Internationally, there has been a significant increase in the use of online portfolios in tertiary, secondary, primary and professional education over the last three years. The intention of most of these online portfolio assessment programs has been to combine the benefits of traditional portfolio-based assessment with the paper saving and other benefits of online environments. The benefits of conventional portfolios in assessment and learning are well established, and, in most cases, online portfolios have aimed to replicate conventional portfolio documents online (Herrington 2001).
Need for the online administrator
The aim of using online technologies in portfolio assessment processes is to maximize benefit for all stakeholders. Online portfolio-based assessment requires a careful amalgam of several processes. The main aim in focusing on the design criteria and underlying concepts is to identify heuristics for designing online information systems that offer improvements in some or all of these processes. There are different process issues for each of the different stakeholders, and in online scenarios these are often different in type and magnitude from those in offline portfolio-based assessment processes (Emden 2000).
If not addressed well, they compromise the assessment process and lose the benefits associated with portfolios reducing the value of the assessment mechanism. Different forms of conventional portfolio-based assessment are appropriate to different circumstances. Quality course design processes require careful matching between the characteristics of different forms of portfolio assessment to the aims, objectives, resources, stakeholders and other characteristics of the course in which portfolios are being used. Review of existing conventional offline portfolio-based assessment shows these issues are frequently not adequately addressed. In many online courses, core pedagogical and assessment design issues are frequently either neglected or, more commonly, overshadowed by an over emphasis on the analysis of relative technical advantages of particular proprietary software and hardware formats (Cooper 1999). The implication is that overall educational outcomes are likely to be adverse in spite of the potential benefits from the online environment. Online portfolios are likely to be of increasing significance in universities due to:
The intrinsic advantages of portfolios over many more traditional modes of assessment.
Recent changes in the operating environments of education institutions that have educational and assessment implications that favor the use of portfolios in assessment for stakeholder groups other than students.
Designing online education courses that take advantage of the benefits of portfolio-based assessment requires careful consideration of stakeholders and the relative value distribution for different stakeholder groups of specific design instances of online portfolio assessment. This can be undertaken at many levels of sophistication. A common but often unhelpful approach is for course designers to focus on students as a single stakeholder group. The value of the online portfolio assessment system then is interpreted only in terms of that group (Oliver 1997). For example:
Whether students are enthusiastic about using portfolio assessment.
Whether the online portfolio assessment system allows students to demonstrate their skills more completely and, thus, achieve more successful outcomes.
Whether students gain other educational benefits from the processes of building ...