Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Digital Dossiers Are Here!

Earlier this year, I discussed the need for the promotion and tenure process to transition the the digital dossier. I argued that with all the connectivity to online content that now exists, academia really needs to rethink the dossier paradigm and move from analog to digital. I speculated that this transition WILL happen in the next few years anyway, and suggested that perhaps academic librarians should be the first!

Well, too late. according to an article in in the Chronicle of Higher Education it HAS already happened. Beginning this fall, Kent State University faculty members have the option of submitting their dossiers electronically; digital dossiers will very likely become the only way to go in a year.
A big attraction of digital dossiers, some professors note, is that it's easier to include elements of scholarship and research that couldn't be captured as well in a binder. "You can post video and audio of your teaching. You can take pictures of art and include it," says David W. Dalton, an associate professor of instructional technology at Kent State. "You can hyperlink to things. You can really tell your story in new ways."
Kent State is not alone in this transition. The article reports that Virginia Tech and St. John's University have also gone digital. In a note to Deans and Department Heads in May 2009, Virgina Tech's Senior Vice President and Provost Mark McNamee wrote:
the university committee is asking that dossiers now be submitted in Adobe pdf format rather than as paper. Several colleges are already using electronic dossiers and have found these to be easy to work with while saving many reams of paper. Staff involved in managing the dossier submissions will work together to develop the details in the coming months, including standardization of bookmarks and other changes that take advantage of the electronic format.
The Chronicle article reported that St. John's has saved 225,000 pieces a year when its process went online, in 2008. Yet, their document PAF, Years 1-2 indicates that three paper copies are still required.

The true value of the digital dossier is not in the simply creating an electronic copy of the core dossier. Instead, as Provost McNamee points out it is to take advantage of the electronic format. With a digital dossier:
  • The only information that would be sent to an external reviewer would be a single URL. The reviewers could generate paper versions, if they prefer.
  • Network-based content (e.g. web sites, blogs) would be hyperlinked though the digital dossier. This would allow scholarly communications to be viewed and interacted with in their native formats
  • Traditional content would be made accessible through the use of any combination of OpenURL / Link Resolvers / DOI. Most academic institutions have online access to a growing amount of published literature.
  • Content stored in institutional repositories could also be accessed.
  • Content shared on cloud services such as YouTube and SlideShare could also be linked.
Sphere: Related Content


griffey said...

I'm an Academic Librarian, currently putting together my tenure dossier. I'm doing both, as paper is still the "required" format. But I will be the first at my University to include a digital version of any sort, at least among the librarians.

We'll see how it goes.

Clare Leibfarth said...

I submited my first reappointment file using the Kent State system last week. It was an interesting experience! I think that the online format works quite well overall. The largest issue was technology. Few faculty actually have the necessary software on their desktops/laptops to create the required documents. For example, one needs to have Publisher in order to save an e-mail as a PDF file. I had some issues because I have Word 2003 on my laptop and web links did not carry into PDF files that I made. Mac users had the same problems. Some faculty were unable to link to online content that have some kinds of security measures. I tried to write my narrative essay in a style that took full advantage of the online nature of the supporting documentation. So it reads a lot like a blog post. I am interested to see how the senior library faculty who review the portfolio like that. One difficult decision was when to use a "live" web link to a supporting document/resource. I had some concerns about a couple of webpages changing content by the time the file was read. So for those I made a PDF snapshot of the webpage.

Eric Schnell said...


Thanks for posting your experience and techniques!

Check out PrimoPDF, prints virtually any document/screen to PDF. (Windows only)