Covello and Gauffreau present at NERCOMP ’13

NERCOMP-2013bSteve Covello, Rich Media Specialist, and Liz Gauffreau, Director of Individualized Studies, presented a poster session entitled “Creating a PLA e-portfolio development system on WordPress” at NERCOMP ’13, Providence, RI. 

wordpress_logoThe topic was about the ongoing development of a WordPress-based online blog system used by students in the Prior Learning Assessment phase of an Individualized Studies program.

Students use a personalized, private WordPress blog to submit evidence towards earning college credit for professional experience. The blog system serves as a companion to the SDLR-551 Assessment of Prior Learning online course.

Previous efforts with Google Docs and Moodle did not provide sufficient flexibility, privacy, sharing, branding, or usability.

Our self-hosted WordPress multisite system provides direct administrative control to the Individualized Studies department, replication of pre-populated blog templates, a simplified posting method for students using Gravity Forms, secure access, built-in help documentation, and foundation content for faculty and adviser assessment.

The distinction in this WordPress design is that all student input is provided through easy Web forms rather than through logging in to a WordPress dashboard to compose post content. Once a student submits a web form, the content is automatically processed and displayed as a post in the blog based on predefined navigation. See the sample pages below.


The value of this system is in its ability to simplify the process of building e-portfolios for a variety of students, each entering with unique prior learning and professional experiences and different degree goals.

How has this project advanced innovation and student learning experiences at GSC?

The experience of developing a systematic process that accounts for such a wide variety of student entry points has forced us to re-conceptualize PLA. We have found new ways to phrase the context for students so that they can build a bridge between their résumé-based concept of prior experience and the academic-based concept of fulfilling learning outcomes.

The structure of the blogs themselves help students to organize their thought process so that they can build a strong case for earning college credit. We have also discovered that building the primary template for student blogs has informed how the companion online course can be structured and organized better. Each student experience brings new ideas for improving the template.

How using WordPress has advanced PLA process and pedagogy:

  • Through its multiple capabilities, the WordPress blogs have provided the means for GSC to conceptualize a new and innovative approach to PLA to encourage greater student participation in the program. 
  • Form-based input enables students to identify their relevant college-level learning more quickly than previous chart-based methods. 
  • Form-based input enables students to articulate their identified college-level learning and explain its relevance more clearly and succinctly than previous essay-based methods. 
  • Form-based input into a centralized tracking dashboard streamlines administrative processes for improved efficiency and program scalability. 

How WordPress provides the technical framework for developing a customized e-portfolio experience:

  • A familiar platform used in over 10 million websites worldwide.
  • Use of Multisite mode enables pre-populated template development and easy replication.
  • All student websites are private, with a stripped down dashboard showing only what is needed.
  • Gravity Forms plugin (commercial) enables easy form development.
  • Minimal amount of training needed.
  • Students can submit uploaded documents and videos.
  • Administrators, faculty, students, content experts, and assessors can use LDAP based user credentials to log in, review work, and leave comments.
  • Flexibility allows for rapid prototyping and adaptations as needed (PLA procedural change, course change, etc.).
  • Low administrative maintenance – all browser based access.