Not long ago, e-portfolios were seen as tools for established professionals trying to climb the career ladder.
But the tides seem to be changing.
E-Portfolios are now a big topic in curriculum redesign, with a forum at the Association of American Colleges and Universities’ most recent meeting and a global session at the Sloan Consortium International Conference on Online learning (led by presenter Gail Matthews-DeNatale, PhD, of the Northeastern University College of Professional Studies’ Graduate School of Education) focusing on the topic.
Northeastern University College of Professional Studies is incorporating e-portfolios into its curriculum in several degree programs. For example, the Master of Education program has an e-portfolio requirement: Students must submit a work sample and a learning reflection for each course they complete. In the Master of Science in Leadership program, students design personal portfolios of projects that demonstrate their leadership strengths and accomplishments. And in the Digital Media master’s program, students finish the class with a wide variety of take-aways for a portfolio, including video clips, photography, interactive games, and more.
So why are these digital collections now a central focus in academia? Here’s three reasons why.
1. Digital Literacy is a Professional “Must-Have” Today
“Graduate students in all disciplines need to learn how to present and promote their work digitally,” she says. “For example, it’s not enough anymore for a screenwriter to come out of school with copies of their scripts. They need to demonstrate visual and digital literacy; they need to show that they’re more than writers—that they’re content developers, too.”
2. E-Portfolios Showcase Diversity in Assignments (and Aptitude)
The e-portfolio model allows for the depth and breadth required of today’s professionals. The students in Eagan-Donovan’s “Foundations of Digital Storytelling” course finish the class with two very different e-portfolio-ready projects: an animatic they’ve customized with dialogue, graphic, and audio elements, and a narrative-driven, interactive game they’ve designed as a part of a team. (See some examples of student work.)
The great part about an e-portfolio is that these types of work, and so much more, can be readily displayed to potential employers with just a few clicks.
3. Building an E-Portfolio Builds New Skills in the Process
Students also tend to find that developing an e-portfolio presents valuable learning opportunities in project management, teamwork, and communication.
“Courses that integrate e-portfolio work do more than provide students with evidence of the academic territory they’ve covered,” says Carl Zangerl, PhD, academic director in the Corporate and Organizational Communication graduate program. “They’re also preparing students to think about and package their skills in a manner that’s well-suited to a future job search.”
Have you created an e-portfolio during your graduate coursework? If so, how did the process of building it fit into the curriculum? How well do you feel your e-portfolio captures the sum total of your academic experience?