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Chalk & Wire Resources
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Recording from the April 11, 2012 webinar session

Thanks to Patricia Donohue of ePortfolio California for making the recording available from the webinar session.


The following questions are a compilation of the questions and concerns identified in an informal polling of eportfolio community members during spring 2011. The answers are the vendor's responses.


What vision or understanding of learning informed the design of your tool?

Chalk & Wire was developed 15 years ago by a team of educators who continue to lead and manage the company. The focus has always been four fold:

  1. To collect the "best of the best, so far”. The system was designed to allow a user to quickly create as many portfolios as needed or desired. These may be produced using templates (usually organizationally established for assessment or research purposes by an administrator) OR as completely "free-form” expressions of the individual which may include personal reflections on learning to date, and/or the presentation of authentic work to peers or employers. Individual portfolios may also be cast across a host of social networking providers. No limit to the size of the collection is imposed.
  2. Technology is a modern Rich Internet Application (RIA). Our strength is the development of rapid workflows using elegant user interfaces. This emphasis has the effect of reducing training needs for all users. Chalk & Wire develops improvements all year, every year and provides updates at no fee to all users. We welcome our clients’ input to this process.
  3. Learners need rapid feedback. They want to know how they are doing and where they stand. To facilitate this Chalk & Wire has developed an assessment interface that allows faculty to assess quickly and efficiently on any tool, including Smart Devices. We also have used enhanced technologies such as the conversion of video to streaming media to speed up the review process and have added audio commenting to leverage more feedback to learners in the shortest possible time.
  4. To provide wide and deep scope for reporting. We focus on acting as mentors to help our clients assure validity and fairness in assessment. Without validity there is no point in engaging in the work in the first place. The development of high order analytics means educators and their leaders can make informed changes to improve learning more quickly and with greater confidence. Change to student learning environments cannot wait for next accreditation cycle. Telling schools they need to engage in "continuous improvement” without providing them with the tools to inform this action is unacceptable.

How does your vision of learning promote a student-centered approach to education? (e.g. student ownership of his/her learning)

Chalk & Wire was the first company in this sector to provide reflective text entry for every page of a portfolio. We recommend institutions do not use us as a file drop box, debunking the notion that digital interaction is all about handing in an assignment and getting a grade. The use of our product encourages student growth. Chalk & Wire templates are extremely flexible, allowing for creative presentations. Streaming video and images can be manipulated to rapidly arrange the look and feel of page as desired. We also provide professionally designed graphic templates to generate the look a student desires when sharing their work with others. Sharing is rapid and secure with anyone in the world. Students can create new portfolios at will (no limits and quickly use our page content import feature to grab work done for formal assessment and re-purpose it for targeted resumes or personal portfolios that can be automatically linked to commonly used social media (Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn for example).

Support for both peer and self-evaluation is provided. A 360˚view of student effort is possible in Chalk & Wire without the use of other systems.

Further, Chalk & Wire preserves iterations of student submitted work to encourage changes and improvements and to allow users to see progress-over-time growth. This fact alone makes it possible for learners to see the impact of their efforts to master new skills and knowledge – a powerful motivator to a sense of learning ownership.

Does your tool allow students to control permissions? Can they share with people outside of the institution? How? (e.g., advisor, prospective employer, etc.).

Yes, students control who sees their portfolios and when. Using a secure URL (https) they can share a page, selected sections or whole portfolios with anyone in the world. These shares can be password and expiry protected and updated to include new content with the click of a button. No one can see work unless the student shares or formally submits it. Links to shared portfolio content (such as digital resumes authored in Chalk & Wire) can be in the hands of advisors and prospective employers in minutes, presented as the viewer required, or as creatively intended by the student.

What is the process for inviting feedback on work or artifacts?

Sharing features supplemented by advanced commenting tools (selected text highlighting, text commenting, and audio commenting) all add the natural flow of feedback on work samples. Forms and surveys designed in Chalk & Wire can be sent to reviewers to add more detail to the commentary. In the case of formal assessment, an easy to navigate "My Results” screen gives the learner one-stop, sortable access to all feedback to date.

