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E-Portfolios Showcase Student Work

Another “arrow in the quiver” in job hunt

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Although the economy continues to show signs of improvement, a recent study by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce found that 8.9 percent of recent college graduates are unemployed. Given that statistic, students are looking for anything that will help set them apart from other job applicants. One self-marketing and educational tool, called an e-Portfolio, could help with that job hunt.

An e-Portfolio is a digital storehouse that displays work on a user-friendly internet-based platform. What it houses can range from videos and pictures to text and artwork, and it allows viewers to comment on postings.

Working with a company called Digication, Boston University launched its own e-Portfolio site in 2008. The project, titled Making Learning Visible, has become a popular tool: in less than four years, 10,000 graduate and undergraduate students have created free e-Portfolios to showcase their academic and extracurricular work. And 500 faculty members have used them to post syllabi, lesson plans, and biographies. Some even use them for tenure preparation.

That’s an impressive record, considering that schools like Georgetown, Stanford, and the University of Pennsylvania have yet to achieve similar success in their decade-old pilot programs, according to e-Portfolio project director Evangeline Harris Stefanakis, a School of Education associate professor and a faculty fellow with the provost’s office. She compares notes with these schools to determine e-Portfolio’s worth as an assessment tool for students and professors.

Stefanakis credits President Robert A. Brown and the provost’s office for the program’s success here, adding that the assistance of doctoral students who prepared e-Portfolio how-to videos and trained fellow students on the program was another factor.

BU students are digital natives who understand the technology instinctively, says Stefanakis. Their e-Portfolios provide “a window into the learner’s mind and diverse abilities.” Students are able to show off their “multiple intelligences,” she says, as scholars, artists, athletes, and diplomats.

“You see the footprints of what students are doing. It really makes BU look good.”

BU’s e-Portfolio program began with a pilot project involving approximately 150 BU Academy students in 2008. Students from the College of General Studies and SED soon joined them. College of Arts & Sciences students were introduced the following year. Today, students representing nearly every college and school are registered in the program.

Having an e-Portfolio allows students to document their academic progress and build an archive of their achievements. Some credit it with helping them snag a job in a tough market.

Colby Young (SED’08,’13) was studying for a master’s degree when he created his e-Portfolio, and he used it as “another arrow in the quiver” in applying for jobs. Every email he sent out seeking a job included a link to his account, where he posted four videos explaining his teaching philosophy and sample lessons. This way, he says, he was able to “get a little bit of an interview without getting an interview.” The Framingham, Mass., school system hired him before graduation.

As a high school history teacher, Young now has his students create their own e-Portfolios. He has a separate professional site, Learn-or-die.com, with 40,000 hits already, on which he hopes to publish his doctoral research. And he trains BU students how to use the system in his spare time.

“E-Portfolio helps me reflect on exactly what I’m doing as a teacher and a learner,” Young says.

Doctoral candidate Vicki Haddix (SED’14) says she included a link to her e-Portfolio in résumés. Her site includes instructional videos she prepared as a teaching tool in her work with children. Although she can’t be sure her e-Portfolio clinched the deal, she quickly got a job as a speech pathologist in the Boston public schools.

“It’s just one of those things in your toolbox,” Haddix says. “You can point to Facebook, but it’s not the presence you want to showcase to people. It’s nice to have a professional presence on the web.”

To open a free e-Portfolio, visit BU’s Digication site and log in with a Kerberos password. The site provides a “Quick Start Guide” for beginners. Contact Colby Young for a one-on-one tutorial.

1 Comments
Leslie Friday, BU Today, Boston University
Leslie Friday

Leslie Friday can be reached at lfriday@bu.edu; follow her on Twitter at @lesliefriday.

One Comment on E-Portfolios Showcase Student Work

  • dianne brown on 01.31.2012 at 5:23 pm

    As with all documents, potential interviewees need to know punctuation, capitalization, and basic grammar rules. The portfolio I viewed spelled America with a lower case “a” throughout the document. Always have someone else READ your document before you send it or post it!

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