Professional Websites as an Assignment

As the new semester starts, I am once again teaching P619G – Graduate Student TA Training and Professional Development Seminar. This course for the professionalization of first-year UMass-Amherst physics graduate students; we strive to give our new graduate students tools such as time management and presentation skills that they can use throughout their careers. To help with more immediate concerns, these skills are taught through the lens of TA training. Presentation skills can easily be taught through the practice of giving mini-lectures in lab sessions, for example. How could these skills be documented by graduate students in a useful way? Could we do something similar for our undergraduate students, who also have a freshman seminar?

In regards to the undergraduate experience, one idea could be to assign all students to begin a professional website in the freshman colloquium. The website could be easily setup using umasscreate (the same service as this blog!). I have no doubt students could quickly master WordPress’s WYSIWYG editor. Once established, students could add to it throughout their careers. Students who take P390T – Introduction to Principles of Active Learning in Physics Education could add their teaching philosophies. After taking the computation course, students could link their GitHub pages.

This idea is also a strong one for P691G. My only concern is workload. I do not want P691G to be too heavy of a workload. First year graduate students have enough to think about! Something to continue thinking about.