Describe how your tool promotes and supports student-to-student collaboration.

Chalk & Wire provides a fully featured collaboration tool. Users can make selected elements of a work page collaborative and invite anyone within or outside of their institution to participate. Granular permissions give the user control over what is seen, by whom and when. Further shared elements of a portfolio can be automatically embedded in a wide range of digital communications and social media (email, Facebook, Twitter, and Linked-in).

How does your tool support and encourage the reflection process for students and faculty?

Chalk & Wire provides the means for system designers to structure reflection for novices on each page of the portfolio if desired. This assures the learners do not arrive on a blank page with no clue about next steps. Students can of course generate their own reflections, free form at any time. Once the student submits pages (or entire portfolios), all of the robust commenting features in Chalk & Wire become available to all participants. Comments about reflective practice can be viewed by the students, who can also make additional comments to carry on a dialogue. If preferred, the "share” can be taken out of Chalk & Wire (as a submission) and run over any email client via a secure URL (see above).

How does your tool address and support institutional level assessment needs (e.g., aggregating student data and generating reports for accreditation)?

Chalk & Wire provides what is widely viewed as the most robust institutional assessment, tracking and reporting tool suite.

1.From the start, the software leads the designers to focus on the generation of valid assessment criteria directly from the outcomes/standards. This is essential for subsequent valid analysis. All required standards are custom entered for the institution by Chalk & Wire and are modifiable in the event of a shift in the policies of standards agencies.
2.Institutional templates are easy to construct and alter based on data. They can include instructions to increase the chances of the development of comparable work by students. These templates, called tables of contents (TOCs) can then be ‘drag and drop’ connected to assessment instruments.
3.Assessment instruments of a wide range of types can be granularly connected via ‘drag and drop’ with multiple standard sets. This vastly reduces the time required to design a sound system and also optimizes the data collected from fewer key assessments.
4.Tools for tracking the progress of assessment across courses, programs and the entire institution allow administrators at various levels in the enterprise to see only the data relevant to them and to sort, search and organize it at any given moment.
5.Chalk & Wire then provides both off and online analytics tools that are by far the most wide ranging in power and depth in this sector. Online, highly configurable custom reports can be quickly set up. This interface supports drill down and animated visualizations of data from a number of perspectives. Added to this we provide an off-line tool, CWReporter, which provides high-end statistical tests to respond quickly to more complex and demanding enterprise, self-study inquiry such as correlation matrices, linear regression, multiple interval comparisons, tests for statistical significance, cluster analysis and much more. All reports can be usefully exported as visuals or as delimited text files for immediate import into spreadsheets and other statistical packages.
6.Full support is provided via surveys and forms (an included feature) and a Public API to collect demographic variables to apply to the analysis. This permits rapid inquiry into factors that might be accounting for trends found in other analysis.
7.Chalk & Wire provides multiple channels for importing or acquiring data. The collection of authentic work samples from portfolios can be supplemented by the import of comparable legacy data against students no longer at the institution. This is done via a very easy to use import interface and inexpensive data point accounts. This feature and can vastly ramp up the size and viability of a data set available to an institution. Further, pre-configured data entry spreadsheets can be generated by the system to allow for quick entry of other scores as needed.
8.Chalk & Wire provides features that honor habits of faculty interaction with students. For example, video (a very common file format in emerging use of ePortfolios) are converted and compressed upon upload and then streamed out to the viewer. This makes assessment of such hefty file types very rapid because the user does not have to sit and wait for such files to download locally. Further, annotation tools (text and audio) similar to those provided by desktop software commonly used by faculty are provided on-line. Also the faculty can download student work files in Chalk & Wire (as they do in LMSs), use track change software and then upload the resultant reviewed files (and any other files deemed helpful by the faculty member) to be viewed by students side by side with the assessment instrument. LMS integration rounds out the means to transparently present Chalk & Wire in enterprise software that faculty already use and embed portfolio authoring in such common enterprise systems.
9.Rationalization of widely varying scoring ranges. Commonly, not all scores that institutions want to mix together have the same range. Chalk & Wire allows users to see and use scoring ranges they are used to working with and the institution to import scores that will all, in the end be reduced to a common range for valid statistical purposes.

