June 19th, 2009

Portfolio System Provides Integrated Assessment across the Institution


In 2000, the college of education at the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) introduced an electronic portfolio system for its students. The goal was to get students to understand their own learning by requiring them to create these portfolios that highlight their work. Building on that success, the university is in the process of implementing myMAPP, (Mapping Academic Performance through ePorfolios), an electronic portfolio system that integrates student, faculty, staff, department, college, and campus performance measures.

Although there are commercially available electronic portfolios, the university decided to design its own system. “We spent four months looking at commercially available products three years ago, but none of them met our needs. The products would have had to drive the process, and we were so adamantly against that. We wanted the process to drive the product, so we developed our own,” says Neal Topp, professor of education at UNO.

The myMAPP system is intended to serve as a self-reflection as well as a means of documenting and assessing performance. For faculty, this means that they will use these portfolios to collect academic/professional activities, practices and achievements related to teaching, research, and service to reflect on their performance as well as generate reports for promotion and tenure documentation and annual reviews.

Because the myMAPP system is database driven, information needs to be entered only once and can be used for different purposes. For example, a faculty member could include an example of student work (from the student’s portfolio) to be used as a basis for the faculty member’s personal reflection on his or her progress in an aspect of teaching, as evidence of learning outcomes to support the faculty member’s case for tenure, as evidence at the department level to indicate progress in teaching, and to illustrate progress toward college and/or university teaching goals.

“At the end you’ve got a tool that allows you to answer key questions and provide key metrics that our administration and other constituencies hold us accountable for,” says Stephen Shorb, dean of the University Library. “You could very rapidly get information such as how many juried papers were delivered, how many grants were applied for, and how many grants were awarded. I love it because the library is different from a lot of departments. All of the staff and faculty teach and provide service to the campus and the community, and this is a way for us to record those things and roll them into the total institutional effort.”

One of the strengths of myMAPP is the ability to incorporate artifacts—documents, multimedia, projects, etc.—things that do not necessarily come across on paper into the system as a way of cataloging one’s work. “The system has really caught on with the faculty since they realized it’s a good personal archive system. If they have a document associated with an achievement that they want to put in their own portfolio, then they don’t have to worry about finding it a few years from now, because it’s saved in the system,” Shorb says.

Excerpted from Academic Leader, February 2007.