The Times West Virginian

September 8, 2013

Seelio helping WVU students link college experiences with real world

By Jessica Borders
Times West Virginian

FAIRMONT — Seelio, an online portfolio network, is helping West Virginia University students demonstrate how their college learning experiences translate to the real world.

While anyone can use this digital portfolio service, which is free, the target audience is college students. Seelio, found at seelio.com, helps students easily document their work and progress.

By the time they graduate from college, they will have a rich and full body of work and can identify how their classroom learning applies to a real job, said Emily Keller-Logan, director of university engagement for Seelio.

While students may have difficulty fitting all of their experiential learning outside of the classroom into a resume, a professional portfolio can show how those experiences impacted them and where they want to go with their career.

“Students are at the heartbeat of what we do,” she said.

Seelio, which is based in Ann Arbor, Mich., was cofounded in 2011 by University of Michigan graduates Moses Lee, David Jsa and Jerry Wang. They wanted to figure out how students can better show what they do, and focused their efforts on building a service that students love using, Keller-Logan said.

“Our whole general perspective is just offering a portfolio experience that students and faculty enjoy,” she said.

Seelio began exclusively for University of Michigan students, and a few months later opened up around the county. Individual students from across the nation and world have created portfolios with Seelio.

“We see our portfolio as really being a compliment to a resume,” Keller-Logan said. “(Companies) want a deeper picture of a candidate.”

Students can start with their resume, and then either scroll through their projects on a tablet during an interview or include the portfolio as a link on their resume, she said. They could also take a printable PDF of their portfolio to a job fair.

Seelio is working to develop a mobile app, which should be completed at the end of this year or early next year. It’s all about making sure students have a professional online presence, Keller-Logan said.

She said Seelio has launched agreements with a number of universities, including West Virginia University, to provide a custom network of portfolios. The company has created a private space on its network for faculty and students of WVU to connect, collaborate and show feedback.

WVU is able to collect all of its students’ works in showcase galleries, which is a great way to call attention to what students at the university are doing and their talents. Seelio also

provides consulting and training and serves as a resource as portfolios are developed, Keller-Logan said.

The relationship with WVU began around the end of last year when Seelio heard from a student in the Department of Communication Studies who was using Seelio, she said.

The company found out that Dr. Andrea Weber, associate professor of communication studies, was working closely with her students using Seelio. Conversations between Seelio, Weber and other leaders at WVU led to a contractual partnership a couple months ago.

“It is great to see West Virginia University take a lead in helping students connect their education with real world experiences that they can vividly show,” said Lee, who is the CEO of Seelio and also teaches at University of Michigan. “We can’t wait to see how our collective efforts will help reshape and advance higher education.” 

Weber explained that she read an article about Seelio last fall and really liked the site. All senior communication studies students are required to create a written or online portfolio as part of their capstone experience, and this time they had the option of using Seelio.

Through Seelio, students can easily create a portfolio featuring their personal information, work and career interests, and they can also upload documents and pictures, she said.

The goal at the end of the semester is for the students to show online what they have accomplished — such as designing a social media campaign, creating a report or being involved in a project — in order to market themselves to a potential employer. This is true, tangible evidence of experiences and internships as well as abilities and skill sets that a student can bring to a company, Weber said.

She said interactive portfolios make students stand out and help potential employers remember them in a positive way. Students are also strongly encouraged to start a LinkedIn professional social network account, and they can link Seelio to that account.

“We were thinking as a department, what can we do to maybe even expand on the possibilities?” Weber said.

The department thought about using Seelio as a learning tool where students who start in the communication studies program can create an account related to each of the departmental learning outcomes, she said.

Now, not only are graduating seniors using Seelio for their job portfolios, but all incoming majors will be required to use the site to upload their work and collaborate with other students. Sophomores and juniors are also starting portfolios that they will use when they graduate, Weber said.

Seelio has worked with the WVU Department of Communication Studies in many different ways and has adapted the product to meet their unique needs, she said.

For instance, the Department of Communication Studies has an alumni mentoring program, featuring more than 95 people who have agreed to work with students, but previously didn’t have a good way of showing students the mentor profiles. Students can now go to the department’s alumni Seelio site to view information about the mentors, Weber said.

“We are really excited about it,” she said of the partnership with WVU. “It’s kind of evolved. It’s gotten to be a really benefical relationship for everybody.”

Dr. Christine Rittenour, assistant professor of communication studies at WVU, has integrated Seelio into her Communication Cornerstones class this semester. This course introduces students to the communication studies major and the different areas of emphasis.

The students are also introduced to Seelio in this class and how to use it throughout their undergraduate career, she said. In the courses that follow, they will get more involved in working with Seelio with each of the projects they do in the areas of emphasis.

“We want Seelio to be the platform where they can really showcase all of the great things that they’re doing as communication studies majors,” Rittenour said. “We’re making it a part of our culture. It’s a nice way to always be noting this high-level goal that they should have for themselves.”

She said she’d love to see students become more active in building their own portfolio and directing themselves to their goals. Seelio charts their progress and provides continuity.

“They’re seeing their school work as part of this larger picture of who they are and who they want to be,” Rittenour said.

Not only will students fine tune the work they’re doing in their classes to show what they can bring to the communication studies field, but they will also incorporate other parts of their life that support their learning, such as volunteering, she said.

The WVU Department of Communication Studies has seen students graduate and achieve great success with the help of Seelio. The employers who have hired those graduates comment they they appreciate being able to get so much information about the student all at once, Rittenour said.

She said students should still have their resume, but now they have an entire site that their potential employers can quickly review to get a sense of what they can do. Plus, a Seelio portfolio is appealing visually.

“I’m really proud of our students,” Rittenour said. “I really believe in what they can accomplish and I’m really proud of how our department helps them accomplish things. I think that Seelio is a great way for us to do some of that work and show that work.”

Email Jessica Borders at jborders@timeswv.com or follow her on Twitter @JBordersTWV.