Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Diplomas Don't Prepare Students for the World. ePortfolios Do.

I recently spoke to a frustrated young man who at 25 years old was graduating college in May with a degree in advertising and marketing but he was having a difficult time finding a job.  As we spoke a little longer, he shared the degree wasn't enough. Without experience, doors were being slammed in his face.  I was shocked.  He was pursuing a career in a field designed to market, advertise, showcase, yet no time or energy had been placed by the school in helping this student do the same for himself.  A true example of the College Myth that leaves so many young graduates disappointed.  Years and money down the toilet all in turn for a piece of paper heralded as preparation for life, but it is no longer enough!

School can not be a series of disconnected and inauthentic activities.  To prepare students for real life we must provide them with real experiences as well as a "real" method for capturing, advertising, and marketing their successes.  This does not mean purchasing some costly ePortfolio system. Instead it means giving every student a "real world" option for collecting the work they've done that will help them as they pursue academic, apprenticeship, and career opportunities like they do at College Unbound. By real I mean, the student, not the school, owns the portfolio.  No one does this better than Helen Barrett and while I've shared and applauded her work frequently, I was excited to learn that she had done the same with mine at a recent conference.  Below is a presentation that captures her recommendations for creating ePortfolios using Google Apps.  You can find out more at her blog, ePortfolios for Learning. 


  1. E portfolios can also be used by even the youngest of students. An art lecturer mentioned a case of teachers taking pictures/scanning student artwork and developing an image bank of stories/resources for students to use at a later date. Totally pinching that idea.

  2. Thanks Lisa and Helen.
    I've been pushing eportfolios for my students but no one else in my department has embraced them until recently. We have them choose to make one in blogger and now more recently in Google Sites on top of maintaining their own blog. Check out our sites when you have a chance and let me know if you have any questions:
    Class blog:
    Class site:
    Google Site ePortfolio:

    We even created a Site template for students to use:

  3. Portfolios tell far more about a student's abilities then any test or grading system. They are a great way for students to learn more about themselves. Portfolios are recommend for every member of Discovery Portal Active Learning Community. Keep promoting these tools, Lisa.

  4. Three comments:

    First, the digital portfolio is essential for anyone going into communications. Students should check to see that their instructors have a digital presence (preferably a website rather than a blog and ideally a mature site, not an 8-page ad). In my locality, the communications instructors themselves are not findable on the web. It's no surprise that I can't find employees with skills to do digital projects when the teachers are clueless.

    Two, the fact that you're shocked that a student with a degree can't find a job without experience suggests you have no idea what the job market requires these days. I've been hiring for a part-time job that requires clerical skills. People are applying who have one or two masters' degrees; I've had PhDs and JDs apply. You can read about why I didn't hire those people:

    Three, a digital portfolio is limited value unless the job-seeker can get to the right people. HR folks don't have time or expertise to evalate a digital portfolio. If students are not making contacts and networking, they will have little chance of getting anyone to look at their portfolio.

  5. I used to like Helen Barrat, but after receiving a rude email after I requested some info, she's off my short list. My school doesn't have Google Apps and has no plans to have Google Apps. I had to find a creative way to get around this. So over the summer, I set up eighty student google accounts. Sure, it might not be as convenient or controlled as sites built on google apps, but it hits your last point well - the students truly own the content. It will never be deleted by the school because they own their own accounts. And that is very important to me.

  6. I began using e-portfolios last year for my engineering and architecture classes. It was very simple to have the students save their CAD files as a jpeg and input them into a simple power point presentation. I would like to enhance this e-portfolio project. I see some posts above about google? Is this any easy site to navigate around to creat a portfolio? Any suggesitons

  7. I love the idea of using portfolios - in whatever capacity. For me, it is difficult to focus time on these when my administrators will be evaluating me based on test scores...not portfolio production. In fact, 50% of my teacher evlaution is based on student test scores.