As my electronic portfolio experiment comes to an end with my Comp I class, I’m having some ideas for an article on the subject. I think that most of what I’ve seen about the benefits of this kind of exercise has been on the benefits for students, as writers and as graduates (giving them a transportable, referrable, job resource, for example). But I’ve noticed a new important feature that I haven’t seen mentioned before.
The software I’ve been using, Courseforum, includes an option for an RSS feed of the forum (it’s a wiki-based system), so that with my bloglines (or any RSS aggregator) I can see exactly when, and how often, each student works on each piece. That’s a tool for scholarship of teaching, and for fine-grained analysis of students’ writing process, which can’t really be achieved in any other way. When I go to class on Monday, I can know that over the weekend student X revised her paper three times (twice on Saturday night, both times within a 0ne-hour time span, and again on Sunday afternoon), while student Y revised hers six times (but all six were on Sunday night, between 1130 and 1145). I can also see exactly what changes they made with each revision. It’s a snapshot tool which is unparalleled.