Cyber-Portfolios: A New Tool for Job Seekers

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College students nearinggraduation now have a new medium to communicate their portfolios andresumes to prospective employers -- personalized multimediaportfolios on the World Wide Web. Computer Information Systemsstudents at Clayton College & State University are leading theway. As part of the lab portion of their IS policy course, the CISstudents at CCSU prepared individualized multimediaportfolios/resumes on the university Web server. This medium providedthem a means of incorporating exciting, dynamic Web pages whichincluded much more informative material than the static, traditionalresume list of objectives, courses taken and past employmentinformation. These "cyber-portfolios" contained personalized voiceand photo greetings, hot links to previous employer Web pages, anddynamic displays of numerous college projects and appropriatepersonal items of interest.

ProjectBackground and Objectives

Clayton College and StateUniversity is one of at least three colleges in the United Statesthat will require all students to lease notebook computers as part oftheir matriculation process in the 1998 Winter Quarter. In advance ofthis new requirement, faculty members have been hard at worktransitioning courses and teaching approaches to effectively useinstructional and information technology. The Internet has become thefocal point for much of this activity.

In the ComputerInformation System curriculum at CCSU, there is ample opportunity touse the latest information technology. For several years we have beenusing a variety of different computer technologies in our IT classes.For example, in the spring of 1996, the students in the IT Policycourse used a multimedia authoring tool to "burn" their ownmultimedia portfolios onto compact discs.

This was very successful,but not practical in that each student only had one CD at the end ofthe course. It was decided that the next time the course was taughtthe students should create their multimedia portfolios on theuniversity's student Web server. This would make their portfoliosavailable to all interested parties. The primary objective for theportfolio project was to have each student in the course preparehis/her own multimedia portfolio. The students were free to includediverse materials in their portfolios, but multimedia components wererequired. This called for the students to use a lot of creativity inthe design and content of their Web pages. Most students incorporatedphotos of themselves, introductory sound clips, background music anda variety of images and scripts. Some included video clips that theyrecorded themselves or picked up from other Web sites.

At the end of the quarter,class time was devoted to students for a brief demonstration of theirportfolios. In addition to allowing other students an opportunity toview all portfolios, this exercise allowed everybody to arrive at arelative ranking of where their portfolio placed. However, the realpayoff for students would come later, when they could advertise theircredentials to prospective employers simply by giving out a uniqueWeb address. During their remaining days on campus, students couldupdate their cyber-portfolio as they completed more courses, gainedmore experience or just wanted to add more information.

FromStoryboard to Server

The systems developmentprocess that the students used to prepare their portfolios wasmandated at the beginning of the class. First, they were instructedto "storyboard" the overall content of their portfolio, being carefulto include multimedia components. Then they were to assemble orcreate the individual components on their own. The activities at thisstage ranged from having their voices recorded to shooting a video ofsome aspect of their college experience. Many students includedtopics of interest from their personal lives. Some even includedhyperlinks to previous places of employment. In fact, the more variedthe content was, the more interesting the overall portfolio was toothers.

The most difficult stepfor the students proved to be loading the assembled information ontothe server. They were instructed to write most of their own HTML codeinstead of relying on automatic HTML generation packages. Afterworking through format and file extension problems, and a few falsestarts related to loading their diskettes, they finally completed theloading and testing of their home pages.

The key distinguishingcharacteristic of these student portfolios was the extensive use ofthe unique multimedia aspects, coupled with the inherent dynamiccapabilities of the Web. Among the technical features used by thestudents were: frame-based menus, animated GIFs, Java scripts,personalized audio and video clips, and background music via MIDIfiles. Some of the creative features were: previous HTML andPowerPoint presentations used in other courses, scanned researchpapers, and hyperlinks to favorite Web sites. When these multimediaelements were interspersed with the student's resume and personalinformation, the result was a true cyberspace portfolio -- ready forfuture employers to review anytime and anyplace.

The final student Webportfolios demonstrated a wide range of individuality and creativity.In a class of 30 students, a normal distribution of results wasexperienced. Some students stuffed every possible kind of multimediainto their portfolio without careful planning. This approach usuallycaused media overload for the viewer. Others only provided theabsolute minimum amount just to get a passing grade. However, moststudents got into the spirit of the project and produced a polished,professional multimedia portfolio that presented interestingmaterials in interesting ways.

FuturePlans

On the whole, the studentsdid masterful jobs on their multimedia portfolios. The quality oftheir packages was consistently high, and they were rightfully proudof their accomplishments. This multi-dimensional project consumedmany hours, and they had to learn and apply several new technologiesalong the way. Even though an early class session was devoted to theproject, in most cases students had to dig out specializedinformation on their own.

This multimedia projectwill become a standard lab component of the CIS policy class. Whatbetter way for the students to conclude their CIS courses than toincorporate significant aspects of their college experience into auniversally accessible package. Employers are generally impressedwith a graduating student who has used a new resource to his/heradvantage. Also, this skill can be easily transferred to a companyenvironment where a Web presence has not yet beenestablished.

In the future, it would beappropriate in this type of class project for the students toconcentrate more on the content of the portfolios. After more carefulassessment, it could be said that the content of the portfolios wasnot as rich as the form. Some portfolios seemed somewhatschizophrenic, in that topics seemed to be randomly selected andpresented. Also, the depth of coverage on a particular topic wasoften superficial. So in future classes, multimedia components willstill be a project requirement, but more stress will be placed onoverall design and content topics. Since we now have some examples ofboth good and bad portfolios, an opening exercise in a future classwould be for the new students to critique the past students' work inorder to see which features work and which don't.

The tremendous utility ofthe Web stands unequaled as a platform for student projects. There isno way to adequately assess the multi-faceted infrastructure inherentin the Web with regard to student projects. The project addressed inthis paper only begins to tap its potential. It is conceivable that astudent who has no Web experience during his/her college career willbe considered uneducated in tomorrow's marketplace.

 

Dr. Bob Siegmann is aprofessor of Computer Information Systems (CIS) at Clayton College& State University. He has a Ph.D. from Georgia Tech and has hadboth business and academic careers. He has worked as an informationtechnology professional at IBM and BellSouth. Now at CCSU, he hasbeen teaching the senior CIS courses for four years.
E-mail: siegmann@cc.clayton.edu

Productsmentioned:
PowerPoint; Microsoft Corp., Redmond, WA, (800) 426-9400,www.microsoft.com.

This article originally appeared in the 02/01/1998 issue of THE Journal.

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