E-Portfolio: Can It Make the Difference?

Posted by Matt Berringer on January 31, 2012

An e-portfolio, also known as Electronic Portfolio, is a collection of electronic artifacts that collectively represent the works of an individual. Perhaps the most common use of e-portfolios is to keep track of students’ work. Many public schools and universities actively use e-portfolios to track and record a student’s progress.

But can an e-portfolio offer more? Can an e-portfolio make a difference beyond student use?

In a word, yes. As a professor, I required my graduate level students to create an electronic portfolio but not just for tracking academics. I asked my students to create and maintain e-portfolios beyond graduation for employment reasons.

We have all heard the phrase, a picture is worth a thousand words. Well what about a video, an audio recording, a multimedia slide show? What are these artifacts worth?

In an e-portfolio, they are worth quite a bit. An e-portfolio can make the difference between interviewing for a job and actually being offered a job.

I have discussed e-portfolios with various superintendents, principals, and other administrators over the last few years. In short, these individuals have told me that it would be refreshing to interview individuals that maintain e-portfolios. I have been told that individuals with e-portfolios would set themselves apart from other applicants. A few of them shared stories in which an e-portfolio was a major reason for offering an applicant a position.

I have also had a few former students share their success stories of securing jobs in part because of their e-portfolios.

Where do you begin?
Start with your alma mater. Many universities offer life long e-portfolio hosting for current and former students. If this is not an option, go to the Internet and search for e-portfolio hosting. I don’t have a particular hosting site to recommend. I would suggest going through the different examples (templates) offered to see if they are to your liking. Keep in mind that hosting should not be an expensive option. In fact, it should be close to five dollars a month.

What do you put into an e-portfolio?
You can store various types of artifacts in your e-portfolio: videos, audio, documents, slide shows, photos etc. Keep in mind that you want to maintain an e-portfolio that best represents you, your accomplishments, and your professional beliefs. Remember that this tool is intended to help market yourself to a potential employer. Ensure that each artifact is of high quality. Sketchy documents, photos, or videos will work against you.

If you are going to include videos, make sure that they are short in length and significant. As an example, you may not want to include a one hour conference presentation that you conducted but you might want to incorporate a short clip to show that you are comfortable presenting in a group setting. It also shows that you have the knowledge and skills to lead a discussion.

If you are going to include documents, convert them to PDFs so that they cannot be altered.

How will you know if your e-portfolio is ready?
Be sure to ask friends to view your e-portfolio before you start using it during job searches. Ask them for a direct and honest response. Ask your friends if they find your e-portfolio interesting. Ask your friends for suggestions. Also make sure that all of you look for typographical and grammatical errors. Be sure that you and your friends test the link to your e-portfolio and every link within your e-portfolio several times to ensure that all is well.

What does an e-portfolio say about you?
There are so many positive things that an e-portfolio can say about you. First of all, an e-portfolio can add so much depth to who you are. This is because an e-portfolio typically includes thoughts, beliefs, and ideas not covered during an interview.

Second, most applicants don’t use portfolios, so your e-portfolio will set you apart from the other applicants.

Your portfolio also tells others that you are technology savvy and creative. Believe me, these are characteristics that are highly sought in many positions.

If you include photos of you working with others, it tells others that you are a team player. And of course, if everyone in the photo is smiling then it shows others that you work well in teams.

How far back in your career do you go?
I think it is fair to include artifacts from early in your career. I remember reading a portfolio of an individual that included a short but powerful story that explained her professional beliefs. I would suggest that if the artifact represents you well, include it.

How do you share your e-portfolio to a potential employer?
A strategy I recommend is to mention your e-portfolio as you close your interview. This approach will give the interview committee something to look forward to. Within an hour after the interview, e-mail the link to your e-portfolio to the individual heading the committee or the entire committee if you can.

A second strategy is for you to download your e-portfolio to CD and leave it with the committee to view. The only problem with this strategy is that a single CD has to be passed around from committee member to committee member and this may not occur.

So for those of you currently searching for a new position, consider an e-portfolio. Keep me posted on your successes. Best of luck.

Topics: technology, P-20, K-12