Not your father’s Portfolio

We were working with a writer on an article about ePortfolios to appear in Campus Technology (its here 11.2009). One of our examples to illustrate our thinking about ePortfolios was Margo Tamez’ El Calaboz Portfolio. Our writer got back with this:

“The editor for my article about eportfolios had a question about my coverage of Margo Tamez’s eportfolio usage. She had expressed concern that the eportfolio have a home beyond the duration of the court case. Does Washington State have any kind of official policy or practices specifically about the life of its student eportfolios? Is there any kind of guarantee that it will live on after the student has left the institution? Anything you can say about that?”

There is a short answer and a long answer to the question.

Short answer: WSU has no policy or procedure in place to delete a student’s SharePoint mySite (where Tamez portfolio is) after graduation, but after 12 months this site becomes read-only unless the graduate makes a specific request to have management access restored.

Long answer: The problem with the short answer is that it focuses on the technical survival of a specific thing at a specific URL. Thinking about a specific collection of artifacts in a specific system at the specific URL is too narrow a focus for our understanding of an ePortfolio.

At the risk of insulting the Campus Technology editor by paraphrasing a Oldsmobile ad, an ePortfolio ‘is not your father’s Portfolio,’ by which I mean that in our view an ePortfolio is not at all an electronic counterpart of the paper portfolio.

An electronic portfolio is both more durable and more tenuous than its paper predecessor. Its also more powerful. Its not a thing or a place, its a practice.

Googling Margo Tamez (she is lucky to have a fairly unique name)  illustrates that she built her electronic reputation in many places, that is, her ePortfolio is not in one place. Rather, it is the sum of artifacts imbedded in the contexts of the communities where she was working. This image is a Touchgraph (link to live Touchgraph) of a search for Margo. It shows her portfolio as a collection of the web 2.0 places she is working.

TouchGraph rendering of Google results for Margo Tamez

Due to the nature of the problem she was working on, Margo intentionally built her portfolio in a distributed fashion. Many of the key documents were emailed to a list of readers, where the body of the email served as description and context for the document. Her WSU ePortfolio was the recipient of a cc: of those emails. Other pieces of her work were created in wikis or as guest posts in blogs. She worked in her community, keeping the artifacts of her work (her ePortfolio) in the places that were best suited to them.

As part of our ePortfolio case study work, we interviewed Dennis Haarsager, now Senior Vice President for System Resources and Technology at National Public Radio, about blogging and building portfolios in public places. In our reflection we said:

“In our interview, Haarsager argued for the public lectures he gives on his chosen problem. The lecture is a showcase portfolio of Haarsager’s current, best thinking. The medium is mostly broadcast, but he feels it allows him to reach new audiences, and to get kinds of feedback about his ideas that he does not get in comments on his blog.

“Tamez is also creating showcase “mini-portfolios” in the form of printed fliers and media interviews. These productions may have some of the risk-related prestige that Tenner ascribes to printed books, while at the same time having the new audience-reaching and immediacy values that Haarsager associates with his lectures. In her learning portfolio, these mini-portfolios document where Tamez’ thinking was at points in her learning trajectory.”

Thus, our thinking is that ePortfolios are created as by-products of work, and are scattered across the venues and contexts in which the work is conducted. An ePortfolio is continually dissipating as systems storing the work go away, and continually growing as new work is added.

I have been struggling for awhile with the problem of describing a 21st century resume.  It too is not like its 20th century counterpart. In that 2007 post I did not yet fully recognize the obvious, which I’m coming to see here. My blog(s) and the other places I post online are my ePortfolio (and my resume).

Rather that focusing on the durability of an ePortfolio system or URL, the most important things we see about an ePortfolio (and ePortfolio as 21st century resume) are the abilities to:

  1. find your work when you need it for reflection or repurposing,
  2. establish that you are indeed the author (possibly under multiple identities) of the works you wish to claim, and
  3. leverage the Google Juice of your work so that it helps you be found by people who share your interests and can help you in your work.

The first of these requirements is most likely met with a hybrid of several Web 2.0 tools. It could be supplemented with a social bookmark service where you track yourself.

The second challenge, proving that the work is “yours” is probably done by making a claim to a corpus of works rather than to a single piece, and by making an appeal to a community and context in which the work was done. (Unlike Catherine Howell‘s thought (ca 2005)  that “universities have a role in ‘authenticating’ individuals [and endowing]… them with certain attributes,” we think an ePortfolio world that enables community-based learning and community-based credentials breaks those assumptions about the university, see a recent piece for AAC&U.)

