Posted Friday, April 20th, 2018 • 3 Month Contract

Building a dynamic skills portfolio for students

Helping students build a portfolio as they complete their degrees

This was a part-time contract for Newcastle University to create a kind of living portfolio for students that could represent their progression towards attaining competencies over time, while also showcasing their projects to potential employers.

I opted to create a Jekyll static-site theme in Ruby, Liquid & Bootstrap to interpret data from students’ projects and chart it against their learning objectives, which would visualise their skill progression over time while giving them something easily hosted by something like Github pages and ergo accessible to course leaders.

I spent some time wireframing and understanding the criteria course leaders set forth in order to produce something that would become essential for students and teachers alike. We created a vocabulary – “competencies” were the skills being assessed during projects, “projects” were pre-prepared by course leaders but could be added to by students, and “vignettes” were incremental explorations of their work attached to each project.

The intention was to make it as minimal-effort to use as possible, and allow teachers to automate collecting data from their students; I made it so all they had to do was fork the example site, and replace the information in Markdown with their own. I also added a rudimentary API endpoint, extensive documentation and cross-linking, and the ability to embed Jupyter documents – necessary for their domain.

When a student submitted a project, everybody could see which competencies they had demonstrated against which they were supposed to. The client was happy with the end-result – simple and effective.

I gained experience:

  • Using static-site generators and writing custom themes
  • Working to a deadline with a client
  • Managing libraries and packages in Ruby ("gems")
  • Delivering open-source work with the intention of having it be modified by others