Online Video E-Portfolios are Coming into Their Own
[Note: This Class Act column first appeared in the April/May issue of Streaming Media magazine under the title "E-Portfolio Rising."]
For decades, people in certain professions were required to maintain a portfolio of their work in order to gain admission to school, get a job, or land a client. Students and professionals in the fine arts, design, or photography lugged around bound paper portfolios. Film and video makers shopped around “reels” of their work on videotape or DVD, while writers were expected to produce samples of their writing.
It’s simple to enclose some extra pages or a DVD with a paper resume, but admissions departments and employers are increasingly requiring online submissions. At first blush, it does not seem complex to submit a video or image file. Still, not many online HR or admissions systems accept large media files. Applicants then have to make their portfolio items web accessible or send a physical copy separately and hope it gets into the right hands.
Significantly, the world of digital and online media is not limited to professional producers. Audio, video, and interactive arts are becoming components in a variety of school curricula, and job seekers in professions far afield from the art or entertainment industries are setting themselves apart by using podcasts, video resumes, and other multimedia work that shows off their skills and accomplishments in ways that a typical resume and cover letter only hint at.
Schools have been responding to this by offering their students the ability to create what are called e-portfolios. The idea has been around as long as the web itself. The e-portfolio first gained traction at education colleges, especially in programs graduating teachers destined for K–12 schools. These employers want to see evidence of a graduate’s teaching ability. In e-portfolio jargon, this evidence comes in the form of “artifacts,” which can be things such as sample lesson plans, original teaching materials, and, most importantly, video samples of the candidate in action, teaching in a real classroom.
Especially in the past decade, the e-portfolio has spread across the education universe to elementary and high schools, as well as to college majors in a variety of disciplines. This mirrors a larger trend of students demonstrating their learning by creating more than just papers. It also reflects a growing expectation that today’s generation of graduates be able to show examples of their work and achievement, not just tell about it.
Just as the humble personal homepage has been replaced by blogs and “Tumblrs” filled with pictures, videos, links, and graphics, a static webpage with links to a few artifacts is no longer sufficient. A well-designed e-portfolio system is more like a repository where students can store their creations and then share them with teachers and their peers, not just admissions officers and employers. Students need to be able to dynamically generate different portfolios for different audiences, restricting access as appropriate.
As video takes a larger role in education, it becomes a bigger part of a student’s e-portfolio too. But as we streaming media professionals know, managing hundreds of large video files poses greater challenges than posting PDFs and images. Schools with established e-portfolio systems are confronted with adapting their systems to handle video intelligently. Institutions just beginning with e-portfolios should make video a primary requirement right from the start.
Potential employers have the same expectations as other online video viewers. A link to download a video file no longer cuts the mustard. Employers don’t want to wonder if they have the right player or have selected the appropriate bandwidth. They expect a customized player in the browser that just works, adapting to bandwidth conditions, and delivering the best resolution possible.
E-portfolios still may be optional, but soon enough, they’ll be de rigueur. The schools that provide this seamless, video-rich e-portfolio experience will be giving their students a leg up in advancing to colleges and the job market.