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Electronic Portfolio and Action Research

Table of Contents

  • Introduction                                                                                                                4
  • Background of the Study                                                                                           4
  • Methodology                                                                                                              6
  • Brief History of Action Research                                                                               7
  • Uses of Action Research                                                                                            8
  • Works Cited                                                                                                                9

Electronic Portfolio and Action Research – Introduction

Background of the Study 

Electronic portfolios are reflective tools that show a student’s growth with respect to the use of technology. It also allows the accessibility to different artifacts. (Barrett, 2000) Basically, an electronic portfolio is essential for the electronic collection of evidence that demonstrates a learning process with respect to time. In this context, the ePortfolio is associated with a student’s specific academic field or career. The evidence in this case includes writings, videos, photos, research projects, reflective thinking, and/or observations by peers or mentors. One beautiful motivation about electronic portfolio is the fact that it helps portray the real value in the learning and reflection documented in it, not just the collection of work. Electronic portfolio is also a good idea because it will help enhance self-esteem and self-confidence to take control of the learning experienced. Additionally, the process will help develop goals for a specific learning and thus, help one to be begin to practice what can be used as a career or profession later in life. It is a very essential process that must be taken with a serious approach because; it will enhance one’s skills, improve learning abilities and preferences, as well as help one make valuable decisions that can be evaluated.

The electronic portfolio will help me achieve work on my web development strategy. I have always taken interest in developing websites that will rank the best on the Internet, and my major focus is helping my clients rank their website as the top in major search engines. Therefore, the electronic portfolio will help me focus on how to implement Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for responsive websites. So that they would begin having more traffic to their website, and thus achieve increased revenues and conversion. The electronic portfolio will be a means for me to explore various literatures that had worked on several SEO methods and processes to help websites rank high on search engine listings. I intend to achieve this by putting these processes and strategies into consideration and further practicing it on websites that do not rank well in search engines; I hope to achieve positive results at the end of this process and this will make every website I develop meet up with standards and also challenge the competition.

Therefore, this major focus of the portfolio is to be used to entice new and existing clients. Many website  owners feel very bad, and felt they wasted their money developing a website that is not visible and responsive, thereby ignoring that website and planning to develop another. Although there are thousands of websites on the Internet and all desire to rank high on Google or other search engines, but as much as it is not possible for all to be on the top listings, using major techniques and paid search will help. (“Hubspot”)

Methodology

Action research is an important aspect which helps reviews the current practices, then identifies the aspect that needs improvement, develop an imagination for a way forward, trying out the generated ideas, taking stock of the present occurrences, modifying all plans in light of what had been found, while continue the action, monitoring the action, evaluating the modified action until satisfaction is met with the focused aspect of work. (McNiff, 2002) This is an explicit developmental process of action research. It is important to opine that action research is a process that a researcher has to go through in order to achieve understanding of the research cycle and this process is divided into several phases including planning, acting, observing, and reflecting. (Zuber-Skerrit, 1991: p2) Action research helps both the teachers and students. According to Eileen Ferrance, action research is a process where participants examine carefully their educational practice systematically, and utilizing the strategies employed in a research. Eileen points that action research is NOT just a research, nor a library project in which a topic we learn interests us, and it’s not used for problem-solving with respect to finding out what is wrong, but it is majorly researching meticulously for knowledge on how to improve existing features. (Ferrance, 2000)

Basically, action research can be called collaborative inquiry, participatory research, emancipatory research, context action research, and action learning. According to Rory O’ Bren, Action Research is simply “learning by doing” in which a problem is identified by a group of people and they have to find a way to resolve it, weigh their success with respect to their efforts, and if there is no satisfaction, there has to be a continual trial. (Bren, 1998) Action research can be explicitly:

  • Cyclic: that is, the recurrence of similar steps in a similar sequence
  • Participative: It involves partners where the clients and informants are involved, or possibly the active participant in the process of the research.
  • Qualitative: The use of language rather than numbers
  • Reflective: This is a critical reflection upon the process and outcome.

