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The arts have embraced portfolios forever. The ability to show a collection of work is critical in selling artwork to others. In today’s highly specialized, highly competitive professional marketplace, more artists are embracing digital portfolios in addition to high resolution print portfolios. One such field is architecture. At the University of California Berkeley, the architecture depart- ment provides a specialized portfolio class in which students learn about creating digital portfolios and all of their different media components which include print, video, and Web.


The course description has a paragraph that does more than define the coursework; it also defines the inevitable place of the Web portfolio in commerce or professionals, not just those within the arts. This statement gives the indication of the portfolio in general migrating solely from the hands of artists into the hands of all specialized and non specialized professionals. The use of Web portfolios will eventually trickle down to nonprofessional levels. The UC Berkeley architecture portfolio course description reads: “While the printed portfolio conveys high-resolution graphical information, today’s de- signer needs more than paper and vellum to sell their ideas.” CAD models, digital photographs, video animations, GIS databases, and other multimedia files are now readily exchanged over the Web. To be competitive, architecture students must adapt their printed portfolios to incorporate these new media.


This Arch 198 group-study explores the integration of print, video, and Web media into a coherent and marketable whole.” This description can be adapted to fit any professional discipline. The central idea which is critical here is that students must begin to explore the “integration of print, video, and Web into a coherent and marketable whole”. The integration of assets into a coherent professional narrative is a critical process that must be taught and practiced. The importance of the success of the Web portfolio is evident when the ultimate deliverable is truly marketability. The Web portfolio gives you marketability.

Enhancing Professional Techniques

We see the use of Web portfolios in every aspect of education. At the 2004 California State University Technology and Persons with Disabilities Confer- ence, Birnbaum and Kritikos (2004) described how Web portfolios are used in special education in several capacities. First, they are used by special needs students and secondly they are used by special education teachers. In the case of special education, the Web portfolio becomes a place for artifact collection and management. This is consistent with the idea that the Web portfolio acts as a portable storage and presentation platform regardless of industry specialization.


This is supported by Birnbaum and Kritikos (2004): With few exceptions, students with disabilities can learn to develop Web portfolios as a means of reviewing and understanding their work. The Web portfolio is an excellent means of teaching computer skills to these students. Also, it helps keep track of student progress in an orderly manner. Web portfolios can be used in IEP meetings so the teacher can demonstrate student progress in all areas. These portfolios become legal documents that can be used should due process or court action become necessary. The use of Web portfolios also is acceptable to most states’ boards of education.


In fact, several states encourage their use. The application of Web portfolios in special education provides strong evi- dence the Web portfolio is a tool for developing tangible working knowledge and skills.


It has now been added to the toolset of the special educator and is not only a viable platform for displaying teachers’ credentials but also has become a technology tool that is valuable in a variety of critical individualized education plan situations. The ability to publish information for presentation and assessment that the Web portfolio provides is adding to the overall growth of technology and professional techniques in the special education field.

Faculty and Student Concerns

In 2000, at The Council for Programs in Technical and Scientific Commu- nication (CPTSC) annual conference, Geoffrey Sauer of the University of Washington described his university’s problems getting students engaged in Web portfolio development. Sauer (2000) stated: “Interviews revealed that many Web-savvy students felt alienated from campus Internet publishing options — which serve students while they remain students, but eliminate accounts (and remove alumni Web sites) soon after graduation.


CMU students in professional programs are exceptionally career-oriented, and interviews revealed that they instead planned to postpone Web site production until they had graduated, when they could create (more) permanent Web sites — which often did not happen”.


This statement is indicative of one of the typical obstacles standing between students and Web portfolios. Many on the university level do not understand how the Web portfolio says a tool for communication when the student graduates. The communication occurs between the student, his or her faculty mentors, his or her colleagues, and most importantly communication with potential employers.


With this in mind, Sauer (2000) presented data from his experiences at advising students in Carnegie Mellon’s MAPW (Masters in Professional Writing) and CPAD (Masters in Communication Planning and Design) he found that there are several revisions that needed to be made to the processes behind the creation of student Web portfolios. Sauer (2000) suggests that specific communication elements be initiated in Web portfolios.


They include making Web portfolios act as “succinct over- views” which are guided guide the user using narrative devices. The idea of narrative devices becomes clearer when students understand that the Web portfolio is a place to tell their story to the Web community. The narrative must take on a professional tone that is persuasive and sells. Sauer (2000) also warns of instances that cause problems such as students who receive e-mail questions about programs.


He recommends that some formal education for students about how to field questions about the program might be a useful addition to programs which Web portfolios. This is a very valid concern that must be looked at within all academic Web portfolio programs. Although the notion of educating all students with Web portfolios on how to handle other students inquiries would be highly difficult and unfeasible simply due to the mass quantity of portfolios, students can be taught in Web portfolio classes to forward inquiries to other students to the appropriate college office Web contact address.


Another problem that Sauer highlights which surrounds Web portfolios is the actual time and effort that needs to be devoted to Web portfolios. It is critical to understand how the Web portfolio will impact the workload of the student and the professor. Sauer states: “The cost of such as system is almost entirely in labor. Hardware and software to run a high-quality Web site are quite inexpensive. But it is helpful to consider how to balance student and faculty efforts into such a system” (Sauer, 2000, p.1). Sauer brings up an extremely important concern surrounding successful and failed Web portfolio programs within academia.


The concerns of many faculty members surrounding their absence from Web portfolio engagement is that it is “too much work and I do not have time.” This is evident when checking some New York colleges and finding less than 50 percent of faculty had a Web portfolio or even a Web page. With other scholarship issues looming, courses loads, and publications needing to be written, many scholars leave the Web portfolio for the bottom of the heap. Even in cases where the students of the discipline ne ed an electronic portfolio for graduation, faculty members are still not involved in creating their own Web portfolio. Streamlining and simplifying the Web portfolio process will help build faculty involvement in Web portfolio development.


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