How do you grade a writing program web site? Of course, that question
presupposes a larger one: how do you grade any web site?
The question of assessing digital media has been only tentatively
answered within our field. Most recently, Kathleen Blake Yancey
(2004) has explored the issue. In "Looking for sources of coherence
in a fragmented world: Notes toward a new assessment of design,"
Yancey notes that we remain "decidedly discomforted" (2004,
p.90) when it comes to assessing New Media compositions, whether
created by our students, our colleagues, or ourselves. Her contribution
to this question is a heuristic approach drawn from the value of
coherence in print texts. But a heuristic based on print seems primarily
valuable for assessing the academic dimensions of such works; after
all, one rarely tracks the "traffic" received by a student
paper or article.
Still, such a heuristic will, I believe, prove valuable. But I
hope in this essay to explore some alternative modes of assessment
for digital compositions. Specifically, I want to explore different
modes of assessment for program web sites.
In "Reimagining writing program web sites as pedagogical tools"
(2004), I argue that the "program web site provides a new context
to explore the pedagogical possibilities of the Web" (p.74).
I make that argument using the experience of the Rutgers Writing
Program in redesiging--and reimagining--its web site (<http://wp.rutgers.edu>).
But the question of assessment was left largely unanswered in that
In this essay, I want to use the experience of the Rutgers
Writing Program to evaluate various modes of assessing program web
sites. Beyond that, I want to argue that no single mode of assessment
is sufficient in itself. Assessments must be combined because, ultimately,
assessment depends in part on audience.
When we assess student work, the audience is far more limited.
We put comments on student work to help students; we assign a grade
for the institution. But a program web site has many more audiences:
its students, teachers, administrators, and staff; the institution
and various grant and funding agencies; reviewers internal and external;
and, on some level, the world itself. These various audiences have
different needs, and different assessments will appeal to each.
Working with several modes of assessment, then, can create a more
complete picture of a program web site's success.