26 August 2008

ePortfolio Requirement: Web-based

As mentioned in a previous post, I have 3 requirements for ePortfolio: that it be web-based, faculty designed, and student maintained. This week I will address each of those aspects.

Student portfolios on the web: "Electronic portfolio" can mean any number of things, from a PowerPoint slideshow emailed to an instructor—to a set of files burned to CD or DVD—to an integrated body of work displayed on the Internet. This last option is the least cumbersome for both creators and viewers. Also, it is the superior option if online scoring is incorporated.

Benefits of web-based ePortfolios:

  • The product is created and stored on a server that can be accessed anytime, from anywhere. Thus, students can work from any computer with Internet access.
  • Viewing the ePortfolio can also happen anytime, from anywhere, typically by clicking on a URL link that the student sends through email. This convenience is crucial if students intend to share their work externally (e.g., in making employment applications).
  • Web portfolios can be mounted by an institution (using local servers and even home-grown software), by students working independently, or through commercial software such as that offered by Chalk & Wire, LiveText, TaskStream, et al.
  • Evaluators can score the product online if the platform is designed to allow that. TaskStream* permits instructors to create and use rubrics for a variety of student works. Depending on the platform, instructors can also set up lesson plans, discussion boards, and data collection forms for students. Instructors can also create their own web folios and web pages. (TaskStream has these features as do some other platforms.)
  • Students can store their source material (course work, research files) and have access to it 24/7.

Provisions required for web-based ePortfolios: While students are increasingly adept at creating online persona and products, they do not generally design their web work in styles appropriate for demonstration of academic competencies. They need guidelines for what should be in a portfolio and often the support of a template, as well. Web platforms can build in such resources.

  • Students in the arts may require additional support in terms of server space. If video and audio clips are suitable for inclusion in the ePortfolio, the institution may need to supplement standard storage allowances or students may need to purchase additional storage. This is not a large cost but may require advance planning.
  • Templates or folio requirements built into the student interface ease the learning curve for students and streamline evaluation by instructors. When these requirements are aligned with Student Learning Outcomes, institutional assessment efforts are also streamlined. Provision for template or requirements requires considerable planning and coordination by faculty, instructional support staff, and administrators.
  • Training and ongoing HelpDesk support are needed for technical issues and also portfolio standards. Instructors or their assistants must anticipate requests for help at least while students are learning how to use new software. (Over the past 7 years that I have coordinated ePortfolio projects, I have seen less and less demand from students for training.) If a commercial platform is used, the vendor may provide a "free" accompanying HelpDesk.

Technology considerations. Web-based portfolios can utilize the basic file types that are common today (e.g., HTML, FLASH, PDF) as well as newer rich Internet applications (RIAs) and the interactive options generally referred to as Web 2.0 (this is a YouTube link to a popular explanation of 2.0 technology).

Location of platform. An institution's choice of ePortfolio software may hinge on decisions about local or outsourced servers, campus-based or outsourced technical support, institution- or student-paid accounts, and integration with other software (for example, linked to or part of a learning management system or LMS). I lean toward the multiple vendor model, meaning that student ePortfolios should be separate from their LMS for courses. That doesn't sound efficient, I know, but I'll address it in a future post and explore the reasons.

*TaskStream: When I use TaskStream as my example, I always disclose that I have served as a consultant to the company, although as I like to tell clients, I chose TaskStream before TaskStream chose me.

© 2008 Mary Bold, PhD, CFLE. The content of this blog or related web sites created by Mary Bold (www.marybold.com, www.boldproductions.com, College Intern Blog) is not under any circumstances to be regarded as legal or professional advice. Bold is the co-author of Reflections: Preparing for your Practicum or Internship, geared to college interns in the child, education, and family fields. She is a consultant and speaker on assessment, distance learning, and technology. She can be contacted at bold[AT]marybold.com using standard email format instead of [AT].

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