This research project tested the hypothesis that the incorporation of student blogs and ePortfolios into formal courses offered at the two Georgetown University Living and Learning Communities abroad—Villa Le Balze in Italy and the McGhee Center in Turkey—would improve student learning through reflection, integration, and visibility. Led by Betsi Stephen as the Principal Investigator, faculty took a three-pronged approach to the project: 1) to capture the study abroad experience contemporaneously for students; 2) to assist the students in the preparation of an ePortfolio that integrates the student's entire four years at Georgetown, with a special focus on the high impact experience of study abroad and an integration of the student's experience over his/her four years at Georgetown; 3) to make public the City of Florence independent research projects in an online museum, and to build a project that will grow with each successive cohort.
The Fall 2013 group shows areas of growth in significantly more categories than the control group, including knowledge, which indicates that the more facilitated blog approach produces more depth and reflection in the students.
Ultimately, this will be a two-year project that will document the transformational aspect of the study abroad experience for the students and provide a means for students to bridge living and learning abroad with their studies on the Hilltop. Faculty from at least five departments/schools are involved in the project, as well as a local faculty member at Villa Le Balze. In addition, the project is utilizing the experience and vision of staff members in the Office of Global Education.
Findings from fall 2013 section of the project indicate that developing blogs gave students the opportunity to reflect on their experiences and write about the knowledge gained from study abroad experiences. Faculty members who participated in this project plan to incorporate elements like the blog or ePortfolio in their other courses. The Mind the Gap project held two symposia last year year, where students spoke about their experiences with the blogs, ePortfolios, and museum. All were very positive about their writing, and students especially liked having the time and space to reflect on their experience.
Wardzala, Karen and Betsi Stephen, "DIVE: A fourstep framework for creating meaningful shortterm experiences abroad." Presented at the Workshop on Intercultural Skills Enhancement, WinstonSalem, NC, February 6, 2014.