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Moving toward online portfolio or "webfolio" assessment will be an incremental process involving some or all of the following stages:

  1. If a paper-based portfolio assessment system has already been established within a department, program, or discipline, faculty members and administrators will need to decide which elements of that paper-based system will translate well to the web, and which elements will need to be revised or redefined for the new medium.  Elements to consider include the following:

    1. Number and variety of pieces to be included.

    2. Nature and number of self-reflective pieces to require.

    3. Rubric or criteria for evaluating the webfolio--how, for example, will design or ease of navigation figure into evaluation?

    4. Who will do the evaluating, how, and when?  Will individuals or teams evaluate?  How will membership for teams be determined? Will the entire faculty of the department, program, or discipline need to approve the system?  How will you ensure that all faculty involved in the process understand and implement the evaluation criteria? Will training and/or norming sessions be required?  Who is qualified to facilitate them? 

    5. What will the consequences of the evaluation be?  

    6. How will the outcomes be communicated to students, faculty, administrators, and accrediting agencies?  

    7. How will the outcomes support learning and inform teaching goals and methods?

  2. If no portfolio assessment system has already been established, then faculty and administrative discussion will have to begin at that level.  Discussion will involve many of the same factors listed above.   Additionally, faculty and administrators will have to determine the feasibility of initiating portfolio and webfolio processes simultaneously.  Will that prove an efficient use of resources, or will it prove unduly burdensome?

  3. If webfolio and paper-based portfolio systems are to coexist as equivalent options for students, how will you communicate those options to faculty and students alike, and how will you advise students about how to determine which option is best for them?  Conversely, if webfolios will be required across a program or in all sections of a given course, what percentage of the required work will they represent?

  4. Which faculty members can reasonably support students who select a webfolio option?  If relatively few faculty members are technologically proficient enough to support students who are designing and composing webfolios, should the webfolio as an officially sanctioned option be delayed pending faculty development efforts in this area?  The "Luddite level" within your department, division, or program should also be considered.  Will faculty truly support an online or web-based portfolio option?  If not, will students be put at a disadvantage if they choose web-based over paper-based options?

  5. How many students already have or are currently in the process of designing webfolios?  How many students express an interest in working online?  Faculty who have already successfully supported and guided such efforts could be called upon to compile those that represent "best practices," making them available on the web to serve as guides for both faculty and students who are interested exploring the academic and professional benefits of computer enhanced learning.

  6. Are the technological resources (e.g. server space, access to hardware and software, technical support staff) required for a webfolio process already in place?  If not, how will they be secured?  How much will they cost?  Is funding available?  How long will it take to put the required support into place?

  7. What are the potential legal and ethical implications of instituting a portfolio process?  How will questions of intellectual property rights, copyright, and privacy be addressed?  To what extent might concern over these issues stall or derail webfolio efforts?  Which "resident experts" might be best suited to investigating the answers and sharing them with colleagues?

  8. Finally, how will webfolio assessment fit into the department, program, or discipline's overall assessment plan?  How readily will it dovetail with the approaches typically supported by the institution as a whole? Strong assessment plans require multiple measures and efficient feedback loops that lead to real actions or conclusions.  How will you use the information gathered via webfolios to confirm the effectiveness of current educational practices, or to revise or augment them?

Answering these questions fully ahead of time obviously can't guarantee that instituting your webfolio project will be a challenge-free process, but exploring them with your students and colleagues can certainly help you work together to identify the best means of ensuring the long-term success of your individual and collaborative webfolio efforts. 

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Copyright 2000-2004
Kathy A. Fitch
Vice President, Technology Services
Axis Business Solutions, LLC