IT Connect

Information technology tools and resources at the UW

Electronic Portfolios and Catalyst Tools: FAQ

What Are Electronic Portfolios?

In its most basic form, a portfolio is a collection of work, usually accompanied by commentary that explains the purpose of the collection and the reason for including each item. Electronic portfolios (e-portfolios) allow students to collect, annotate, arrange, and display on the Web a variety of digital artifacts that illustrate their accomplishments. The particular artifacts to be included in the portfolio may be designated by you, the instructor, or selected by students; many portfolios are a combination of teacher-selected and student-selected work.

Is There a Catalyst E-portfolio Tool?

Catalyst still supports electronic portfolios, even though Catalyst Portfolio and Portfolio Project Builder were retired in 2010. The functionality of these tools has been improved with the new e-portfolio solution, the Google Sites hub—an integration of CommonView workspaces in the Catalyst Tools suite and Google Sites in UW Google Apps. Google Sites provides rich and easy content creation tools; the Google Sites hub in Catalyst CommonView manages the submission process (see more information below).

Where Do I Find the Google Sites Hub?

The Google Sites Hub is a feature within Catalyst’s CommonView tool. Since many instructors already use Catalyst CommonView to create course Web pages, this additional feature provides a convenient way to include an e-portfolio assignment and/or a sample portfolio for students and collect submitted portfolios all in one place. You can view step-by-step instructions about how to add a Google Sites hub to your CommonView workspace. If you have never created a CommonView workspace, you can learn more here.

How Do I Create an E-portfolio to Add to The Google Sites Hub?

To create an e-portfolio you can add to the Google Sites hub, you (and your students) will need a UW Google Apps account. To sign up for UW Google Apps, follow these steps:

  1. Go to
  2. Click UW Google Apps in the left menu, and follow steps to activate the service.
  3. Log in to the UW Google Apps at and click Sites in the top left to go to the Google Sites application. Or, you can go directly to You can use all the features of a Web page to organize content, attach or embed artifacts, invite comments, or experiment with the visual design of your e-portfolio. The Google Sites help documentation provides additional information about the features of the tool and how to get started.

What Are the Advantages of Using UW Google Sites And the Google Sites Hub for E-portfolio Creation And Management Over Other Possible Solutions?

UW Google Sites and UW Google Apps as a whole differ from the commercial accounts offered by Google ( Not only are the UW Google Apps free from advertisement, but they also offer the same FERPA, electronic discovery, and copyright protections that apply to other UW-IT resources. The same guarantees to student materials are not available through Google’s commercial offerings or other Web-authoring programs.

The Google Sites hub offers one convenient location in CommonView for providing details about an e-portfolio assignment, attaching one or more example e-portfolios that students can copy to their own accounts, collecting submitted e-portfolios from students, and allowing students to view one another’s e-portfolios. It is possible to capture some of this functionality using other tools, such as GoPost or Collect It, though these solutions may be less efficient.

In addition, if you or students use a program other than UW Google Sites to create an e-portfolio, these e-portfolios must be shared publicly (or in some cases, with specific people) in order for others to view them. If students create e-portfolios using UW Google Sites and link them in the Google Sites hub, these portfolios can be kept private by their creators yet shared with you (and with classmates, if you choose) through the hub. In this way, students can get feedback on their e-portfolios without having to make them public on the Web.

Can I Create an E-portfolio Using Google Sites in My Non-UW Google Account or Using Some Other Web Authoring Tool?

While you can create an electronic portfolio using any online software that will allow you to organize, comment on, and display a range of digital artifacts, the Google Sites hub was designed for e-portfolios created with only UW Google Sites. As an instructor, you cannot add an example portfolio or collect submitted student portfolios using the Google Sites hub if these were created with an application other than UW Google Sites.

Where Can I Learn More About Teaching With E-portfolios?

The guide Teaching with e-Portfolios provides multiple suggestions for effective integration of e-portfolios in your instruction. These tips are drawn from years of research on e-portfolios in education.