ePortfolios: A Pocket Full of Ambition
The terms electronic portfolio,
ePortfolio, and Web portfolio are increasingly being heard around universities
teaching graphics and the companies that supply them with technology. The labels
are being applied to Web-based personal portfolios, program accreditation portfolios,
and student certification portfolios, among others. Naturally, with all these
terms, some confusion has resulted about the definition of an electronic portfolio.
Pocket portfolios are just what their name implies: portfolios recorded on digital
media, that can be carried in a pocket.
Traditionally, graphic artists have submitted a text resume citing graphic
projects they have completed in school or for previous employers. They then
carry a large portfolio full of printed or original samples of their work to
interviews. But with the advent of electronic publishing and digital imaging,
another approach has become necessary. Many of the products of the "new
media" simply can't be placed in a traditional portfolio. They require
a computer for viewing. It has now become necessary to allow the interviewer
to interact with the graphics projects.
Because the new media are digital, it makes sense to produce a portfolio that
includes traditional hand-drawn images, a resume, and digital interactive multimedia.
In addition to being digital, much of the new media are in video form, which
emphasizes the fact that the new portfolio must have the ability to properly
showcase this format. If the portfolio is produced in a manner that can be displayed
on a computer screen, a true representation of the artist's work, both still
and moving, can be distributed to perspective employers.
Everything discussed so far could be handled with a Web-based portfolio. However,
Web sites are limited by the quality of images they can portray. Usually, Web
sites are constructed to limit the screen size to 800 x 600 pixelssophisticated
graphics projects normally have a much higher resolution than thistherefore,
prospective employees still need to carry prints of projects to interviews.
Web portfolios also pose problems with long-term storage. The Web site must
be stored on a server that will maintain the site for extended time. Universities,
at this point, loathe the thought of providing this service for graduates. The
storage capacity for large numbers of graduates in graphics is staggering. This
raises a slew of management questions for administrators: How long should graduate
Web sites be maintained? Would graduates have access after a preset time if
they pay a hosting fee? What about security of the data? Would students have
access to update their sites? Because the university is hosting the site, is
it responsible for certifying the quality of the student's work, even after
Pocket Portfolio Process
Most of these problems were eliminated with a process adopted by the Technical
Graphics faculty at Southeast Missouri State University. The pocket portfolio
was chosen in 2000 as the format of choice for graduates of the Technical Graphics
The process of building this portfolio begins during the students'
very first graphics class at the university. Students are assigned projects
that can eventually be included in their pocket portfolio. These projects are
created with Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Chief Architect, and AutoCAD,
and range from notepads and tri-fold brochures to CD covers. Many of the projects
are produced through a traditional print media such as the offset press or digital
duplicator. Others, like a house plan, are created with digital media, in this
case, Chief Architect, with prints of the projects submitted for evaluation.
Subsequent classes expand on the introduction to refine students' skills with
these and other software packages. Digital Imaging and Editing students capture
images digitally by camera, scanner, and via the Internet. These images are
modified and other images are created with Photoshop. More advanced classes
add to the students' expertise with software, such as 3D Studio Max, SolidWorks,
Architectural Desktop, Chief Architect, Illustrator, Dreamweaver, Front Page,
Fireworks, Director, Flash, Premier, and Corel Draw.
Materials produced by students throughout their studies are kept in their
pocket portfolio. These files are stored on a department server and on CDs,
DVDs, and Zip disks. Many of the first projects are replaced as more sophisticated
examples are produced in upper-level classes. The quality of student work was
found to increase when the introductory level class placed an emphasis on traditional
production methods. Students then create projects with the limitations of the
eventual production equipment in mind, and create images that are more easily
The software of choice for producing a pocket portfolio is Macromedia's Director.
Director is capable of creating interactive movies that include images, text,
AVIs, and animations. Images from other software packages are imported for presentation
in the final portfolio.
During a capstone course, the students refine a Flash introduction to their
portfolio created during a multimedia class. This introduction concludes with
an interface design that allows the viewer to navigate through the student's
content, whcih can be supplemented with work a student has created outside of
The output format of choice has been the business card CD. However, this shape
limits the amount of data students can include as it has a capacity of 55MB.
However, a feature of Director allows the viewer to connect to a Web portfolio
where a movie can be viewed in its entirety.
If students choose, they can record their portfolios on small round (pocket)
CDs, standard CDs, or DVDs. If they choose one of the larger capacity formats,
the entire volume of their work can be included. At Southeast Missouri State
University, the DVD format is becoming increasingly popular with the students.
Students also design custom labels for their pocket portfolio. This imparts
a professional look to the portfolio, displaying some of the student's design
ability, and is intended to grab a perspective employer's attention.
Some advantages of the pocket portfolio include the ability to be revised easily,
convenient storage of digital images, security, and low cost. Business card
CDs and pocket CDs are approximately $.50 each, while DVDs are dropping in cost
dramatically. DVD-Rs currently cost under $1.00 each.
As students gain experience and maturity in their graphics abilities, they
build an ever-expanding body of work. By using a pocket portfolio they have
full access to their earlier materials and can update their portfolio to reflect
recent work. This also eliminates the problem of data security of a Web portfolio.
While the pocket portfolio is a relatively new requirement for graduates of
the Technical Graphics program, they have received great reviews. The students
like the ability to include their entire portfolio in a format that is convenient
to carry and distribute to potential employers. It also allows them the opportunity
to showcase their abilities with new technologies, as well as their creativity
in more traditional media.