This is the first part in a series that will cover the changes we’ve made to the UIT Website this year.

One of the biggest struggles students can experience following their graduation is to build up an online presence. They need to be able to sell themselves either as founders, developers or in whatever capacity they enter the workforce but they may not have a huge online footprint yet. This footprint is critical. Let’s not kid ourselves: everyone gets Googled when they apply for a job. Employers look at your Facebook profile or anything else they can find.

At UIT we’d be negligent in our commitment to help our students succeed if we didn’t help prepare them for this fact. We already coach them on this. We explain why it’s important to have a github profile with a variety of public repos and blog posts, and even an active StackOverflow presence. But this year we’re taking that a step further and helping facilitate creating and displaying that content.

We have a student directory page that lists all current students and every student has a profile page. We’ve also optimized the SEO on these pages so that if you Google a UIT student you’re very likely to see this page as one of their first result. This page has a number of tabs that display relevant content about the student.

The About Tab

It only makes sense that every student would have an about section. They can populate any of a number of different fields and very few are required, they use this as much as they chose to. This tab will quickly allow you to get in touch with a UIT student via any number of methods, as well as quickly learn a little bit about them.

The Posts Tab

Students used to write blog posts on their own sites or other places, and it was handled somewhat erratically. This year there’s more of a focus on getting them to create that content and we’re also allowing them to publish it directly on our site. Blog posts are also a significant part of their grades for some classes. As a result of that every student has a tab on their profile that lists the blogs they’ve posted.

This is obviously extremely beneficial to the student: the content they write will be available to employers, investors and employees. It’s also beneficial to us. We proudly display this content because it shows how much our students are learning and gives us a significant quantity of content to share on social media.

The Knowledge Base

Stack Overflow is an excellent resource for programmers and we wanted to have something similar for UIT students. Building a similar knowledge base of questions and answers allows us to direct future students to questions posed by previous ones, relevant to either our curriculum, being a student at UIT, or anything else. This greatly increases efficiency with regards to answering questions. Given that students can answer questions asked by other students, it also helps foster a sense of internal community, and once we roll this feature out to  UIT alumni, we can also help foster relationships between current students and alumni.

This resource serves a number of critical purposes. It provides a great way to have publicly displayed information regarding the UIT experience, and gives us a metric we can use to help grade students on participation. A breakdown of their involvement with the knowledge base is available on their profiles.

This feature is new and still in development. We’ll be rolling it out in greater detail in the second semester and involvement will be a part of their grades for at least 1 class.

Grades, Attendance and Notes

This one is pretty self explanatory. When a student is logged in and viewing their profile they can see any grades they have for projects, classes or assignments. They can also see any notes we’ve made regarding their attendance or absences and they can see any other notes we’ve put on their profiles (eg: 1 on 1 discussions regarding projects)

Student Grade Example

Student Self Assessments

These aren’t the same as grades. On a regular basis we will provide the students with a self assessment survey involving a number of skills and qualities that we feel are important for them to be developing. They will assess themselves on these metrics on a scale of 1 to 5 (Below screenshot in blue). UIT staff will also assess them on these metrics (below screenshot in green) and they’ll be able to view the combined result on their profiles.

This element is also currently in development and we expect the format to change over time as we optimize it.

Student Assessment Example

Stay tuned! We’ll be covering more of the new functionality on our website in further blog posts

1 thought on “The UIT Website: Student profiles and their online presence”

Eric Lortie Eric Lortie says:

I’ve really enjoyed building this out since I started at UIT. It’s meant taking less of a role in teaching than I originally planned but Rob is already so knowledgeable and experienced at delivering the UIT programming curriculum that I’ve been able to comfortably focus on these other elements.

For anyone interested: we’re currently using WordPress. WordPress already offers so many plugins and options, a custom theme for our site with an appropriate selection of plugins has allowed us to demo new and interesting concepts with minimal overhead. My background, before I started working heavily in startups focused on web apps, was as a freelance WordPress developer. It’s been exciting getting back into things to see what’s change in the past few years.

It’s also quite possible that in the near future, once we’ve got all of our features locked in and optimized, we’ll be developing our own platform to handle this side of the UIT experience.

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