Who Needs A Web Portfolio?

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Everyone who is active in the information society, especially those who need to find work for hire, should have a working Web portfolio. Web portfolios are for everyone, and, in the future, everyone will want or need one. Regardless of skill set and specialty, the Web portfolio will come to contribute to defining a person’s public and professional appearance. This appearance will be directly involved in communication and commerce. The Web portfolio will be a conduit and persuasion tool for getting work for hire and therefore will be common among knowledge workers and businesses of all types. An individual or business that needs to present experience level, skill set, accomplishments, project aptitude, and technology expertise needs a Web portfolio. A Web portfolio is a Web site, true, but it is also a targeted marketing project. This gives the project a different scope and goals. The Web portfolio is a marketing site that promotes an individual or business to potential and existing clients, and the rest of the wired world.

For an individual, the personal Web portfolio provides a personal marketing tool to help secure a job, promotion, chronicle achievements, disseminate information, or to assist in gaining freelance work. A personal Web portfolio may include a variety of content specifically based on the background and goals of the person. More support on the development of personal Web portfolios comes from Kimball (2003), who titles his definition of the personal Web portfolio the “professional marketing Web portfolio”. Kimball (2003) suggests that within the job market, Web portfolios can do at least three things which include “demonstrating to employers that you have the qualities and skills they want”, demonstrating that you have “technical skills that will be useful” (pp.152-153), and he adds the Web portfolio “emphasizes your communication skills”. He adds: after all, the Web is primarily a communication medium — and many employers cite communication skills as one of the most sought after qualities in a new employee” (p. 153).

Finally, Kimball considers the fact that there are no predefined standards for professional marketing Web portfolio, he concludes that the author should “use all your professional skills and instincts to speculate on what qualities and materials of professional audience might like to see in a Web portfolio, then build a Web portfolio that fits those expectations. (Kimball, 2003, p.153) Professionals in any field can have a Web portfolio. However, it is quite important for educators to have Web portfolios.

Web portfolios are so important that state university systems and school districts across the world are researching, developing, and teaching Web portfolio courses. Web portfolios have become viable assessment tools in elementary and higher education administration (Kilbane & Milman, 2003). Academia has been investigating and massaging Web portfolios for the past decade or so. Limited research along with a number of successful, semi successful, and unsuccessful programs and initiatives have been part of the Web portfolios history.

Defining the Electronic Portfolio and the Web Portfolio

I will provide my synthesized definition of the electronic portfolio and Web portfolio initially to provide a background for the rest of this text. My definition is specific to meeting the needs of all disciplines, even those that sit outside the academic realm. In addition, the definition I provide is consistent with my thoughts on the future of the Web portfolio within society and more importantly, how electronic portfolios will fit within the information society of the future.

This definition is based on field experience and meta analysis of past and current trends in electronic portfolio development. Literature review will provide additional definitions that establish a framework for electronic portfolios. You will find a multitude of variations on how an electronic and Web portfolio is defined, most of which has content as a central piece of the definition. To define the Web portfolio, we must first define the e-portfolio, also known as the electronic portfolio. The electronic portfolio is a collection of artifacts, project samples, cases, and focused content presenting the messages and professional and public appearance of an individual or a company through electronic media (Web, DVD, CD-ROM). The e-portfolio provides evidence of skills, experience, and learning. I define the Web portfolio as: an electronic portfolio that is an Internet delivered, interactive, mass communication used to persuade users.

The Web is the container for displaying work of all types. Much like the artist’s vinyl portfolio web design tutorial is used to display paintings and drawings, the Web portfolio shows off work in any discipline. The Web portfolio carries messages from the company or individual to the cyber public and natural public. When Web portfolios are created they are promoted by the creator, either company or individual, by all the common methods of advertising and market- ing, the most basic being word of mouth. Web portfolios get seen in most cases because people are told to go to them on the Internet.

A Web portfolio address atop a resume or a corporate letterhead invites the reader the further their investment in communicating with the sender. When the reader visits, he or she will be exposed to messages and appearance. The messages are focused on a favorable reaction. Favorable reaction might be a job, a purchase order, a gallery venue commitment, or simply a compliment on a site well done. The Web portfolio is a multimedia vehicle that allows a company or individual to show their work without spatial and geographical boundaries. The goal of the Web portfolio is to seek a positive action from users, possibly resulting in work for hire.