Does your application integrate with enterprise systems? Which ones? Do you have examples of effective integration in support of advising or other student services you can share?

Chalk & Wire provides a Public API and makes available a team of specialists devoted to system integration. The system can be integrated with any SIS or other student database system to facilitate Single Sign On, the push and pull of data in secure space, import of class rosters and much more.

Further, Chalk & Wire offers the broadest spectrum of LMS integration available (Blackboard, Moodle/Moodlerooms, Sakai, WebCT (CE/VISTA) and Brainhoney are all currently supported. We will add by fall 2012 integration with Turnitin. Chalk & Wire’s agile, year-round programming process then supports other integrations as they are required at no fee to the end user (just as it does for the addition of new features, enhancements and improvements). Integration with LMSs is not restricted to simple SSO and file sharing. Chalk & Wire has succeeded in being able to "disappear” into an LMS at the granular level of a course assignment.

Advising is fully supported in Chalk & Wire. Advisor groups can be set up in advance or managed ad hoc by staff assigned to advise students. This privilege can also be extended to external personnel working with your students in internship or mentorship.

What is the main strength of your application?

Chalk & Wire provides an easy to use and quick to learn, innovative rich Internet application for rapid authoring, sharing, collaboration and assessment. This same ease, power and flexibility is then extended to broad spectrum analytic features that all those with interests in inquiry into learning can use to answer questions they have always had, are now wrestling with or ones that they have yet to imagine. Our commitment to improvement of these tools in a year-round R&D cycle combined with what others have described as "support obsession” have made Chalk & Wire the long-term partner of many institutions for more than 15 years. Above all, where we are used for data driven decision-making we make a commitment to help you design and develop a system that will blend well with your in-house culture and produce valid data you can rely upon. After all, if the data is not valid in the first place, what was the point of engaging in the work?

Further, we do not see the "application” as the sole focus of our work. The application enables our main mission: the development of sustainable, positive and proactive assessment cultures to support teaching and learning. This mission is frankly more about people than it is about technology. We take a direct interest and direct role in assuring a deployment and implementation that achieves this mission. This is why so much of our staff energy is devoted in the first year to assist a limited number of new clients in their best practice system design, implementation, tracking and revisions. We provide atypical amounts of feedback and free consulting to support schools in an endeavor that is not hard but requires attention to process and details upfront.

What weaknesses have been identified relative to the user experience and shared with you?

Five things emerged over the years that we have dealt with:

First, our willingness to allow very large file uploads and to provide what is essentially unlimited storage has taxed some less robust university labs and their networks at peak times of the academic year. To address this, local administrators can set the limit for a single file upload to whatever they think locally appropriate and can change it to account for peak periods of larger file uploads on campus.

The reliance on the unsound practice of making capstone portfolios (end-of-education or gateway) including uploaded artifact submission of previously reviewed/assesses work (rather than embedding the entire process) resulted in double work for students and faculty, and caused slow downs in our server responses. This is an issue that has been epidemic in this entire service sector. We have since resolved this in 2010-2011 with eP4, our latest release that witnessed the advent of the first Rich Internet Application (RIA) in the industry. This has made concerns about loads on our servers a thing of the past. It cannot however, address local network and hardware limitations that contributed significantly to this problem in the first place.

As stated, Chalk & Wire’s eP4 is a modern application fully re-written in 2010-2011 to run technologies that will project into the future (as opposed to older transactional software common in this field). This means blazing application speed and also that our work runs on smart devices. On the short-term downside, this affects users and institutions that have not kept up with browser technology advances. Older browsers in labs may not have the features to render some eP4 pages. We alert you to this when you arrive to log in. Any browser that passes the Web’s ACID TEST #1 is fully supported (IE 8+, Safari, Chrome, FireFox 3.5+ and many others).

