UI jumps to folio fore


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A growing number of UI students can now highlight their academic work in one location and recieve input from faculty — all online.

Three years ago, Information Technology Services staff members began testing several different online portfolios but couldn’t find one to fit their needs.

So they decided to create their own.

The UI launched its ifolio program, which allows students to collect academic work into an online portfolio, with the School of Art and Art History in the fall of 2008. By the spring of 2010, at least eight other UI programs will have adopted the program.

“When a student graduates, having this info cumulated under one umbrella will help students package themselves to a prospective employer,” said David Gould, a program associate for the interdepartmental unit and member of the ifolio steering committee.

The idea started in 2007, when John Zubizaretta, the author of The Learning Portfolio: Reflective Practice for Improving Student Learning, visited the UI and discussed online portfolios.

With ITS funding and help from application developer Andrew Rinner, UI staff members brought ifolio from the drawing board to reality.

The program allows students to reflect on their works and monitor progress throughout college. Meanwhile, faculty members can provide comments and feedback on submitted items, allowing students to interpret and understand their own work, said Jean Florman, the director for the UI Center for Teaching.

Students can also open their portfolios to prospective schools or employers.

UI senior Katie Sherry said the online portfolio would be helpful for freshmen beginning their college career.

“I’m sure as time goes on it will get better and better,” the graphic design and marketing student said.

A 12-member Portfolio Steering Committee tested the new tool and are working to help implement it smoothly.

The committee consists of UI faculty members from several colleges throughout campus, which is key to the program’s effectiveness and success, said Annette Beck, project manager and chairwoman of the committee.

Florman agreed the three groups — ITS, Center for Teaching, and steering committee — were necessary for creating the ifolio.

“Without all three, it would have fallen like a two-legged stool,” she said.

ifolio also boasts a user-friendly interface, Beck said. She noted the people involved made a conscious choice to make the online portfolio easy for students while ensuring it’s not a burden for faculty.

“This is easier than Facebook,” Beck said.

No program built completely from scratch comes without a few bumps in the road. But the issues with ifolio have been small and support has been great, said Joel Gordon, a steering committee member.

Gordon said that concerns were fixed quickly and accurately due to excellent cooperation by ITS, and that, overall, the ifolio has been beneficial.

“I think the ifolio software should be the envy of every Big Ten school,” he said.

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