Action research can be applied in different disciplines. This is because it is a methodology that intends to carry both research outcomes and action outcomes. It can be observed that many researches require the understanding of every part of the research component. This implies that the action is primary. However, there are other forms of action research in which research is majorly emphasized and the action can be regarded as almost a fringe benefit.

Brief History of Action Research

Kurt Lewin, a social psychologist and educator, started the idea in which the use of research carried out in natural settings change the way in which the researcher act towards that setting. Action Research had been credited to Lewin to describe the work that was not in separation with the investigation from the action required for a problem-solving. The topics he chose for his study were directly related to the issues around him. He used the cyclical process which involves a “non-linear patter of planning, observing, acting, and reflecting on the changes in social situations” (Noffke & Stevenson, 1995, p. 2)

One of the first persons to attempt the use of action research was Stephen Corey at Teachers College, Columbia University. He used it in the education field. He accepts that scientific methods relative to education would be transformed because educators would be involved in both the application of information as well as research. Corey also believed that the values present in action research right in the transformation that occurs in everyday practice, not just the generalization of the context. There was a need to researchers and teachers to work together, this he took very importantly. However, action research was attacked in the mid-1950s and was regarded as unscientific, the work of amateurs, and little more than common sense. (McFarland & Stansell, 1993. P. 15) By the 1970, the emergence of action research came again. Education practitioners queried the applicability of scientific research designs as well as methodologies as a way of solving education issues. However, the practice continued and began holding great value. Over time, the definition carried many meanings, and now it has become a professional development tool directed to teachers. It is increasingly becoming a major tool for school reform, and becoming a major engagement in educational change. (Noffke & Stevenson, 1995)

Uses of Action Research

According to Bren, (1998) action research is applicable mainly for real life situations. Not just in experimental, contrived studies. Its primary focus is to solve real life problems. However, it can be used by social scientists to carry out preliminary or pilot research most especially for ambiguous research questions.

Therefore, action research is an appropriate methodology to track my internship development for innovative, and the enhancement of problem-solving techniques. It will also help to help me work with a team and use creative ideas to build on existing issues that requires developmental approaches.

Electronic Portfolio and Action Research – Literature Review

Action research (AR) had been carried out by various scholars, giving different definitions, and in-depth examination of other AR literature. The differences in these definitions and methodologies other scholars used were subtle, it focused on those who identified the setting of the research, the client, or the researcher. (Schein, 2001) After several studies of AR, some of the literatures reflecting the practice of AR were contradictory, and practicing it becomes confusing. This literature review summarizes some of these definitions, the contradictions, variety of theories, and interpretations of AR.

Action Research: Definitions

Generally, these definitions reflected the in-depth thought of AR, associated paradigms, and forms of Praxis.

First, action research is just a sort of self-reflective inquiry undergone by those participating in social situations for the improvement of the rationality and justice of the practices they undertake, the way they understand these practices, as well as the situations in which they carried out the practices. (Carr & Kemmis, 1986, p. 162)

Furthermore, action research can be simply described as a member of research methodologies, which follow action, or change, or even research and understanding all at the same time. In most cases, this is done by the use of a spiral or cyclic process which serves an an alternation between critical reflection and action and in the subsequent cycles, uninterrupted refining data, methods, and interpretation in relation to the understanding generated in the earlier cycles. (Dick, 1999, p. 1)

Also, action research is regarded as a social research undertaken by a team incorporating a professional action researcher and members of a firm or community looking to better their situation. Action research boosts action leading to a more satisfying circumstance for the stakeholders involved. (Greenwood & Levin, 1998, p. 4)

Another definition of action research is that it is any systematic inquiry carried out by educators, teachers, school counselors, principals, researchers, or any stakeholders in the academic/learning environment, with the purpose of gathering information describing the ways in which their particular schools operate, the way they teach, and how best their students learn. (Mills, 2000, p. 6)

