Employability ePortfolios for Adults in Transition
By Don Presant
There’s more to online resumes than LinkedIn. Based on his experience at Career Portfolio Manitoba, Don Presant discusses the various options available for your clients wishing to take their career development online.
The Internet has had a big impact on career development and employment. In your work, you are probably starting to answer a lot of questions about the advisability and best practices for using ePortfolios, or similar solutions under different labels: online resumes, web CVs, personal career websites, video resumes, LinkedIn profiles, etc. This article, based on our experience with Career Portfolio Manitoba, should provide you with a useful framework for considering the available alternatives.
ePortfolio: shop window or workshop?
Your clients and colleagues may have different ideas of what an ePortfolio is, so it’s good to get everyone on the same page. There are three different models for conceptualizing the purpose of an ePortfolio.
First, you can use it as a “shop window”, a targeted communication tool which contains assertions of knowledge, skills and ability, backed by authentic evidence. Targeted purposes may include the recognition of prior learning (for instance, for admission to education programs) or improving a job candidate’s employability.
However, the ePortfolio can also be used as a private workshop for deep learning. This “learning” ePortfolio is based on reflection, and its creation is akin to doing a “workshop” in private, where the individual makes connections between learning experiences, whether formal or not. Deep learning can also apply to pre-employment training programs or, even after hiring, as an employee development tool.
In the third model, the ePortfolio can be used for both display (shop window) and learning (workshop). The shop window is just the tip of the iceberg, hiding such things as:
- A virtual storeroom for stuff that may be showcased later
- Personal reflections about your experiences
- Learning goals and personal development plans
- Continuing professional development
- Performance support tools, such as guides, checklists and answers to interview questions
The more learners think of their ePortfolios as “lifelong learning companions,” the more they will get out of them.
More than a scanned binder: advantages of the “e” in ePortfolio
The ePortfolio shares a lot of characteristics with its predecessor, the paper portfolio, but it can be a much more effective communication tool. For one thing, they are easier to share and improve: different versions can be viewed by many people at once, enabling jobseekers to target their ePortfolio to every organization they apply to. Also, advisors can comment and make suggestions privately. ePortfolios can also embed multimedia evidence, link within themselves and to other sites, and help build a positive, purposeful online digital identity.
Make your own!
In determining your approach to your own ePortfolio, you need to find your own comfortable mix of cost and control. Since users normally register themselves for these services, your role as a career advisor may be limited to suggesting the best platform for them to use. There are many free web applications out there, including Google Apps, Evernote, Weebly, Pathbrite and YouTube (for video resumes). Some people maintain that LinkedIn is all you need for an ePortfolio; our strategy is to show users how to embed their LinkedIn profiles in their larger ePortfolios.
There are also many available applications for purpose-built ePortfolios, including proprietary systems (Digication, PebblePad, eFolio, iWebfolio, Taskstream, LiveText, Chalk & Wire, etc.) and open source systems (Mahara, ELGG, ePEARL, etc.). Content management systems (CMS), such as WordPress or Drupal, can often replicate many of the features of a purpose-built system.
It is possible to combine some of these tools to build a personalized platform. For instance, Career Portfolio Manitoba shows its learners how to embed LinkedIn profiles, Google Apps, YouTube videos, images from Flickr and other content into their online ePortfolio (purpose-built with the open source Mahara platform). You should be able to do this with most CMS and free website applications, depending on their configuration.
Perhaps you’re considering implementing your own ePortfolio program, or at least planning to create a list of dos and don’ts for your clients. I hope this article has helped. Although it’s in the technology section, you can see there’s more to it than that!
Don Presant is President of Learning Agents (learningagents.ca), founded in 2000, which provides consulting, hosting, training, and support services for ePortfolios and eLearning. Learning Agents has a knack for working with smaller institutions and organizations on effective and sustainable pre-employment, career development and workplace training solutions. Don’s own ePortfolio may be found at bit.ly/DonPresant_ePortfolio
About Career Portfolio Manitoba
Career Portfolio Manitoba (careerportfolio.mb.ca) is an ePortfolio solution funded by Workplace Education Manitoba and WPLAR. It is designed to meet the employability needs of adults in transition using an essential skills framework. We help our clients build authentic, employer-friendly portraits of their transferable knowledge, skills and attitudes built through their lifetime experience, backed by multimedia evidence.