On a flight from Boston to Seattle a couple years ago, I was sitting next to a young man who told me that he was in his final semester in computer engineering at M.I.T. and he was going for his first interview at a big company, which he was pretty excited about. We had some conversation about current trends for new graduates in today’s job market in general. His feeling was that, although your school’s name and/or your degree letters might help get you the initial interview, what matters much more is what projects you have outlined in your online portfolio.
Certainly, when you apply for any position, you want the process of locating and viewing your information to be easy and flawless, so how you present your projects and tell your story is really important. This week, in my free time, I helped a UAF undergraduate friend set up his online portfolio in order to apply for a prestigious internship. It occurred to me that creating a professional online portfolio is something faculty mentors are suggesting that their students figure out how to do but may not necessarily know where to start themselves when advising. This week’s Teaching Tip will make some suggestions along those lines
The professional online portfolio need not only be for students nearing the workforce and building identity but could also be used as a crucial mechanism for attracting students to your department as well. On a basic level, it is a website that is hosted on a server and you may or may not have a custom URL associated with it.
The site at a minimum should contain:
- CV or resume (full web page with downloadable printable PDF)
- Contact information (can be located in the footer area)
- Projects, samples or interest pages — full pages with details: how/why they became involved, who were collaborators, the outcome, links to more information–i.e. tell the story.
It may be valuable to include other sections such as publications, philosophy, code samples, social media links, etc.
There are many easy to use and inexpensive website frameworks with hosting available. The following examples also offer free options:
- Weebly — easy to use, must register domain elsewhere
- Wix — easy to use, offers domain registration
- IM Creator — free for students with no ads, simple
- WordPress.com — small learning curve, many templates, can register domains also
- Google Sites — easy to use, less modern looking, register domains elsewhere
If you are setting up a web site for your own portfolio as faculty or your department or would like to host a class, UAF eCampus offers free WordPress hosting for you on community.uaf.edu. If you would like to obtain a site, contact any instructional designer.
Not My Discipline
Perhaps your discipline is not project-based? Your students will still likely be writing a thesis or will have had experiences such as practicum or internship that they could talk about to elucidate their specific interest and experience. Your discipline does not have pretty pictures that might be interesting? Instruct your students to construct short screencasts of their favorite components of their area of study to share how something works. Think about how you can encourage students to tell the story–why they get excited about a topic, how it relates to life in the bigger picture, why is it important?
How is this different than an e-Portfolio?
The “e-Portfolio’ is often institutionalized as a method for students to collect and display their work through the course of their educational experience. While this can be valuable, it is often done using proprietary and private software and is not necessarily something that the student can take with them and it has not been created for the purpose of starting or furthering their career post-university. While collecting and documenting the learning process is helpful for creating your public professional portfolio later, it is this further step of filtering and refining interests that will make a difference when entering the workforce. Post-graduation career success is important for most departments to bring in new students, so it makes sense to encourage and help students to start working on their professional portfolio as soon as they are ready.
Getting Started Resources
WordPress at Community@UAF
We periodically offer training opportunities for faculty on using WordPress and Google Sites as well as Open Lab times for course development support. Check out our schedule at: https://iteachu.uaf.edu/events/
More tutorials available here: https://hc.weebly.com/hc/en-us
More tutorials available here: https://en.support.wordpress.com/
More tutorials available here: https://support.google.com/sites/?hl=en#topic=7020201
Examples of Student Professional Portfolios
- Max Wyatt : https://mattwyatt.org/
- Erik Roby — Mechanical Engineer: https://erikroby.com/
- Abigail R. Gautreau — Historian: https://thepastpresently.org/
- Kathryn Slover — Public Historian: https://kathrynslo.wixsite.com/portfolio
- Karli Alm — Education: https://karlisedportfolio.weebly.com/
- Irene Welch — Counselling: https://irenewelch.wordpress.com/
Additional Resources for Your Students
- Cengage tips for students’ professional portfolios https://blog.cengage.com/top_blog/tips-for-students-polishing-your-professional-portfolio/
- The importance of having a portfolio
- Perfecting your portfolio
- Guidelines for establishing a professional portfolio