The inventor of Action Research, Kurt Lewin, a social psychologist describes the term AR as a proceed in a spiral of steps where each spiral is composed of putting plans together, acting on the plans, observing the process, and evaluating the result(s) of the action. Moreover, the process starts with a general concept that some sort of improvement or change is desirable in practice. (McTaggart, 1997, p. 27)

Additionally, another review of what action research focuses on how it aims to contribute both to the practical interests of people in a present problematic circumstance and to further social science goals simultaneously. Therefore, there’s a double commitment in action research to understand a system and simultaneously to collaborate with every member of the system in accomplishing change in what is together referred to as desirable direction. In order to accomplish this twin goal, it is required that the collaboration of clients and researchers is active, and thus the importance of co-learning as a basic aspect of the research process is typically stressed. (O’Brien, 2001, p. 2)

Lastly, action research is a democratic and participatory process associated with the development of practical knowledge for the purpose of the pursuit of worthwhile human intention, grounded within a participatory world view which is believed to emerge at this historical moment. It longs to put together action and reflection, practice and theory, in participation with one another, in the pursuit of practical approaches to solutions to problems of pressing concern to people, and the flourishing of different persons and their societies (Reasons & Bradbury, 2011, p. 1)

These definitions vary significantly with respect to the fact that some reflected approaches and theoretical foundations, including related paradigms and epistemologies, some methodologies and Praxis, whereas others reflected outputs. According to Dr. George Slentz (2003), the diversity in the definitions of AR from different researchers is attributed to the broad variety of the approaches found in the AR process. And unless there’s an established universal description of action research, there will be continuity in the diversity of its processes, methodologies, and Praxis

The summary and interpretation of AR by Stringer is appropriate with the process technique that was developed and then practiced during the years spent in the IT management. Instead of adopting practices that are not familiar, the definition of AR used for this study is that AR is a systematic research process that results in some practical events as perceived by the members involved in the process. (Stringer, 1999) The process of AR engages individuals who traditionally have been referred to as active participants; and this process is rigorously empirical and could be considered interpretive in some cases. (McTaggart, 1997)

Conclusively, two researchers Greenwood and Levin (1998) had shown that action research was not an applied research. According to them, action research explicitly refuses the disparity between human thought and action that clearly underlies the pure-applied abstraction that has portrayed social research for some generations. Their belief is that sound social knowledge was developed from practical reasoning that was put in through action.

Proposal

This proposal aims to focus on the ‘needs assessment’ of an organization and how it would be achieved. The following iterations will help ascertain the elements of the proposal.

Iteration 1

In order to achieve this research, there are certain things required as tools and human resources to give an insight and roadmap for this purpose. The discussion on the needs assessment of any organization is based on the level of training obtained by everyone in various fields of specialization that can contribute to the success of the needs analysis. There’s need to source for vital information for the contributors of this action, and thus inculcate a formal communication structure to achieve the action plan. Additionally, the difference between           the needs and wants of any organization must be clearly stated in this iteration, as well as the problems to be solved. This process follows identifying the needs assessment by formulating some questions that will aid communication flows amongst members, and then reviewing the existing data sources before collecting new data from contributors, then the findings can then be reported and used.

Iteration 2

After all the data and findings had been obtained, then iteration 2 will be put together. Following up the session will impose the necessity to ask questions like what the typical analysis is how the analysts organize the results, how the “big picture” will be created from the results obtained,  how the analysts may collaborate with the results obtained, how the results should be explained to others, how the analysts handle every information provenance issues, and what the analysts envision from the tools intended to be used. This session will emphasize more on what would be obtained from the analysis, and based on some of these questions, the outcome of the brainstorming session will depict clearly what was obtained.

