College offers DartWrite portfolios for all freshmen

by Elizabeth Janowski | 9/25/18 2:25am

All incoming freshmen this year now have an opportunity to track their writing and composition progress throughout their four years at Dartmouth. DartWrite, a digital writing portfolio program for undergraduate students, was automatically offered to every member of the Class of 2022 upon the start of the academic year.

According to Institute for Writing and Rhetoric director Christiane Donahue, DartWrite is an “online space for collecting, reflecting on, organizing, showcasing or tracking your work over time.”

Students with access to DartWrite can use the service to upload work such as essays, presentations and audio and video productions to a personalized webpage, Donahue said. She added that the webpage can then act as a point of reflection for students’ growth throughout their Dartmouth career, as well as a platform to share their work with potential employers.

The Institute for Writing and Rhetoric first collaborated with the College’s Learning Design and Technology specialists to launch DartWrite last year. There was an open call for freshmen to participate and invitations to participate were extended to a small group of seniors. Around 500 first-year students and 20 seniors opted to participate.

While many of the College’s peer institutions have adopted digital portfolio programs for their students, Donahue said that DartWrite’s use of WordPress as a host platform sets it apart from other programs. She highlighted its intuitive interface, design flexibility and advanced privacy settings.

Donahue said that the decision to give each freshman a DartWrite account this year was a purposeful one.

“It made it possible for us to ask students to think about connecting their high school writing to their college writing,” Donahue said. “It made it easier for faculty to integrate digital portfolios into first-year writing classes because students already have one as they start out.”

Catherine Parnell ’22 said that over the summer, she received an email encouraging her to upload her best piece of high school writing to her DartWrite account and reflect on why she chose that piece. Each student in her Writing 5 class who posted a writing sample before the summer deadline received a gift card to Morano Gelato, she said.

Donahue emphasized that over the course of a Dartmouth student’s career, the use of DartWrite will be “invited and encouraged,” rather than enforced.

Over the past year, DartWrite underwent a pilot run in which Writing 2-3 and Writing 5 professors engaged in workshops to acquaint themselves with the program and explored ways to integrate it into their curricula. Professors had the discretion to determine how DartWrite would work its way into their classroom, Donahue added.

Writing 5 professor Sarah Smith decided to make DartWrite a graded part of her curriculum this fall. Throughout the term, she will have her students post reflections on their writing to DartWrite, as well as curate their “best and most challenging work” from the class. She said she hopes that her students will be motivated to use DartWrite beyond her first-year writing course.

“One of the most exciting things about the DartWrite portfolios is that they can evolve with students as students’ needs change,” Smith said. “What might be an inward-focused reflective space in the first year can become a professional portfolio that a student can send out with their applications for interviews and job opportunities later in their college career.”

Sanjana Dugar ’22 noted that it would be interesting to track her progress as a writer throughout her time in college, but she expressed some reservations about staying motivated to update her portfolio beyond her freshman year.

“I think I’ll probably upload one or two major papers a year,” Dugar said. “I don’t know how much I’ll do beyond that because A, I’ll probably have the files on my computer anyways, and B, I’m not sure how much time I’ll have to upload and compile them later on.”

Donahue said that after a student’s first year, she hopes to provide further support by offering workshops and social gatherings where they can discuss the best uses of their portfolios and receive advice on how to curate them. The Student Center for Research, Writing and Information Technology now has tutors trained in portfolio design and curation, and it is currently looking to hire three upperclassman portfolio fellows to be involved in greater portfolio support initiatives.

Upperclassmen looking to create a DartWrite account are welcome to attend the workshops as well, Donahue said, adding that upperclassmen may reach out to Smith if they would like to set up a portfolio.