Finally, our robust reporting tool, CWReporter was designed to offer simple tracking as well as support some of the highest-end statistical tests. This was a function of our early and continuing preference for doing real research while engaged in program self-study. However, in early years this meant that even our server farm could not handle such elevated statistical functions over the Web. CWReporter had to become an off-line tool that worked only on Windows OS computers. Mac OS was simply too slow to develop code for, to respond to the demand for more and more powerful data tools. The re-write of the entire application to produce an RIA has freed us to bring the most common statistical tests to a platform-independent user interface on the Web in eP4. On-line reporting provides for all the standard reporting, custom reporting and some of the sought after tests for variance and statistical significance. It also allows for flexible, exploratory reporting and drill downs not possible in off-line reporting. This is having an interesting side-effect: the "democratization of data” such that anyone with the proper permissions in Chalk & Wire can run reports on data they are allowed to see. We see this as critical development to support sustainable assessment cultures that engage rather than alienate faculty.

We are now moving onto our next challenge, the updating of campus-wide tracking tools not normally associated with this sector. These will give large institution administrators even more powerful tools for system set up and maintenance. Stand by for updates to eP4 in the fall of 2012 and in the fall of 2013.

Company Profile

Chalk & Wire invented the first open architecture (fully customizable) use-case scenario ePortoflio system, that could be formally assessed and the results granularly analyzed and reported out using a wide range of statistical tests. The company has been configured from the start for agile development and support; it’s least concern being marketing. As such, Chalk & Wire has always been a completely "Virtual” company (a model that has gained traction with other SaaS providers in the past 5 years, but something Chalk & Wire has always done). This focused capital and energy on the core missions of Chalk & Wire rather than maintaining an expensive corporate façade. Key work teams are located in different cities and meet face to face as needed while being productive, self-directed employees on their own terms. There is no such thing as a workday at Chalk & Wire. There are just tasks that need to be done without regard to how long it takes, where, when or how. This has created a hallmark of long-term, highly motivated professionals who have been with the company a very long time. This adds continuity and a sense of community to our more than 420 institutions served in Canada, the USA and Australia.

·Customer-base: Chalk & Wire serves over 420 clients in K-12 and Higher Education as well as other learning organizations in the private sector such as coaching associations and registered training organizations (financial institutions).
·Student pricing licensing model: Subscription model for deployments under 3000/year for terms of 1,2,3, and 4+1 (free 5th year). Costs can be as low as $20/year. Over 3000 student deployments provide schools with an institutional pricing model over longer terms that further reduce this price.
·Institutional pricing model:See above. Also institutions can host the solution themselves. Depending on the size of the deployment annual fees range from $40K – $60K.
·Postgraduate/transfer student license model: Students can continue to use Chalk & Wire after graduation or download their portfolios with all artifacts as a fully working website. They renew their accounts for the on-going ability to edit and add to their account for 1,2,3 or 5 years (same pricing as new accounts).
·Institution service agreement model:One is available for both year-to-year and price advantage, multi-year contracts.
·No ceiling storage:Chalk & Wire provides unlimited storage to its users and only limits single uploads to a gigabyte (by far this is the most generous provided in the SaaS community in this sector).
·On-line support services: After initial training, all support is free and on-demand. Support provided ranges from simple application assistance to system development and analysis for effectiveness. Toll free access is provided from 8 AM - 8 PM EST Monday to Thursday, 8 AM to 5 PM EST Friday and weekend support is provided from noon - 8 PM EST during peak usage periods. On-line help is extensive, easy to search and includes short movie tutorials and step-by-step text with image help. Further, if a user has any concern or question they want more assistance with, they can initiate an on-screen ticket and request for a direct call at a time convenient to them.
·Institutional support services (Free): Provisioning; technical, application and system design; and on-going revision consulting. These are on-demand and just-in-time delivered.
·IT staffing requirements: Assuming that Chalk & Wire is hosting and no local enterprise system integrations are required (SSO, LMS, SIS, Portals), there is little or no need for IT personnel to be involved. All they must assure is that the institution has reliable and consistent access to the public Internet.After training, an institution can be ready to deploy in a matter of a few weeks.
·Other company policies of note:
oLess is more:After years of very rapid growth, Chalk & Wire elected to take a restricted, new client policy in 2007. The company conducts due diligence on prospective clients. Each year, only 12-15 new organization and/or expanded deployments within extant clients will be undertaken. Schools who lack the "cultural assets” to create a sustainable, positive and proactive assessment culture will not receive demonstrations. Those that are provided with demonstrations must assist by providing materials to flesh-out most aspects of the intended use-case scenario. Therefore, demonstrations are treated as initial deployments and are tests of the institution’s readiness to engage in this sort of work. They also add to the investigation of Chalk & Wire’s "fit” with the local culture and personnel for both parties. If post-demonstration, but pre-deployment, new information comes to light that point strongly to conditions that would seriously affect successful deployment based on best-practice methods, a client requesting the use of Chalk & Wire may be denied.
oMarketing is a waste of money: Experience has taught that attending vast numbers of conferences, cold call gorilla marketing practices, lost-leader pilots and other common, but very expensive marketing tactics in the IT sector, do not yield sustainable results. Chalk & Wire, relies on word-of-mouth references and it’s only other public face is it website athttp://chalkandwire.com. The company prefers to devote its revenues and profit to the on-going development of new tools and the support of clients. These are sustainable activities.
oNo throw-out policy:Chalk & Wire does not delete student accounts/content. Even if an account expires it can remain dormant for years. This allows students to use their work long after graduation and gives the institution constant access to historical work samples.
oFlexible deployment models:Both hosted and locally hosted solutions are available
oCustomization: All institution installations are customized with their own locally editable standards and branding in advance of first use. Customized graphic themes are prepared for students and the institution at no fee.
oNo fee integration: Integration with Learning Management and Student Information Systems is provided at no cost. Chalk & Wire will undertake integration in partnership with local personnel on an as-needed basis.