The third requirement is met by working in public and working in venues where your community of practice will likely congregate and then linking from those contexts to works you created in other contexts that contribute to the conversation.

This third point can be illustrated if you Google me (Nils Peterson). You will discover that there are two people using that name with different career trajectories.  Nils Peterson the Poet is in the Bay Area and worked at San Jose State. His identify is authenticated by a variety of news stories (that is, a community of other writers know that he is who he claims and they are in agreement in their accounts of him).

I claim to be other Nils Peterson who is (currently) prominent in Google, the Nils Peterson who publishes in Campus Technology as well the author here, and the blogger at  I have made a consistent effort to create user identities using Nils+Peterson in many systems and to link from one system to another. This strengthens my claim to be the Nils Peterson who is saying all those things. I don’t depend on my employer or the universities that educated me to substantiate my claims, but I do depend on the corroboration of the communities in which I work.

But, the claim is circumstantial, like solving a jig saw puzzle by inferring which pieces fit together. Following the notions of Helen Barrett, and because I work online in public, my ePortfolio (and resume) is a life lifelong and life wide  web of the works Google associates with me, where ever they exist.

First Presentation of Harvesting Feedback as Accreditation System

Jayme developed a visualization of the complete harvesting feedback scheme
(a proposal for a WSU learning outcomes process) entitled from student
feedback to university accreditation as part of a presentation for the
Teaching Learning and Technology Group ( Friday Live!

This post links to all the resources

The term student feedback in the title is an extension of the thinking in
the harvesting gradebook that feedback in both numeric and qualitative forms
is an important goal of “grading.”

A previous TLT group session had laid out in greater detail the harvesting
of feedback for student grading and assessment of the assignment.

From Student Feedback to University Accreditation

This post supports a free TLT Group webinar
The Harvesting Gradebook: From Student Feedback to University Accreditation

The event is now available as an archive made Friday, September 25, 2009  2:00 pm (ET)

Theron DesRosier, Jayme Jacobson, Nils Peterson, & Gary Brown
Office of Assessment and Innovation, Washington State University

This webinar is an extension of our previous thinking “Learning from the Transformative Gradebook.” Prior to (or following) the session, participants are invited to review a previous session and demonstration of these techniques being applied at the course level

During the session, participants will be invited to pilot our Assessment of Assessment rubric on a program-level accreditation report and to discuss the broader implications of the strategies proposed.

This hour long session will:

1. Review WSU’s model implementations of the Harvesting Gradebook that can be used to gather feedback on student work and the assignments that prompted it. (Background on Harvesting Gradebook)

2. Show how data from harvested assessments at the course level can flow up, providing direct evidence of learning outcomes at the program, college and university levels.

3. Demonstrate a systemic assessment process that applies a common assessment of assessment rubric across the all university’s assessment activities

4. Invite the audience to provide feedback on the Assessment of Assessment rubric by assessing an accreditation report. The goals of the hands-on activity are to:

  1. Gather feedback on the rubric
  2. Demonstrate time effective means of gathering feedback from a diverse community on assessment activities

5. New perspective on  Curricular Mapping, using harvested data.

Further Reading

The Prezi document used in the session (requires Adobe Flash).

Harvesting Gradebook in Production: We have been investigating the issues on the WSU campus surrounding taking the harvesting gradebook into production. While all the integrations with WSU Student Information Systems are not in place yet, we can see a path that automates moving student enrollments from the registrar to create a harvesting survey and moving the numeric scores from the survey back to the instructor where they might combine with other course scores to create the final grade that can be uploaded to the Registrar. A mostly automated pilot is being implemented Fall 2009.

Student Evaluations of Program Outcomes: The presentation references the idea of using student course evaluations to gather indirect evidence on the course’s achievement of the program’s learning outcomes. For several years, WSU’s College of Agriculture Human and Natural Resource Sciences (CAHNRS) has used a course evaluation college wide that asks students their perception of how much the course helped them developing skills in: thinking critically, writing, speaking, working on a team and other dimensions that align with university learning goals. We have explored gathering the faculty goals related to these skills and comparing them to the student perceptions.  To date, this data has not been systematically rolled up or used as evidence in accreditation self-studies.

Sketch for Jayme’s Prezi Diagram for the Assessment System

Nils created this sketch mid-Sept thinking about the whole stack of processes in harvesting feedback from students and flowing it up to university accreditation.

Captured for graphical and historic interest and to showcase what Jayme can do to make an idea more understandable.

Subsequent to this sketch, we did a webinar for TLT Group that used the Prezi diagram and outlined the whole soup-to-nuts concept for a system of assessment.