The qualities we would view as signs of success in a student digital project are not that different from what we'd look for in a faculty digital project. Although some are qualitative, these qualities are in fact assessable. Secondly, while some of the hallmarks of a good digital project are distinct to the medium, some are qualities that could be associated with all good scholarship, for both students and scholars. (Meredith Goldsmith, Ursinus College)

How are digital projects evaluated, across departments and in tenure and promotion?

  • The MLA, AHA, and CAA each have statements about digital project assessment and evaluation. While each of these documents is useful, the CAA statement is the newest, and provides a very clear and interesting discussion of the multiple dimensions and implications of evaluating digital work. (Emily McGinn, University of Georgia)
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How should department chairs and promotion and tenure committees categorize digital projects-- as teaching, scholarship, or service?

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How can we account for the significant expenditure of time involved in creating a digital project?

  • Suggestions:
    • Ask the faculty member to present a brief project narrative accompanying a digital project, in which she explains the research questions involved, the methodology undertaken to explore them, and the results.
    • Take very seriously the role of external review, and choose external reviewers with digital experience when evaluating a digital project. In this case, basic disciplinary background and medium expertise may be more important than content expertise.
    • Evaluate the work in its native environment--i.e., if an interactive map is part of a faculty member's project, attend to it in its interactive form, rather than through a screenshot.
    • Don’t hesitate to ask questions--if the chair is not an ideal reviewer of the digital project, ask for support from colleagues, especially at institutions where digital work is relatively new.
(Meredith Goldsmith, Ursinus College)
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How do we assess students' digital projects?

  • One might begin by assessing habits of mind:
    • what qualities of students are you seeking to understand in the student on the basis of their project? *How did these qualities evolve over time?
    • What were the “aha” moments your students experienced along the way, and how did these change their work on the project?
      • Curiosity--exhibiting interest in exploring new ideas and learning new approaches?
      • resilience, persistence in the face of frustration or failure
      • creativity
      • ability to put the method in conversation w/ primary source(s)
      • responsible gathering of data
      • collaboration: evidence of shared responsibility
      • working independently
      • capacity for reflection
It’s worth noting that these are qualities worth assessing in EVERY project-- digital or non-digital, yet we don’t always look for these qualities from our students (Meredith Goldsmith, Ursinus College)
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What are the assessable qualities of the project itself?

  • From Janet Murray, "Inventing the Medium": is the creator making appropriate use of the four affordances? Murray identifies four affordances unique to digital work: the Spatial, Encyclopedic, Participatory, and Procedural, as seen on this grid. This grid is well-known in the field and offers both students and faculty a way to assess not only the effectiveness of digital work, but ways in which projects might be expanded.
    • Is the project framed? ie, is there a context for what the "creator" has presented?
    • Is there a clear goal, if not an explicit argument or research question?
    • To what extent have the project's goals been achieved?
    • Are all members of the project (students, faculty, librarians, IT staff, community, etc.) acknowledged appropriately?
    • Is there evidence of effective collaboration? (for example, is there an approximately equal distribution of tasks? is there evidence that different group members have experimented with different kinds of tasks? is there evidence of group members learning from each other?)
    • Is any data created for the project available for use by others?
    • Has the data been cleaned and are the metadata categories appropriate? (In other words, is it of sufficient quality to be usable by others?)
    • Is the writing clear? Is it fluid? Are the documents authored by site creators written for an on-line audience?
    • Are sources (both images and text) cited responsibly?
    • Does the project have a sustainability plan? If not, is the student aware of any preservation challenges involved?
Note: Virtually all of these qualities would be useful for chairs and promotion and tenure committees in evaluating digital projects created by faculty, or those developed through partnerships between faculty and students. (Meredith Goldsmith, Ursinus College)
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