Technical Information

  • System Requirements End User:Any internet connected computer with a modern browser that supports Rich Internet Applications (IE 8+, Safari, Firefox 3.5+, Chrome, all smart device browser applications)
  • System Requirements Server: None required. Chalk & Wire handles all server set up, support, and maintenance.
  • Insured: Yes. Lloyds of London. Chalk & Wire is annually audited for business practice, and IT security and disaster recovery.
  • Hosted service?Yes.
  • Storage Capacity (per account):No limit to individual subscription accounts. In large (over 3000, contracted) deployment, Chalk & Wire asks that the institution maintain a 500 MB/user average across the entire deployment, with no account exceeding 2 gigabytes (no institution has ever approached eclipsing this limit).
  • Privacy policy relative to student accounts and underage users:Chalk & Wire does not own any work created by its users. Privacy policy is compliant with FERPA, and the privacy laws in Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom and the EU. There is a public statement of Chalk & Wire’s Privacy Policy on-line at it’s corporate website.
  • Standards compliance: Chalk & Wire ePortfolios can be downloaded at anytime as zip files that contain all relevant HTML, Javascript, CSS, and source files. All such downloaded ePortfolios can be easily displayed in standard web browsers and can be hosted on most web servers. Currently engaged actively with IMS Compliance initiatives.
  • Section 508 compliance: Yes
  • Published API: The Chalk & Wire API is available upon request.
  • Migration/Exportation: Yes. Data from other systems, assuming they can be exported to ASCII delimited files can be imported into Chalk & Wire using our robust importers that handle not only scoring data but also form/survey data and demographics. Portfolios are downloaded in web-based format that is standard and web compliant and can be uploaded into any other web presentation tools available.
  • Systems Integration (list known):Colleague, Banner, PeopleSoft, Data Tel, SharePoint, Blackboard (7.3-9.1+), Moodle 1.9 and 2.0/Moodlerooms (1.9 and 2.0), Sakai, WebCT (CE/Vista), BrainHoney. Turnitin (for Fall of 2012).
  • Accepted artifacts/media (pictures, video, audio, text, html, documents, etc.):All files are accepted.

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