Iteration 3

Meetings are being held and coordinated at this stage and the action research project follows this iteration on how the meeting should be coordinated. After meeting the division one on one,  it becomes necessary to define all the acquired data in the meeting with the house on the requirements to be followed to achieve all the ideas put together based on the topic intended to achieve. The common requirements range from the factors that affects the lack of the organization basic needs, and other resources that stand to ensure the smooth running of the organization. All these are what should be included in the research. These requirements that need to be integrated must be managed appropriately. This iteration will also focus on coordinating all the data obtained from the questions and ensure the requirements to obtain this is perfectly secure. The division representatives should be able to spell out how we intend to solve all lingering demands of the organization and provide it within specified organization budget.

Iteration 4

The feedback obtained from each division will be carefully analyzed by ensuring they are valid and suit the requirements. This analysis will involve specific strategies that will be followed to enable the process easier and faster. The final documents  should contain the observations from the feedback obtained and their originality. In order to collect the ‘needs’ from each of the divisions, it is important to note that before a decision can be made on the assessment priority has to be set, solutions can be identified, as well as the strategies to obtain the solutions, and then the prepared document can be put in place.

Iteration 1 – Brainstorming

Plan

Every entrepreneur desires to earn the best conversions and revenue, either per time, per day, per month, or annually. This can only be achieved faster and easier when they are visible on the Internet and can be easily accessed. The more visitors that come to their website, the more popularity their websites become on the Internet, thus, they’ll begin to gain traffic in their businesses. The major focus of this action research is to plan on completing a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) research to help small and medium size enterprises (SMEs) understand what it is to achieve a visible website and a website that tops most renowned search engines like Google.

In order to achieve this, a prior knowledge of web development and design is important, some levels of the knowledge of marketing and business promotions are required, and some ideas about what any interested entrepreneur desires from their website is needed. Therefore, those to be invited include, website developers and designers, business marketers and promotions personnel, as well as SMEs entrepreneurs.

Basically, what to be achieved is a website that tops any search engine and it becomes necessary to understand what it is to develop or design such website that will not only be visible on search engines, but can be attractive to make clients or visitors access the pages and contact the entrepreneurs. Therefore, the major topics to focus revolves around “the most attractive website that is SEO optimized for visibility, to gain high traffic, conversions and revenues for the entrepreneurs.

The location of these meetings is so important and has to be very official since it’s a grand research that would affect every business, and it has to be as realistic as possible. A conference room in Marriott Wardman Park Hotel, Washington, DC will be appropriate. Research requires ample time to tie things up and put all content plans in order, the meeting should begin between 9 AM and 4 PM on Saturday February 27, 2016. The meeting is important for all invitees in order to build their businesses in one way or the other.

To achieve this result, some stakeholders with high experience in the aforementioned disciplines will give a briefing on the topic, and then in proper order, ideas will be shared. All these would be recorded manually and electronically to aid the research processes.

Action

The action took place at the specified venue around quarter past 9 am. With about 31 attendees; 5 website developers, 3 website designers, 6 business marketers and promotion personnels, and 17 entrepreneurs. The meeting started with a welcome address from the host (me), and proceeded to the review of the major reason why everyone was invited. An overview of Action Research was discussed in relation to the introduction and literature review of this paper, and what is intended to be achieved.

The meeting proceeded with the first developer to give a summary of the basics of developing a website and all the methods involved. He points that every website developed must meet the criteria given by any search engine before their ranking can be improved.. The developer also stresses the importance of content management systems (CMS) to enable website owners make changes to their website without prior technical knowledge. He also explains more on the benefit of developing a SEO optimized website in the process of developing an attractive and responsive website.