The Web Portfolio as the Preferred Electronic Portfolio

E-portfolios are new media products and are delivered using a variety of electronic media. Current e-portfolio delivery methods are Internet, DVD, and CD-ROM. However, DVDs and CD-ROMs are not available to the world as is the Web portfolio. The delivery platform of the Web portfolio, the Internet, has the most effective potential for developing and delivering the finest portfolio experience to the most people. Being networked to through the Internet allows the Web portfolio to become a cyber appearance that helps bring people to a higher level of “digital comfort”. Digital comfort comes with knowing that you are part of the opportunities available in the digital world and information society. The Web portfolio is always ready to promote you. The Web portfolio is the most widely used new media format for electronic portfolios. This is due to cost, scalability, and reach. A Web portfolio is a collection of work that is presented in the form of a Web site. This text focuses on the Web portfolio as the preferred method for e-portfolio delivery. Variable Definitions of the Electronic Portfolio Scholarly definitions of the electronic portfolio vary from discipline to disci- pline. Taking the research methodology of using a meta-analysis of research articles and monographs, I realized when attempting to synthesize my own definitions of the electronic portfolio and the Web portfolio that a true definition would be hard to establish. Gary Greenberg, the executive director for IT teaching and research initiatives and director of the Collaboratory Project at Northwestern University provides a definition that extends beyond traditional definitions. This definition is one that I feel begins to explain the essence of what we want the electronic portfolio to become. Greenberg (2004) writes: Ideally, all work in an electronic portfolio not only is digital but also is available on the Internet. Yet even though materials may be visible on the Web, the e-portfolio is not simply a personal home page with links to examples of work. In addition, unlike a typical application program, such as word processing, an e- portfolio is a network application that provides the author with administrative functions for managing and organizing work (files) created with different applications and for controlling who can see the work and who can discuss the work (access). And unl ike a course management system, in which instructors manage assignments and materials within the framework of a specific course, e-portfolios are controlled by the author (student), who manages his or her work across multiple courses throughout an academic career. This definition presents several items for closer analysis. First, Greenberg makes a distinction that the electronic portfolio is not only digital but also available on the Internet. Development of the electronic portfolio and delivery are typically centered on using the Web. With using the Internet for delivery, electronic portfolios become less effective and more prone to failure. The next point that Greenberg makes surrounds the electronic portfolio as a not just a home page. He is correct in that statement. Any portfolio, in general terms needs to be filled with work samples and evidence of growth and learning throughout someone’s career. How can that amount of information be deliv- ered effectively in only one page? It cannot. An electronic portfolio must be a narrative that gives a perspective to the user. The perspective of the viewer is shaped by the content and structure of the Web portfolio. Greenberg continues to describe the e-portfolio as having a network function. The Web portfolio specifically is a content container that allows dynamic storage capabilities as well as obvious delivery features. The content management concept that the Web portfolio provides is going to be essential to bringing Web portfolios to everyone across jobs and disciplines. The creator of a Web portfolio will gain technical skills by acting as an administrator for his or her own Web site which will be their electronic portfolio. Finally, Greenberg affirms that the electronic portfolio is not a course management system such as Blackboard or WebCT. To add to this, the electronic portfolio allows a student to manage his or her work throughout an academic and a professional career. The use of the electronic portfolio has greater potential for adding value to someone’s professional life after he or she graduate more so than as students. The grass roots of how to create an electronic portfolio is fostered within a learning environment. Or, the skills are gained through self learning. The electronic portfolio provides opportunity for both. The electronic portfolio is a tool for lifelong learning and will be part of learning and growing throughout college and professional life. Having to gather materials and create Web pages provides the author of the electronic portfolio a learning experience that will carry over into his or her professional skill set. As network computers and the Internet become standards in every aspect of our lives, the skills and abilities needed to present creative and intellectual capital will become paramount to one’s success in a technological marketplace. Greenberg (2004) defines three types of electronic p ortfolios. The definitions of the three are based on the assumed goals of the author. He believes this arrangement can be helpful in developing content management structure in a simplified manner. The structure of each is based on when the work is organized relative to when the work is created. Greenberg believes these results in three types of e-portfolios

1.The showcase e-portfolio: organization occurs after the work has been created.
2.The structured e-portfolio: a predefined organization exists for work that is yet to be created.
3.The learning e-portfolio: organization of the work evolves as the work is created.

I find that the three types of portfolios that Greenberg defines are effective in establishing types of portfolios based on content. This point can be argued by saying that a more appropriate structure would focus the electronic portfolio specifically to the audience established by the author. The electronic portfolio must be user and audience centered. I think Greenberg’s e-portfolio types need to be looked at as fitting into an author-based definition of electronic portfolio types. Looking at author types, we look at a broader approach to classifying electronic portfolios. Specifically referring to the Web-based electronic port- folio, I feel that three types of portfolios can be defined:

1.The personal Web portfolio for students or individuals
2.The teacher Web portfolio
3.The business Web portfolio An individual owns each of these portfolio types.

Throughout the life span of the Web portfolio, the author will go through periods of development that align with the three types of electronic portfolios described by Greenberg. The process begins with learning, then structure, then showcase and then it repeats. The types of portfolios defined by Greenberg are stages of the electronic and Web portfolio process. The learning stage exists as work is created, the structure stage exists after work is created and content management and organization is needed to put information into a hierarchal and narrative form. Showcase happens after everything in the process of conceptualization, design, and development is complete. The whole process of electronic portfolio develop- ment relies on work development. The Web portfolio becomes a catalyst for creative thinking and technical skills that truly exemplifies how someone or an organization learns to structures and showcases their work.

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