic, and then provide them with a means to evaluate the information covered within Minecraft. So hopefully this approach is conveyed in both the design and tutorial below. Thanks to all those who explored my bridge and please feel free to leave any comments, questions or recommendations for improvement.

Minecrafty: Drafting for Minecraft Design


Module 4, Week 2 – Minecraft Design

Just a brief post tonight, but I thought I would start preparing for the Minecraft assessment design, by crafting my ideas on paper before implementing them online. Attached below you will see my mock up for a brief introduction to online course evaluations (OCEs) and the grade release process. Each quarter the Office of the Registrar places holds on the students’ records until they complete the online course evaluations. The Minecraft design will hopefully cover this process, with informational stops that students must acknowledge along the way. Currently students must complete (or decline, essentially take action) the OCEs and their grades will be released by the morning the next day

The design is focused on a bridge which starts with the OCE and displays information about the OCE process and how grade holds are removed, centered around student action. At the end of the bridge, the students will be asked a question (hopefully, if Minecraft allows) on the tutorial they have just completed in Minecraft to simulate the OCE process and then grades being available. The students will also be briefly quizzed on the other side of the “Grades” side of the bridge. Essentially the bridge resembles the gap of misunderstanding between the start of OCEs and the release of GRADES, as hopefully detailed below (although quite poorly crafted).

Okay, that’s it for now, time to jump into the actual design! Fingers crossed!

Minecraft Tutorial: Week 1 – Jump in!

In our first week with Minecraft, we were tasked to essentially explore the digital world, navigating through a tutorial world to get our bearings with the tool. I found the game to be pretty straightforward with the key strokes, but also found myself in a hole (literally!) right off the bat. As I explain the video, I began digging/swinging too quickly thanks to an overexcited laptop touchpad, and was deep in the Minecraft world before I could even get started. Quite the experience to jumping right into Minecraft! I’m sure any experienced Minecrafters would find my antics quite sad, but hey we all start from somewhere. With that being said, this was my first time using Minecraft, and really getting to see the game. I am not a teacher and don’t have any younger individuals in my family or network, so it’s definitely something new to me – which was fun and slightly challenging at first. As I’m not a teacher, I’m not quite sure how I would use Minecraft in a professional development setting, working with department administrators and faculty at a higher education institution. I can see the endless possibilities for use in the classroom with students (the DNA cell extraction video was quite neat) and I look forward to seeing what classmates of CEP813 will present with their creations next week. That’s it for now, as I begin to ponder my own Minecraft creation for next week. If you have any suggestions on how to incorporate Minecraft into a higher education professional development setting, I would be happy to brainstorm ideas with you. Thanks for reading and for any feedback!