U of Washington creates online portfolios for students

October 15, 2002

Freshmen who just entered the University of Washington are the first students to use a new system designed to compile a record of their work at the university, beyond the usual grades and letters of recommendation.

The Catalyst Portfolio – an electronic archive of work produced by students – went live this month and is available for all UW students to use. More than 80% of the freshman class are now using the Portfolio tool as part of the Freshman Interest Group (FIG) program.

FIGs are clusters of 20 to 25 freshmen who enroll in the same classes and attend a general orientation class once a week, to help them negotiate life at the UW. The leaders of these classes are offering the 3200 FIG students five projects this year, which are designed to transfer easily into their electronic portfolios. These projects help freshmen reflect on their education and progress through the university.

The Catalyst Portfolio is a Web-based tool that uses UW network and storage infrastructure to let students compile any electronic files of their work. Using nothing more than a Web browser, students can save and organize papers, pictures, audio or any other documents they produce. Instructors can use the tool to offer assignments designed to go into these portfolios, and to give students feedback online. And once compiled, students will be able to show off their portfolios -and their instructors’ comments if they wish – to anyone in the world with a connection to the Internet.

“They get to keep everything they’ve done on campus in an online environment where they can access it quickly. They can do all of this without knowing anything about Web publishing,” said Mark Farrelly, coordinator of the Portfolio project at the UW office of Educational Partnerships & Learning Technologies. “This will be a nice tool for students to think about their learning, their career path, and to get a better sense of what they did at the University of Washington.”

Farrelly said the new portfolios are at reaction at the university to the need to provide better ways to show achievement. Increasing competition in everything from top-paying jobs to entrance in exclusive schools is putting the emphasis on physical demonstrations of what you know. Grade point averages and test scores, while still important, are being complemented by concepts like the final project and the work portfolio.

“I think this is certainly a way for students to tell you ‘These are my skills,’ instead of the increasingly less meaningful grades,” Farrelly said.

Catalyst Portfolio is the latest Web-based teaching and learning tool from Catalyst, an initiative to improve teaching and learning at the UW through the use of technology. Catalyst relies on in-house staff, student workers and existing UW infrastructure to develop these Web tools, without outside vendors or proprietary software. For more information on Catalyst, visit http://catalyst.washington.edu/.

For screenshots of Catalyst Portfolio, or to learn more about the tool, visit http://depts.washington.edu/edtecdev/portfolio

For media inquiries about the program, contact:

Mark Farrelly

Outreach & Special Projects Coordinator, Ed-Tech Development Group

UW Educational Partnerships & Learning Technologies

206-250-8330, mfarrell@u.washington.edu

Tom Lewis

Director, Ed-Tech Development Group,

UW Educational Partnerships & Learning Technologies

206-616-8156, tomlewis@u.washington.edu

For information about the Freshman Interest Groups, contact:

Jason Johnson

Special Assistant to the Dean, Office of Undergraduate Education

206-616-6783, jej@u.washington.edu