Although the use of portfolios for job searches and even matriculation is not entirely new, the concept of an e-portfolio, or electronic portfolio, is novel. An e-portfolio takes a regular tangible portfolio, generally containing samples of a person’s academic performance and basic work skills, and saves them to a digital repository. The digital nature of the e-portfolio allows for a more detailed and intimate representation of a person’s activities, including video and audio clips and lengthier writings that would crowd a standard portfolio. In addition to showing technological adeptness, the e-portfolio can be accessed by multiple schools or interviewers at the same time, facilitating the circulation of one’s work.
The Career Center does not advise that under-graduates use e-portfolios, because at this time there are only a handful of college admissions that recommend or even consider them. They are more suited to post-graduate work, such as job hunts or grad school applications. The Career Center also advises that certain majors—namely English, art, and journalism—that are more compatible with the benefits of an e-portfolio. Because these specific studies are best represented through abundant examples of work, the digital version condenses and simplifies the portfolio.
Lawrence does not currently require that graduates compose an e-portfolio for post-grad preparation, nor is it truly being considered, but this does not mean that Lawrence rejects the practice. Rather, e-portfolios are still so new that they are not yet a concern. They are still being defined, and programs are still being modified to create them. However, Lawrence is discussing a digital collection of outside-class activities called a “co-curricular record” that would be added to the traditional transcript.
Kathy Heizen of the Lawrence Career Center is somewhat hesitant about e-portfolios. She emphasizes that many colleges and other establishments, while not prohibiting the use of e-portfolios, would appreciate having the hard copy as well. Because e-portfolios are extremely new and rare, their slow incorporation, coupled with the hard copy, is most advantageous to an admissions officer or adviser who is perhaps unfamiliar with them.
“Although they are technologically advanced, e-portfolios are not necessarily more impressive,” Heizen says. She warns against letting the digital aspect carry the weight of the portfolio, leaving the resume with highly sensual yet shallow content.
Although the resume may be of good quality, the technological aspect may overshadow the content. Helen C. Barrett, Ph.D. of the University of Alaska, Anchorage, who has been studying e-portfolios since the early nineties, warns, “without standards as the organizing basis for a portfolio, the collection becomes just that… a collection, haphazard and without structure; the purpose is lost in the noise, glitz and hype.