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Professional Electronic Portfolio

(Worth 20% of your grade; due on May 3)


Ten years ago, having a personal website made you stand out as someone on the cutting edge of technology. Today, a personal website is de rigueur for job seekers, especially in academia. As you completed the Online Identity Analysis project, you looked at several personal websites and probably began to develop a sense of what makes for an effective electronic portfolio. You may have even required your students to create eportfolios to archive their best academic work. For this assignment, you will develop (or redevelop) a professional electronic portfolio designed to help you achieve your next significant career goal. For some of you, this portfolio will become the first draft of your academic “job market” website; for others, it may be targeted toward admissions committees at PhD programs or potential employers. Your portfolio should be tailored specifically for your intended audience(s) and should serve as your professional calling card on the web.

Completing the Assignment

Each of your portfolios will be unique, but generally speaking, we will follow these steps:

1. Assess your current online identity. Using the skills you developed during the Online Identity Analysis project, objectively evaluate your own online presence. In a short (no more than two pages) memo to me, you should describe the choices you have made in constructing your online identity, catalog the public components of your digital self, and consider how others might interpret your online identity. This memo will inform your plan of action, another short document (roughly one page) in which you will outline the specific steps you intend to take as you complete this project.

2. Select a platform and determine hosting options. In class, our technology workshops will focus on WordPress, with a bit of HTML and CSS thrown in along the way. You can use a free version of WordPress that powers the Blogs@VT site, the “freemium” version of WordPress at WordPress.com, or your own installation of WordPress on a domain name of your choice. (We will discuss all of these options in class, and the Resources page has links to several helpful sites.) If you choose to use another platform for your portfolio (e.g., Drupal, Joomla, hand-coded HTML and CSS), that’s great, but I won’t be able to dedicate much class time to discussing the differences between the various platforms.

3. Collect, revise, and format artifacts. Your portfolio should showcase your best work from your academic studies, your professional endeavors, and your relevant extracurricular projects. There is no minimum number of required artifacts for this project, but a typical portfolio will include these basic elements:

  • An introductory page that welcomes visitors and explains the purpose, organization, design, etc., of your site
  • A biography
  • A résumé or c.v.
  • A contact page

Depending on your audience, you may want to include some or all of the following elements, too:

  • An overview of your academic research interests
  • A statement of teaching philosophy
  • Sample syllabi and/or assignment descriptions
  • Teaching evaluations
  • Copies of (or links to) published work
  • Samples of papers written for graduate classes
  • Multimodal projects (e.g., videos, podcasts, brochures, flyers)
  • Blog entries

In order to include your best work on your site, you may need to make PDF versions of your essays, take screenshots of your online work, photograph and/or scan artwork, digitize video, etc. If you encounter technical challenges along the way, please bring them up in class so we can share solutions with one another.

4. Customize the visual appearance of your site. Given the time frame for this assignment, I don’t expect you to hand-code a complete website from scratch. Rather, you should select a WordPress theme and customize it for your site. Using images and very basic CSS (cascading style sheets), you should modify your site to create a unique visual appearance that matches your goals for the portfolio. My assumption is that all of you are starting with no previous web design experience, so we will work together to learn enough HTML and CSS to help you complete this project.

5. Integrate social media into your site. This step is not required, but if you intend to use Twitter, Google+, Delicious, or some other social media site after the semester ends, I recommend integrating your social media streams into your website. We will work with various WordPress plugins to accomplish this task.

6. Iterate, iterate, iterate. It takes a lot of time and effort to build an effective website, so you should expect to try lots of things, abandon those that don’t work, and relentlessly refine those that do. We will dedicate several in-class workshops to this process, but I strongly recommend finding classmates whose schedules allow you to work together outside of class. Having a second (or third) set of eyes to help you identify technical problems or just offer feedback on your work will be an invaluable asset as you revise (and revise, and revise) your portfolio.

7. Assess your new online identity. At the conclusion of this project, you will conduct another self-assessment of your online identity, this time focusing on the ways in which your online presence has changed over the course of the semester. You may also want to address the ways in which your site might evolve in the future. Like the initial assessment, this document should take the form of a two-page memo to me.

Project Milestones

  • March 6: Assessment of your current professional online identity
  • March 20: Plan of action for Professional Electronic Portfolio
  • April 3: Early draft of Profesional Electronic Portfolio
  • April 17: Complete (rough) draft of Professional Electronic Portfolio
  • May 3: Final draft of Professional Electronic Portfolio

Evaluation Criteria

I will evaluate your portfolio using the following criteria:

  • Is the intended audience for this portfolio clear?
  • Does the portfolio contain a variety of artifacts? Does the site include helpful analysis of each artifact?
  • Does the portfolio “situate” the artifacts within a larger context (e.g., your academic career)?
  • How easy is it to navigate the website? Would first-time visitors to the site be able to find the information they are looking for?
  • Does the portfolio effectively incorporate visual elements? Does the site employ best practices in design, color, and typography?
  • How thoroughly has the original theme been customized for this particular portfolio?
  • Have all milestone assignments been submitted complete and on time?
  • Do the pre- and post-assessments of your online identity contain genuine analysis and reflection?