[Portfolio] Word documents vs. Forms in Portfolios

Sean Keesler sean.keesler at threecanoes.com
Thu Jul 7 10:48:26 PDT 2011


A lot of this is related to how much use you make of the capabilities of the
Sakai Forms tool.

A form designer can make a form with a single large text field in which a
student can author large amounts of text, format it to their heart's content
and have a lot of freedom. This is pretty much the approach that many
schools have adopted when following the "page composer" model of portfolios.
Each page of student's portfolio is represented by a form with a rich text
editor. The content and the formatting of the filled out form is stored in a
single data element in an XML file, which makes manipulation at any finer
granularity difficult. There are variations on the theme, but most of the
control of the display of the information is in the student's hands and
their facility with the rich text editor and/or HTML.

Alternatively, a form designer can make a form that breaks the information
into many discreet fields and prompts for specific types of information. The
form can be made to restrict responses to a set of possible answers (such as
a dropdown list or set of checkboxes) or conform to a certain convention
(such as a phone number or email address). The fields may provide no
affordances to students to format or style their responses. In this case,
each field of the form is stored in a separate XML data element, possibly
with no clues as to HOW to display the information at all.

WHen a portfolio template pulls all of the information together to render a
portfolio view, an XSL stylesheet can be created by the template designer to
display the information. The stylesheet operates on the raw XML of forms
(among other things) to place information on the HTML page and format it
accordingly. A designer creating a portfolio template stylesheet for a
portfolio that is composed of forms with just one big data element full of
formatting elements will have less ability to control the way the final
portfolio looks than if they forms are delivered as multiple, discreet data
elements without formatting cues. Depending on the purpose of the portfolio,
their are pros and cons with both approaches.

When displaying a portfolio that includes attached documents, there aren't
really good affordances to display the contents of those documents "in" the
portfolio. They may be linked to from a portfolio page, but I don't know of
many other good ways to make use of them from a "presentation" perspective.

The pros, of course, would be that it is a file format that is familiar to
everyone, it builds off the skill set everyone likely already has. If the
purpose is simply to collect a body of work for periodic review around a
theme (and NOT for a web-based showcase of work), I would assume that word
documents are a reasonable place to start for students. Just be aware that
the reviewers/evaluators of matrix-based portfolios will be moving back and
forth between word and the portfolio tools as they do their work. I assume
that they do this all the time already.

Sean Keesler
130 Academy Street
Manlius, NY 13104
sean.keesler at threecanoes.com

On Thu, Jul 7, 2011 at 9:32 AM, Eric Hanson <Eric.Hanson at usuhs.mil> wrote:

> Good morning,
> The Uniformed Services University is launching into portfolio use for
> medical students starting on campus this Fall.
> Our courses and clerkships have a number of assignments and forms that they
> now use and they wish students to complete and submit those in OSP.
> A fundamental question we have is the pros and cons of developing the
> XML-based forms and associated code versus simply having the students upload
> the assignment or document through assignments or the portfoliio.
> What are the drawbacks of primarily using word documents to populate the
> matrix?  Are there challenges for feedback or evaluation?  What about
> pulling those items into a portfolio view?
> Thanks, I have a feeling I will be on here a great deal over the next
> month.
> Eric Hanson
> Eric E. Hanson, MBA
> Chief Knowledge Officer
> Office of the CIO
> A2027
> Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences
> 4301 Jones Bridge Road
> Bethesda, MD 20814
> (301) 295-3352
> eric.hanson at usuhs.mil
> Classification:  UNCLASSIFIED
> Caveats: None
> Classification:  UNCLASSIFIED
> Caveats: None
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