Another web designer spoke about the importance of attractive website which that is SEO optimized. He started by explaining the need to understand what the entrepreneurs expect from the website and what they intend to achieve from it. Additionally, he stresses that the success of search engine optimization is based on some characteristics. These include links and indexing. Also, the marketers stressed more on the need to improve website contents using keywords relative a business website, as well as the need for website developers and designers to provide links into social media and other websites too. The entrepreneurs gave their opinions about their experience on the Internet with respect to their website and the activities they perform. The overall meeting went as planned, and the additional items discussed included the need for the websites to be compatible with mobile phones (responsiveness)

Observation

After all the discussions on achieving a SEO responsive website, we decided to perform some analysis on one of the entrepreneurs’ website and we achieved our objectives. The website had been designed and hosted, but after we conducted a search using Google search engine, we observed it was not on the first page on Google. So we started by creating unique and accurate page title. We know that the title page has a lot to do with any website because they have to be displayed in the search results, therefore we chose to use the name of the entrepreneur’s business as the title of the website’s home page. In addition to this, we added other bits of information such as the physical location of the organization and its main focuses. We later ensured each page of the website has a unique title tag, and brief descriptive titles for search engines to show this title fully. We avoided using stuffing unnecessary keywords in the title tags. For the page contents, we made use of description meta tag, and accurately summarized each page’s content using unique descriptions. We ensured the URL of the website is improved and simple-to-understand. We observed that keywords are one of the most important aspect of a website, so we ensured to follow the criteria required for search engine optimization.

Additionally, we needed to improve the navigation on the pages, when we did this, we achieved more convenience for users to scroll through from the root to through the about page, down to the last subcategory pages, and we also took “breadcrumb lists” into consideration which achieved a row of internal links at the top of the page that allows visitors to quickly navigate through it to the root page or a previous section. We also created a naturally flowing hierarchy which made it easier for users to the general content to other specific content on the website. We know it’s important to use text for navigation, so we achieved this for the search engines to easily crawl and understand the website. In addition to this, we put an HTML site map on the pages of the websites which made the search engines discovered the pages on the website.

We got to a level where we ensured the services and product sold by the entrepreneur on his website were made with quality and top notched. The texts were easy-to-read and we avoided spelling and grammatical mistakes. We also ensured we wrote better anchor text which made it easier to convey the contents we linked. The usage of the website’s images were optimized and we gave the “alt” attribute to them, thereby providing the information about any picture on the website. We used heading tags everywhere appropriate  and effective use of robots.txt so that search engines can crawl through the website. Finally, we configured the website for mobile view by notifying Google, and thus we achieved a SEO optimized and responsive website.

Reflection

One important aspect of the brainstorming session was how everyone participated actively and gave their own opinions and knowledge of achieving our major objectives. Every step of the process was achieved and it took some hours to put all the ideas together. But since we had the presence of professional web developers and designers, we had most of the steps straight to the point. However, the Google search helped in making sure we do not miss any steps and also strictly adhere to the criteria specified by Google to top the search page.

Basically, the research for more strategies to optimize a website was intensively carried out. However, we had arguments with which steps to take first. This is because some of the participants proved that the steps do not have to be necessary followed chronologically as we stated them. But it was necessary we did. Although, some steps were boycotted, while some were missed while we were putting the plans on paper. We had to add some things as we continued the optimization process, but we ensured all were successful.

The overall brainstorming left us with the choice of either accepting some of the missed requirements of Google guidelines or other search engines such as Yahoo, Bing/Live webmaster guidelines. However, when we had such misunderstandings, we just had to incorporate the guidelines to suit Google the most since statistics had proven that users tend to use it the most, as it is the most popular search engine in the world.

We encountered some errors while carrying out this process, this was observed by one of the marketing personnels that participated in the brainstorming session. She noticed that the products sold by the entrepreneur were not properly described and were exactly the way the manufacturers of the products described them. Hence, we were plagiarizing the manufacturer’s description. As a result, we immediately rephrased some of the texts to be unique contents on the entrepreneurs website.

Furthermore, we omitted a part for product reviews. We didn’t include this in our plans at the first instance, but one of the entrepreneurs drew our attention to this. Product reviews help customers to share their experience with an entrepreneur and most of the time, they write some keywords that Google feature in the search engine, therefore it became necessary to add this portion, so we did.

Conclusively, we ensured there was a total understanding during the brainstorming session, and we avoided simple mistakes that could either ban the entrepreneur’s website or lose rank. Therefore, we made more researches on the Internet, and we added what was missing.

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