E-Portfolios & Digital Identity: Intersection and Collaboration

E-Portfolios & Digital Identity: Intersection and Collaboration

In this session we learned how to use Plickers, and talked about how to approach e-portfolios with students.



Day 2 of Domains 2017 dawned sunny and Oklahoma hot.* After a breakfast of yogurt with caramelized honey, toasted sunflower seeds, banana, and berries; and a cup of coffee (sorry, no picture of breakfast) with friends at Mary Eddy’s, the restaurant attached to the hotel, I walked over to my first session.


Kate Farley had already started passing out “Plicker” cards. I took mine, quite unsure what I was getting into. It was a white card that contained a large black image that looked like a simplified version of a QR code. In small print at each side were the letters (A, B, C, or D), and a very small number identifying which card it was in the stack.

Turns out Plickers create a simple way to gather real-time answers to survey questions and seamlessly combine the analog with the digital. See more on the Plickers Website here: https://www.plickers.com/

The way it works is the facilitator creates a series of multiple choice questions online ahead of time using the Plicker app. She displays a question for the class. Each person takes their unique Plicker identifier, turns it so that their choice is at the top, (A, B, C, or D), and holds it up. The facilitator then scans the room with her phone using the Plicker app, camera enabled, which uses image recognition to record each person’s answer to that question.

Some reasons this is really cool:

  • The class members don’t need to use technology, so there is less set-up time in class, and everyone can equally participate.
  • The answers can be anonymous, because (unless you memorize each card’s orientation), the “QR codes” hide which answer you choose.
  • Classmates can see each other actively participating, which makes it more fun (for real! I was surprised at how fun this was).

As it says on the Plickers website,

“Plickers is a powerfully simple tool that lets teachers collect real-time formative assessment data without the need for student devices.”

Does Your e-Portfolio Reflect the Right Attributes?

We went through a series of questions that Kate has done in the past during her e-portfolio workshops for students at the University of Wisconsin Green Bay (UWGB). The questions were about what skills we thought employers are looking for on a student’s resume.

The statistics were taken from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) website, if you are interested in learning more.

A slide from Kate’s presentation

The basic premise is that students and employers talk about skills differently. Employers aren’t looking for as many “hard” skills as “soft” skills, so it’s important for students to be aware of that as they create their e-portfolio and enter the job market.

According to NACE,

“More than 80 percent of responding employers said they look for evidence of leadership skills on the candidate’s resume, and nearly as many seek out indications that the candidate is able to work in a team.

“Employers also cited written communication skills, problem-solving skills, verbal communication skills, and a strong work ethic as important candidate attributes.”


I thought that was a useful way to introduce e-portfolios. Help students understand what employers are looking for, then deconstruct what that means so they have an easier time demonstrating that in their e-portfolio. This approach will help me in my workshops and 1:1 sessions with students when discussing their e-portfolios with them.

What is an e-Portfolio?

We spent quite a bit of this session engaged in informal discussion, which was informative but a bit frustrating for me. I think the main reason is that we never defined what was meant by e-portfolio, and it didn’t dawn on me until too late that everyone (including myself!) had their own definition.

I didn’t realize there could be a different definition than the one I had in my own head. Oops.

It brings me back to Martha Burtis’ keynote when she talked about being in an e-portfolio working group where everyone had a different objective for the e-portfolio.

Is your E-portfolio there to track your learning as a student? or to present yourself as perfect? or to market the institution? or to help you get a job? or to serve as a repository for any work you want to save? or as a hub for all your projects across all of your classes? or just to fulfill one class assignment? or to be a dumping ground for…everything?

My First e-Portfolio

I think back to my own experience in undergrad, as a Scientific and Technical Communication Major at Michigan Technological University.

  1. We had to do a portfolio as a final senior project in order to graduate.
  2. I was also in a web design class, where our final project was to make a website.
  3. Additionally, I was about to start looking for a job.

Through my own volition, I decided to combine all three objectives into one—a graded e-portfolio that would allow me to graduate and that I could share with potential employers, which was my primary concern. I remember requesting special permission to change the parameters of the assignment, and offering alternatives to the parts that didn’t make sense for the combined project.

For some reason, that first website is still online, an artifact that I don’t know how to access anymore.**

Was this a unique, innovative approach? I don’t know, I was just trying to be efficient with my time and kill as many birds with one stone as possible…so to speak.

I think that even if someone had asked me to add more to my e-portfolio, I would have pushed back and included only those elements that I wanted to be part of my professional online presence. It’s MY ONLINE PRESENCE. I don’t need someone dictating that, or “giving me permission” to have one.

After graduating and getting my first two jobs, I redid my site to be a freelance e-portfolio site, to attract new clients. That site got me my next job. Then I started my personal travel blog, which helped me get a position on the PR team in Peace Corps Armenia, as well as helped me secure my current position at MIIS because it demonstrates my writing, photography, personality, thinking process, web content and design skills. Now I have this site which is my space to share my professional learning, samples of my best work, and generate new business.

Maybe I’m unique, but I think e-portfolios are extremely valuable—to everybody. I think, in many industries, students must have them, and in every other industry, an e-portfolio will give them a leg up, if it’s well done and maintained. Maybe they don’t have to be called e-portfolios, and maybe that’s where some people get hung up, but a self-controlled online space in which to present yourself to the world in the way you choose—that’s important!

How to Incorporate DoOO and e-Portfolios

I think it’s important to help people recognize that an e-portfolio is a part of their overall online presence, so they need to keep in mind that other people will see whatever they choose to put online. I care less about the grading or assignment value of an e-portfolio. I also don’t share the belief that reflections have to be part of an e-portfolio, although I think they are a valuable learning mechanism.

Then again, I’m not an instructor. My main goal, if they want it, is to help students create an e-portfolio that is useful to them beyond the scope of the classroom. I feel the same about faculty and staff building their own online presence. It should be valuable to them beyond their work at the institution.

If you are an instructor, you may find the following slide handy.

A slide from Kate’s presentation

I like it, with a few modifications, and may borrow some of the elements in order to incorporate some of my ideas about “e-portfolios beyond the classroom” using MiddCreate.

Now there’s an idea. I’ll share more later, when I have it more fleshed out.

In Closing

Overall, I appreciated Kate’s laid-back approach and the way she encouraged audience discussion. I didn’t necessarily like the whole discussion, but it definitely made me think critically and helped me to re-assess my assumptions about e-portfolios. It also gave me some ideas about how I can improve my future discussions with students around the topic of e-portfolios.

My other thought during this session was that I could be a conference presenter. I don’t know why that idea never crossed my mind before. Now to start thinking about what I could present!


*I think. I was in an air-conditioned hotel, and I didn’t step outside until the afternoon, so I don’t really know.

**These were the pre-Wordpress days. Despite looking “old,” I appreciate the non-templatized look.