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How can we provide free online e-portfolios for our students?

by Kelly Walsh on October 12, 2009

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Can Web 2.0 tools provide graduates with a way to create an online portfolio of work, at no cost, and help to position them for job search success?

I believe that all students who graduate with degrees in Digital Media or related disciplines should have an online representational electronic portfolio when they complete their studies. This type of tool, accessible to any potential employer, can play a critical role in the job search process. An online portfolio can also be a powerful resource for students in many other academic disciplines.

While there are many tools available in today’s marketplace that can provide this sort of functionality, some students are very pressed financially (who isn’t these days?). It would be great to be able to direct students to a free site for creating and hosting such a portfolio, that they could keep and maintain after they complete their studies.

Unfortunately, many free Web 2.0 tools are advertisement-supported, and this lends an unprofessional appearance to a portfolio of work. My goal for the next few weeks here on EmergingEdTech.com is to look into some of the ways in which today’s students can create an online portfolio of artwork and other creative expressions, at no cost, and select at least one that I think provides professional results and will support their career aspirations.

Is Google Sites the answer?
While searching the web for information about such resources, and reading many blog posts and web sites, I came across the presentation below, from a professor Helen Barrett, who is apparently quite active in pursuing the functionality I seek. Ms. Barrett’s presentation provides a thorough overview of e-portfolios, and recommends the use of Google Sites as a very good tool for creating them.

I am going to leverage the excellent work that this educator has done, and try this out as a solution.

Setting up your own Google Site
My next step is to see what it takes to set up a Google Site, and how easy it is to use to create an e-portfolio.  I quickly found this information page about Google Sites. This page includes the overview video below.

The functionality here appears to be kind of similar to that provided by various free wiki applications, but the end result isn’t burdened by advertisements. I know some Wiki sites provide advertisement-free sites to educational institutions, but Google Sites does that for everyone, and has less menuing clutter, providing students more control over the presentation of their work. I should also clarify that I am suggesting the personal tools set from Google, as opposed to their Education Apps, specifically because this provides the user complete control over their work after they move on from their alma mater.

It looks like Google Sites may be a pretty good solution. Over the course of the coming week I will set up a site and see how well it lends itself to the creation and hosting of an e-portfolio. I will also seek input from faculty and administration at my own institution, to see if they agree that this may be a good option for many of our students.

I look forward to sharing my findings here, and even more so to providing students with a solution that can help to position them for career-building success.

About 

Kelly Walsh is Chief Information Officer and a faculty member at The College of Westchester in White Plains, NY and is the founder and author of EmergingEdTech.com. As an education technology advocate, he frequently delivers presentations on a variety of related topics at schools and conferences across the U.S. Walsh is also an author, and online educator, periodically running Flipped Class Workshops online. His latest eBook, the Flipped Classroom Workshop-in-a-Book was published in September, 2013 and is available here. In his spare time Walsh also writes, records, and performs original (and cover) songs (look for "K. Walsh" on iTunes or Amazon.com or check out his original song videos on here on YouTube ).

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