The e-Portfolio: Myths and Truths
Published: May 31, 2020 by Havilah Joy-Steinman Bakken
The e-Portfolio is a capstone experience the majority of iSchool students at San José State University will plan for, experience and benefit from. This large, scholastic decathlon represents not only your upcoming freedom from school, but also your newly garnered skills and brilliance in the library and information profession field. Each student has their own unique perspective and experience working through it, but the majority of us experience at least some amount of anxiety while it looms ahead of us. I had the opportunity to complete the e-Portfolio amidst the craziness of life, and I hope what I discovered from my own personal experience, and chatting with my fellow students, is helpful to you!
Myth: The e-Portfolio is Impossible to Prepare For
I admit to being rather sanguine about my disregard of the e-Portfolio process for the first two years of my time in the program. I rested on my laurels about being a writer and assumed I could bust it out in a couple of weeks. This, dear readers, is a terrible plan. I thankfully had several kind classmates who went through the process a semester beforehand and shared their experience with me. This mentorship woke me up to all the work to be done previous to my final semester starting.
In December 2019, I followed the plan of dumping each of my class assignments into google folders labeled by competency. The e-Portfolio handbook has a section that organizes each class by competency, and I used that exclusively. I also spent about half an hour or so per competency brainstorming other ideas for evidence I could use. This meant at the beginning of the semester, I had a shell of each competency already completed. I found myself quite grateful for this preparation because it meant I never had to stare at a blank page and wonder what I was going to write next.
Tip: If you’re really worried about a particular competency, put together a small set of evidence before class starts and reach out to Dr. Linda Main. I did this for competency O and she set my mind at ease and offered insight where necessary. I also set manageable goals for myself previous to the semester commencing. If I wrote two competencies a week, from the beginning of the semester, I would finish about a month early.
Myth: My e-Portfolio Content is a Complete Mystery
The organization of the competency varies somewhat by the advisor, but the content is the same. Your evidence is the backbone of each competency you write, and that evidence can be reused for different competencies. For example, I used the same group assignment from my INFO 204 Information Professions class in competencies A, B, D and M. Now, this wasn’t a direct cut and paste. I had to identify portions of the assignment and directly tie it to the competency.
Nobody knows your assignments and hard work better than you. When looking through an assignment, the memories of what you struggled with, what you enjoyed and what you learned will flood back to you. The e-Portfolio isn’t coming up with thousands of words of new academic writing. It’s repacking all of the incredible work you’ve already completed to speak to the competencies the iSchool has built their curriculum around.
Tip: By being successful in your classes, and turning in your assignments, you are slowly uncovering what your e-Portfolio will demonstrate.
Myth: If I Lose My Files Before the e-Portfolio I’m Doomed
In October 2019, I lost all of my files from the program and my cloud backup failed. I had made the terrible decision of throwing out papers I had printed out for class, because I assumed I had them online. However, all was not lost. On the advice of Debbie Faires, I downloaded my assignment back up from Canvas, and reached out to each professor individually for my discussion posts. Not all of them got back to me, but I had more than enough material to write my e-Portfolio. As a silver lining, this was also an excellent opportunity to connect with my previous professors and catch up with them.
Tip: Backup all your work and don’t throw anything away. You’ll be surprised how much work you will incorporate into the e-Portfolio.
Truth: I Am Equipped to Write the e-Portfolio
The e-Portfolio is unlike any other class in the program in that you are not creating a brand new competency from scratch. You are researching and digging through previously completed assignments to be presented in the best light possible. As long as your assignments are written in a way that you can understand, and organized in a way where you can find everything, you will be able to write your e-Portfolio.
Writing the e-Portfolio is a process. You will have a back and forth with your advisor, and inevitably have a few competencies with several rounds of submissions. Write as much as you can as early as you can in the process, and start with the ones you feel the most comfortable with. With the ones you’re scared about, write as much as humanly possible. I was most worried about competencies E and L, and ended up passing on the first submission without any edits.
Tip: Refuse to sell yourself short, your entire program has been leading up to this experience. You are ready!
Truth: The e-Portfolio is Manageable Amidst Major Life Changes
The e-Portfolio can absolutely be completed alongside other classes. I took Special Collections with Colleen Theisen and was a content editor at the Student Research Journal while completing the e-Portfolio. It was actually super helpful, because when writing competency F, I had everything I needed at my fingertips, and the material was super fresh in my mind. The same absolutely goes for the Student Research Journal evidence, which I used in competencies H and L.
The COVID pandemic is a phenomenon no one could have imagined or prepared for, and yet my classmates and I finished our e-Portfolios on time. I also got married and was a bridesmaid in the same month while writing the e-Portfolio! While I don’t recommend this, I don’t have any regrets. School has to come first, but I chose this program for its flexibility.
Tip: Work as much as you can as early as you can at the beginning of the semester, and if you end up having a few weeks without a competency submission you’ll still be okay at the end.
Truth: I Can (and Should) Prepare for the e-Portfolio from Day One
The e-Portfolio is a projection of everything you’ve learned throughout your entire experience in the program. Read the competencies early, organize your assignments at the end of each semester, and keep notes of key quotes and concepts from your reading assignments. Each advisor is slightly different, but you will need to write a statement of competency in addition to tying your evidence to each competency. For me, the statement of competency included several impactful quotes from my textbooks. It was helpful to go back into my textbooks with readings that had already been annotated with highlighter and notes, because it was clear which parts I wanted to include in my statement.
I hope this is helpful! Please feel free to ask me questions in the comments. I wanted to close with saying I leaned heavily on this professional experience for my e-Portfolio. I used iStudent blog posts as well as my internship for competencies B, C, D, H and O.
Tip: Seek out learning opportunities outside of your class work, and participate in INFO 284 projects like the Student Research Journal and the Peer Mentor Project if you can. Lastly, go to at least one free, virtual Library 2.0 conference, as that’s excellent evidence for Competency O.