Option 1: Self-hosted System
The best system by far is to set up a self-hosted blogging system on your own school network. This allows the school full control over the content, look and feel, and even the space allowed to users. Using a powerful open-source program like WordPress makes setup and installation straight forward.
The self-hosted system allows a school to also brand the WBP system allowing the look and feel of the system to align with school communication standards. A school can also control if the system is open to the world or installed only internally, or a combination of both. Using blogs as WBP allows a school or district a great amount of flexibility in designing the system as well as controlling the system as it grows over time.
The downside of hosting a system is that a school must commit both financial and hardware resources to the project. Although server space is cheap, it still costs money and as the portfolios grow over time more space will be needed. A school can also find inventive ways to outsource videos and images, which tend to take up the most space. Images for example could be outsources to a photo sharing site such as Flickr or Picasa. Videos can be outsources to places such as YouTube, SchoolTube, or TeacherTube.
There is also the human resource factor that a school is reliable for. Having an IT technician that can oversee the servers and the upkeep of the system is probably the largest expense a school will have in setting up a self-hosted WBP system.
Option 2:Cloud Server Based System
If you can’t afford everything up front for your WBP system. Then consider a Cloud Computing Based System. Cloud based systems like the hosting company Rackspace just released called Rack Space Cloud is a great alternative. With their 24/7 Support line, you get all the support you need any time you need it. One of the great benefits of going wit a cloud based system is that you only pay for what you use. No need to spend a lot of money buying servers and up keeping them because some day you might need the space. With cloud computing you only pay for the space you use. No need to order new servers, transfer content, etc. Starting at around $2,000 a year it is a great alternative for small and large schools alike.
The downside of course is that you are relying on another company with your data. Not a big concern with a reputable company like Rackspace. But some schools are funny about stuff like that. Also once you out source your system outside the walls of the school, having a strong Internet connection is key. As all traffic to and from the system is web traffic and not just internal network traffic. Most schools today have an Internet connection that can support this type of outsourcing of servers. Any money saved in servers the school would have bought should go to increasing the Internet bandwidth into the school.
Option 3: Use a free service
The last option is not highly recommended but if you are at a school or an individual teacher who does not have the funds to set up a proper system, using one of the many free blogging platforms on the web today is an option.
Of all the systems out there I would recommend WordPress.com. It’s clean, ad free, and a wonderful free system. Each student could create an account on WordPress.com and be up and running in minutes.
The downside to the free services is that you play by their roles. Most free services limit the amount of upload space to a blog. Again, using video and image storing services can hep this (see option 1), but as the WBP grows year after year, storage will be an issue. There is also the limitations that every free service comes with. They might not have a lot of theme choices, or allow you to use plug-ins that would personal the WBP for students. Even worse is the restrictions that some free services put on what types of media can be embedded. Every free service has limitations and before choosing one understanding what the limitations are of each system is important. There is a price to pay for free and it’s usually limitations.
In the end no matter what option you or your school decides to go with having a system is the most important part. Each of these systems allows you to either have open WBP for the world to see and comment on or to have closed systems that only your school/classmates can see. There are many benefits to having an open WBP system. Although there are some risks, I believe the opportunity for growth out ways them, and all risks are opportunities for learning. In the next section we’ll talk about why I believe a WBP system should be open.