What is Your Vision?
Before you review the purposes designated by the Writing & Rhetoric degree programs office and explained below, take some time to develop your own vision, goals, and specific purposes for a writing e-portfolio. Who do you see engaging it, and why? What would it do for you and others? What should it look like and include? Reflecting on such questions will better position you to make the e-portfolio work for you within the program’s parameters.
Showcasing Your Identity and Work as a Writer
One major focus of the e-portfolio is to showcase your identity and work as a writer for prospective employers, selection committees for graduate/professional schools, and/or other audiences. By “identity,” we don’t mean some core essence of who you are but rather your ever-changing and multifaceted writing-related history and practices as well as the values and knowledge that you bring into various writing situations. In addition to your e-portfolio’s featured sample texts, you can show this through the framing pieces you develop, including the required “profile of a writer” page/section.
Facilitating and Showcasing Your Learning
A second (and no less important) purpose of the e-portfolio is to facilitate and showcase your writing-related learning. The process of collecting, selecting, reflecting about, explaining, and presenting your work in the e-portfolio should provide opportunities to learn more about yourself as a writer (e.g., strengths, values, writing processes), strategies for applying skills and knowledge in different writing situations, and the writing-related skills valued in your targeted profession. You may also develop additional learning goals around the process of developing your e-portfolio.
In addition, your e-portfolio is an avenue for showing prospective employers and others not just what you have produced, but what you have learned and still hope to learn through producing it. Many employers are less interested in an already-defined skillset than in the capacity to learn intently, efficiently, and flexibly.
Serving as a Virtual Workbench for Your Continued Development as a Writer
Finally, we hope you also consider ways to use your writing e-portfolio to further develop and showcase your writing (and yourself as a writer) after you graduate. You will likely apply for a number of jobs over the course of your career, and some of you may also apply to graduate programs or start your own businesses (perhaps as freelance writers). Because you ultimately own your e-portfolio (this is why we have chosen a free Web-based platform—WordPress—that you control and can keep after graduating), you can later expand or repurpose it to meet your professional or other needs. You might decide, for example, to make the e-portfolio’s scope broader or more narrow, to shift its primary audience (e.g., to clients, friends and family, a civic group), or to further engage readers through a blog or other additional features.
The major purposes we’ve been describing roughly align with the three spheres of use in the conceptual framework developed by Helen L. Chen and Tracy Penny Light (Electronic) shown below. Their diagram below also illustrates how the e-portfolio can help you connect your work and learning across academic, professional, and civic or community spheres.
Adapted from: Chen, Helen L., and Tracy Penny Light. Electronic Portfolios and Student Success: Effectiveness, Efficiency, and Learning. Washington, D.C.: Association of American Colleges and Universities, 2010.
A twenty-first century writer must be attuned to and make adjustments based on the constraints and opportunities within and across various rhetorical situations, including those in digital environments and those in disciplinary, professional, and civic or community contexts. Part of this attunement involves recognizing the different values, needs, experiences, and language conventions of audiences and discourse communities. It also requires considering the cultural and ethical dimensions of any writing context. With this in mind, take great care to construct your e-portfolio around the rhetorical situations of its audiences and uses, including those of professional audiences such as potential employers.
To invoke another rhetorical concept, you should ensure that your e-portfolio displays a credible ethos and includes polished writing. Remember that your e-portfolio is designed to be publically accessible on the Web. Although we will show you how to “hide” your e-portfolio or certain pages on it from public viewing, you may not want to send the URL of your portfolio to anyone not assisting in its development until it is in a polished form.