Digication: Catalyst For Social Learning

Education theory and research highlights the fact that learning is a social phenomenon: learning is made possible by interacting with others in complex social environments and its success is measured as a function of learners’ ability to navigate their social environments adequately throughout their lives. We learn from others and we practice our knowledge together with others.

Digication develops its impactful educational platform by recognizing that learning is a social activity that takes place both inside and outside of the classroom, and lasts a lifetime.

This is why we are committed to offer our users the possibility to harness the power of social technologies for the purposes of deep learning and effective teaching. With Digication both students and faculty can collaborate and share their authored contents on a variety of social websites as well as embed in their ePortfolios contents reflecting their activities in virtual space. This way, ePortfolios function as hubs for users’ virtual identity-building: they allow users to disseminate their professional interests and achievements to the virtual communities outside of their institution and also to enrich their ePortfolios with the knowledge they acquire in their out-of-classroom activities.

Digication provides an easy to use platform that is customizable to accommodate the needs of diverse categories of users: within ePortfolio-spaces, students can engage in peer-to-peer interactions and student-faculty interactions while faculty can collaborate with their peers as well as engage with students. ePortfolios enable the learning community to maintain a dialogical openness at all times, share knowledge, create a space for supportive feedback, and collaborate at various levels and in various capacities.

Digication users, both students and faculty, can opt for a variety of modalities for social interaction within ePortfolio-spaces as well as for integrating their ePortfolio-work with their other web-based presence. Within one’s individual ePortfolio, a user can engage in synchronous and asynchronous conversations with other users or comment on specific parts of an ePortfolio’s content. The comments may concern an entire ePortfolio if the user so chooses or they can target a particular sentence in a given ePortfolio page. Users can also populate their ePortfolios with contents they want to showcase by leveraging the multimedia embedding capabilities or they can make their ePortfolios visible to the outside, virtual world by linking their ePortfolios in their preferred social networking sites.

Students and Digication’s Social Features

Students can take advantage of Digication’s conversations and comments feature to engage in collaborative learning with their peers. They can brainstorm together, clarify material for one another, ask questions, and receive answers. These types of interactions are available to them both in real time as well as asynchronously. Students can also leverage the conversations and comments feature to provide each other feedback on particular parts of an assignment response or on a whole project. The course ePortfolio-based student-conversations and comments can be monitored and guided by faculty if faculty decides that interventions in the student dialogues are needed. In carrying out ePortfolio-based conversations, students not only learn from and help their peers, but they also make visible to faculty their learning processes and gain the opportunity to reflect themselves on the efficacy of those processes.

By leveraging the multimedia embedding module, students can contribute to the development of a course by uploading multimedia materials in their ePortfolio. For these purposes they can embed media in ePortfolios from outside web services such as YouTube, Prezi, and Voicethread. Students can also integrate in their individual ePortfolio's content from social networking sites such as Twitter, and embed files from their Google Drive files (e.g. documents, spreadsheets or presentations). This way, students demonstrate that they can bring together their outside-of-classroom knowledge with their curricular studies and their understanding of the relevance of in-class learning to solving problems in outside of class contexts.

It is important to emphasize that Digication offers students the possibility to publicize their ePortfolios very easily on their desired social websites by leveraging the social bookmarking module. They can showcase any file in their ePortfolio or their ePortfolio as whole. This is a valuable tool for students as it allows them to build a strong professional web presence and become career ready. Students can share on any desired social networking site, such as LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter, their ePortfolio-documented achievements (e.g. projects they develop, class-related learning experiences, internship contributions or volunteer work). Given the current hiring practices, the ability to easily link one’s ePortfolio to LinkedIn, for instance, provides job-seeking students the opportunity to enhance their resumes by providing visible evidence of their skills, responsibility, and professionalism.

Note: Digication provides unlimited alumni accounts to all campuses with current Digication subscriptions which enables students to leverage their ePortfolios on desired social websites after they become alumni as well.

Faculty and Digication’s Social Features

Faculty can use the social features of ePortfolios to realize their pedagogical aspirations, to grow as professionals, to demonstrate their commitment to professional community, and to position themselves as role models.

Faculty can reverse the classroom and promote student-centered pedagogies by making use of the Digication conversations feature. They can encourage students to comment on specific parts of a course material within the ePortfolio space (e.g. a given paragraph or a specific sentence). They can create themed discussion threads that allow students to engage in debate and critical thinking and provide immediate feedback to students and facilitate their discussions. These conversations and comments are archived by Digication and can become later sources of evidence in institutional and program-level assessment processes.

Faculty can also leverage the multimedia embedding capability offered by Digication to enrich their course ePortfolios with materials from desired outside web services (e.g. YouTube, Vimeo, or display their Twitter feed in their ePortfolio files). They can also link their course ePortfolios to the social websites they frequently leverage (e.g. Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and make visible their work to the virtual community at large).

Accessing the ePortfolio-interactive features is very easy for both student and faculty users. Digication has released a beta version of a new social dashboard feature that can be accessed from the user’s homepage. Users can view all of their own updates on their dashboard as well as view the comments made by other users on their ePortfolios. Once comments are submitted on the site, users receive immediate notifications regarding the activity in their ePortfolio-space. The dashboard provides users the possibility to filter the display of activity by course or by the assessment group in which they are enrolled.

The platform’s flexibility enables users to customize their ePortfolio experiences along several axes:

  1. Privacy Settings, which range from private view to campus-wide view or completely-public view of ePortfolios
  2. Content Filters, which customize the type of content a user is interested in viewing at a certain time point, (e.g. viewing only materials related to a particular course)
  3. ePortfolio User Categories, such as student, faculty or alumni ePortfolios. Users can customize their ePortfolio experience by selecting any combination of the previous categories, thus being able to easily navigate the vast knowledge resources gathered in ePortfolios. In summary, Digication’s current social learning features enable users to keep in touch with and contribute to their learning community’s activities and to make themselves seen and heard by the world at large.

By leveraging the social features of ePortfolios, students can:

  • Engage in active and collaborative learning
  • Make their learning progress visible by displaying to themselves, their peers, and their educators their learning processes and ability to integrate curricular and co-curricular knowledge,
  • Create a professional online identity they can showcase to their prospective employers and can share on preferred social media networks

Faculty can leverage ePortfolios to:

  • Stimulate students to become actively engaged with the course materials by inviting them to discuss in ePortfolio conversation spaces particular course materials
  • Provide feedback on student assignments and other student-authored ePortfolio contents
  • Make their efforts visible for professional growth to the world at large

ePortfolios will continue to grow as a virtual space which users can enjoy and achieve a sense of intellectual community that can aid them in their efforts to learn and succeed both within the classroom context and beyond it. This is why ePortfolios’ design permits learners to acquire knowledge and skills in ways that do not limit their horizons to simply meeting specific academic requirements. Digication strives to enable authentic learning (i.e. learning that has application in the real world and enables lifelong success). In other words, ePortfolio-users become learners who master the art of knowing how and when to learn; and this is the kind of skill that is most needed in life, as social pedagogies have argued.

ePortfolio-based learning is best suited in this sense to invite learners to be creative and innovative in their approach to given problems, to develop a propensity for considering a problem from multiple perspectives, and to practice diverse forms of discourse within the ePortfolio spaces so that later they can respond adequately to diverse social situations. The high adaptability that ePortfolio users develop by engaging in ePortfolio-based learning and interaction ultimately becomes their most important expertise: mastery of impactful dialogue in a social environment that is unprecedentedly diverse and collaborative.

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