The Daily Gamecock

Students present USC Connect projects

E-portfolios allow reflection, integration of college experiences

Better personal reflection, integration of experiences and the forming of cohesive personal narratives are among the influences students say they have received thus far from their involvement in USC Connect.

Six students presented products and reflections relating to USC Connect to faculty and staff at a forum Wednesday in the Russell House Theater.

USC Connect is a long-term initiative across all USC campuses intended to optimize students’ educational experience by making connections between classroom coursework and outside-the-classroom experiences. Its goals include supporting students in the integration of their academic and personal experiences, and encouraging personal reflection on the impact of those experiences.

“One of the things I love about USC Connect is the idea of story and narrative,” said fourth-year biology student Brewer Eberly. “I think one of the most difficult skills to learn as a college student is how do you talk about yourself well, how do you talk about yourself briefly and still communicate, ‘Hey, this is me. This is my personality. These are the things I love. These are the things I believe in.’

“I now have a story. I have a narrative that connects all the things I’m passionate about and also things I love. And I think USC Connect does that. It’s one of the reasons I jumped on board with this project.”

Fourth-year public health student Charlotte Wertz said components of USC Connect in her senior Capstone course helped her benefit from the amalgamation of her college experiences by reflecting on them.

“The most important thing about reflection, in my opinion, is that it gives you a chance to look at all of the coursework you’ve done (and) all the beyond-the-classroom experiences you’ve had,” Wertz said. “And you really get a chance to think about what those experiences meant to you, what you learned and how they can all be drawn together to reach a bigger goal — to teach you what your strengths are, what your weaknesses are, what you want to do with your life.”

Three students shared examples of electronic portfolios they created through the USC Connect program. The e-portfolio Web pages essentially act as extended and enhanced resumes that allow individual students to integrate and share their academic and personal experiences as a way to display their interests, achievements, growth and goals.

USC Connect Executive Director Irma Van Scoy called the e-portfolios a “vehicle to integrate learning.” Students from 14 University 101 class sections piloted the e-portfolios in the fall, she said, and 22 upperclass students are working on e-portfolios this semester.

When first-year early childhood education student Jordan Goff created her online portfolio last semester as a U101 assignment, she said she was not excited about the project and didn’t think she would find it relevant.

Goff said she enjoyed the project after working on it, though, as it allowed her to compile her reflections on experiences that led her to pursue a career in education and present them in a way that will further her future professional goals.

“I think that these are the experiences that really develop students and really form students,” Goff said. “This is the type of thing that I want a principal or future employer to see about me. You know, you have resumes that have all the lists of academic success that you’ve had and all the universities you’ve attended. But you don’t really get to see that personal side of someone and those experiences and growth that you’ve had. So I think the e-portfolio does that beautifully.

“You can see sort of the softer side and personal side of someone. I think I would love to show this to someone in a professional setting, and I think that would really set a student above the rest.”

Students offered suggestions to faculty for ways to promote USC Connect to students and get them interested in projects like e-portfolios. Wertz suggested having informational forums at freshman orientation and incorporating the goals of USC Connect into academic advising, such as offering suggestions for ways to get involved in beyond-the-classroom experiences. Other students agreed, but Eberly said some students will not get involved regardless of what and how many efforts are made to promote the concepts of USC Connect.

“Sometimes you can knock on the door as loud and as long and as hard as possible, and some students just aren’t going to answer,” Eberly said.