From ePortfolio to interview

HR managers are turning to social media more and more as part of the recruitment process, as this infographic from GetSmarter shows. Sylvia Hammond agrees. She is an experienced HR practitioner who is currently a consulting editor for a range of online recruitment, skills development and HR portals, which grew from the skills portal started with her son, who now manages the websites as Portal Publishing. She is also doing her PhD in EBE.

Source: Personal Brand Guide 2014 by GetSmarter

PGDip Marketing and Entrepreneurship students created ePortfolios as part of their e-Marketing course (slides here and example site for students here) and were encouraged to think about themselves as an online brand. Graduation is around the corner for these students and many are navigating the job market or will embark on this mission in the near future. I chatted to Sylvia and asked if I could make this video for the class. I was a guest lecturer on the course and assisted the course convener, Steph Houslay, with the process of integrating ePortfolios in the course. Even if you were not a student on this course, you may find Sylvia’s tips useful. She shares good practical advice on how to modify your ePortfolio to get to an interview.

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When is an ePortfolio not an ePortfolio?

Interesting conversation happening with Prof Pat Thompson, Derek Moore, Simon Bailey and fellow tweeps. We’re considering how blogging and ePortfolios are similar or different. My question came as a response to Pat’s post ‘Should doctoral researchers blog’. I say yes:) I did during my PhD and for me it was a great way to network, share information about myself, observations, milestones I had achieved, etc (check it out here). When I tapped into an online community I could say ‘this is me, here’s what I’m about’ and refer people to that space. I appreciate that Pat lists the pros and the cons, getting folks to think critically before starting. I think WordPress is a great platform because it is user-friendly and there are lots of help guides and tutorials available online, such as this one.

The key questions Pat advises when one is considering setting up a blog are also very similar to those I ask early career researchers to engage in when thinking about setting up an ePortfolio. I work with a range of people in Higher Ed on blogging and ePortfolios. I’ve actually just finished a meeting with a Professor and showing him how to set up a WordPress blog so that he can share ideas with people from outside the university (NGOs, etc). He does not want to add his CV to it, just information and links to a book he wrote and from what I sense, plans on keeping the content very focused and his ideal audience is people outside of the institution and students. He also wants people to leave comments and questions, so there is this aspect of a conversation space as well.

A little while ago I read this article ‘Should graduate students create ePortfolios’ from 2011 by David Brooks. He says:

…graduate-student bloggers are speaking to a closed circle and using pseudonyms. In other words, we aren’t crafting professional, Web-based identities…

…e-portfolios include a CV, teaching philosophy statement, some videos of them teaching, student evaluations, transcripts, a biographical page, an explanation of their thesis or dissertation topic (maybe even an excerpt or two), as well as links to things like their favorite academic blogs, online articles on pedagogy, or upcoming conferences in their field.

All of the students I spoke with said their online presence was a great social-networking tool. It helped them meet people who were in their disciplines but outside their universities.

Nowadays graduate students can maintain very public blogs for networking with others, writing reflections, etc and are indeed crafting professional web-based identities, have an informative bio page and those who teach may include a teaching slant as well. Helen Barrett uses the word ‘bPortfolios’ to refer to ePortfolios created when appropriating a blogging platform. What about social media? I can use Twitter for more professionally-oriented conversations such as this and networking in a very public way and I think my tweets are evidence of my knowledge about particular topics. Are old distinctions breaking down? How do we conceptualise ePortfolio and blogging practice in a changing landscape? What does this mean for how we advise fellow staff and students?

This space is essentially my testing ground and I write to reflect on how I see boundaries blurring and how this impacts the work I am doing, advising on, etc. I invite discussion on these issues and look forward to your insights:)

Is is about purpose or platform? Is it about the kind of voice or identity one is developing? Inger Mewburn, founder/author of The Thesis Whisperer writes about forging a digital identity (useful contribution by her via LSE here). I read her blog during my PhD days and followed the #phdchat tweets and for me this digital identity also meant forging particular kinds of connections with others.

If we compare mine, Pat and Simon’s use of WordPress for example, are all blogs a blog in the same way or are mine and Pat’s more ePortfolio like? Simon also includes his publications, link to his research profile and thesis but it’s not an overt personal branding exercise. Is the distinction related to how personal or professional one gets or the way in which one blends these? Or is it about the artifacts one collects, links to, showcases etc and the broader argument one is making that these kinds of resources or reflections are meant to be evidence for something bigger? Are blogs and ePortfolios different kinds of digital dossiers for our identities? Or is a blog an artifact subsumed within an ePortfolio?

