Best Practice: The Online Student Portfolio
Often we associate strategic planning with long meetings that generate paperwork no one reads — but that is most definitely not the case with the TFS strategic planning process at Moore Norman Technology Center! In my previous blog Susan Gladhill, Director of Educational Services, shared details about how the TFS strategic planning process led to the creation of the Career & College Prep Handbook. Today, we asked her about another best practice that is currently making a difference for 1,960 students and 85 industry partners: the Online Student Portfolio. Here’s what she had to share:
TFS: As a result of our high-level strategic planning process, your team has implemented an Online Student Portfolio. Would you tell us a little about what that entails?
Moore Norman: The Online Student Portfolio is part of MNTC’s employment website, Career Connection. This system not only includes the online student portfolio, but also a resume builder, work-based learning opportunity tracking system and a job posting section where employers, wanting to hire MNTC students, can post positions they have open. The system is a one-stop shop for students, allowing them to prepare for every part of the employment process. MNTC’s Employment Services Department works with instructors and students to build students’ resumes and portfolios on the website. After they complete this process, students can apply for jobs posted on the Career Connection site and attach their resume and portfolio for employers to view. This website connects students, instructors and employers allowing for increased students success and placement.
TFS: How does the Online Student Portfolio improve the student experience and outcome?
Moore Norman: The Online Student Portfolio improves student experience and outcomes in several ways. The system increases placement, allows students to organize their employability documents, tracks student progress while making them aware of the types of achievements employers are looking for, and increases students’ confidence and preparation for the employment process.
TFS: How did the idea for the Online Student Portfolio come about?
Moore Norman: The idea for the Online Student Portfolio came about through our strategic planning process. The Core Planning Team consisting of business partners, school partners and representatives from our school came together to determine areas of need for MNTC to prepare for the future. A need identified was that MNTC needed to ensure our students were utilizing work-based learning and tracking the work-based learning opportunities they had participated in to show potential employers during the interview process and to give students real-world application to their MNTC curriculum.
TFS: What did you do to ensure a successful launch of the Online Student Portfolio?
Moore Norman: We have had continued support from administration, marketing and instructors to ensure a successful launch of the Career Connection website. Professional development was provided at the beginning of the 2015–2016 school year, to allow staff to become familiar with the benefits the website provides to their students. The training on how to use the Career Connection website included online training, complete with software demonstrations and video tutorials of each part of the website. Every instructor, counselor, assistant and instructional leader was required to complete it. This online training was also made available to students. It is open continuously to allow students and instructors who may need a refresher throughout the year on certain parts of the website to re-visit for training. MNTC’s Employment Services Department also meets with every long-term class to provide a presentation on the importance of portfolios and how to build one using the website. The Employment Services Department provides new student training to short-term classes, as well.
TFS: Would you recommend this initiative to other organizations looking to improve student records and accessibility? Why?
Moore Norman: We would recommend this initiative to other organizations due to the success we have seen. We currently have 1,960 students building their online portfolio and 85 active businesses seeking our students for employment. The online portfolio allows each student to organize their employability documents and provides them a way to track their portfolio progress. We have also noticed it builds confidence in students when they can see how much success they are achieving and encourages them to set goals for things they know are important to employers. The online option allows for easy accessibility. The students and instructors have access 24 hours a day from any computer connected to the Internet. Students can also apply for job openings and allow employers to view their resume and portfolio for increased job placement.
TFS: Any other thoughts or best practices you’d like to share?
Moore Norman: We would like to see the job posting section of the website being used statewide by Oklahoma Career Tech. This would allow the job opening posted by an employer to be viewed by all students across Technology Centers in Oklahoma, uniting Oklahoma CareerTech. Currently, employers have to post separately for each Technology Center. Employers have expressed how being able to post on one site for all Technology Centers would greatly benefit them.
We greatly appreciate the strategies and tips that Susan and the Moore Norman team have shared in their journey through the TFS strategic planning process. This is strategic planning at its best — when all the meetings and preparation start bearing fruit and improving the student experience and outcome. I hope you’ve found these insights helpful. And if you have additional best practices that were born of your own strategic planning efforts, we’d love to hear from you.