A little while back I told people the following:

While blogs are often seen as narcissistic ‘ramblings’, ePortfolios have a distinctive personal-professional dimension which also invite judgement of you by others on a professional level. However, a blogging platform such as WordPress can be appropriated to create an ePortfolio. Helen Barrett refers to this approach as the bPortfolio. Some institutions have custom ePortfolio templates for lecturers and students. UCT does not, but his is actually advantageous to us: 1) we have the freedom to choose which platform to use and how to design our templates (visual design, labels on navigation tabs, etc), and 2) should we ever move institutions, we do not lose ownership of our ePortfolios. 

And added this video (below). But I still question some of the definitions and similarities/differences that are assumed in particular claims. ePortfolios are not necessarily always closed and institutionally branded with standard templates. But in moving out of a ‘default template’ is one also moving away from a definition? In such cases, what are we moving towards when using more open and versatile platforms such as WordPress?

Developing your ePortfolio – for students

I put together this Prezi presentation and then discovered WordPress doesn’t like iframes. Luckily I found a solution via a blog post on Teaching with images. Any further advice you’d give students who are starting to develop career portfolios? I definitely agree that ePortfolios allow one a way to practice digital literacy skills – after numerous attempts and research I got this right:)

prezi code

NAPP ePortfolio resources

I did this presentation as part of the June 2012 New Academic Practitioners Programme (NAPP). I introduce staff and postgraduate students to ePortfolios so that we can develop our teaching practice and research identities. Becoming a reflective practitioner involves quite a mindshift firstly, and then secondly we have to think about how we can use the affordances of a blogging or other platform to practice the kind of reflection and evidence sharing involved in this process. ePortfolios are in and outward facing, formative and summative, a process and a product. Once we understand this dynamic we can apply it to our purposes, goals, audience, etc. Maintaining an ePortfolio can even be part of one’s professional development plan. I welcome feedback on ePortfolios and professional development as well as how various forms thereof can be used for learning and curriculum innovation with students.

See the notes section of this PowerPoint presentation for URLs of sources. Download presentation here.

Additional reading to scaffold doing critical reflection for your professional development & developing your practice:

Goulbourne, Alison. Reflection and ePortfolios.

Hegarty, B. (2011). Is reflective writing an enigma? Can preparing evidence for an
electronic portfolio develop skills for reflective practice? Ascilate Conference Proceedings.

Why are ePortfolios important?

In this video,  one of my gurus Helen Barrett explains the purpose of ePortfolios and how she sees the relationship between digital portfolios and social learning. The full EDX talk is available here. I really like her idea of self discovery through writing one’s own learning narrative. As the full-length video explains, she is often introduced as the grandmother of ePortfolios. Helen pioneered the bPortfolios approach (2009). It is described and evidence of its effectiveness is provided here.  The Seattle Pacific University won a Sloan-C Effective Practice Award for this work in 2011.

I believe that social media introduces additional dynamics which students can harness – notice the variety of sharing options at the bottom of this WordPress blog post for example. These were not around when Helen did her research, although she mentions them in her talk. I am also interested in how different disciplines harness different platforms (Wix, WordPress, Behance, Google Sites, Carbonmade, etc). I do not believe that there is a one-size-fits all model. However, what is common, are aspects of reflection of learning evidence and personal growth, showcasing skills for potential employers, professional development, nurturing digital literacies, a digital archive for life and many more. I am interested to see which aspects lecturers and students find value in based on their positioning within a discourse community and subject culture. The traditional, institutional environment influences the integration of ePortfolios as process and product and I’m keen to explore this in more detail. I smell another thesis in the works…


Embedding presentations in a blog post

This is my ‘dummy’ blog which I use to scaffold, explain and demonstrate using the WordPress blogging platform for creating ePortfolios.

Let’s look at sharing PowerPoint presentations.

I could say:

‘Download my presentation Children as ‘produsers’ from the 2013 Google Summit here.’

Alternatively, I can embed a SlideShare presentation and users can browse it on my blog or log in to SlideShare to download the presentation. Not only does this make my blog more visually interesting, but SlideShare also has analytics so I can see how many downloads, shares, likes, etc this particular upload had.