Addressing Social Media Presence: Shifting from Place to Space in Career/Transfer ePortfolios

By Apostel, Shawn | The Journal of Faculty Development, May 2015 | Go to article overview

Addressing Social Media Presence: Shifting from Place to Space in Career/Transfer ePortfolios


Apostel, Shawn, The Journal of Faculty Development


Over the past decade, the use of ePortfolios has been a popular tool to assess learning in the University setting. Yancey (2009) argued that ePortfolios have a role to play in the "tectonic shift" in higher education, and while ePortfolios are important in education and assessment they increasingly have a life outside of the classroom. Having an audience in mind besides the teacher helps students stay motivated to conduct a rhetorical analysis of their secondary audience, and, increasingly, ePortfolios are created with the teacher as a secondary audience as many students see the value in using an ePortfolio to assist in obtaining their ideal job. However, as Hargittai (2010) pointed out, students who seem to be adept at using computers, tablets, and smart phones still may be woefully inept at constructing a social media presence that appeals to employers. Hargittai suggested using a course in a University setting to address these issues, and her course "Managing Your Online Reputation" at Northwestern University is a model for other universities to follow. While such a class is an important part of teaching students how to present themselves online, a course that teaches students how to construct and present an ePortfolio would also be an ideal venue to discuss social media concerns and strategies with students. This article examines a pilot course taught at a small, private, liberal arts University that addressed social media issues in an ePortfolio course. In this class, students not only constructed an ePortfolio to use outside the classroom as a tool to obtain employment, they conducted exercises that included a type of social media background check commonly used by employers, created promotional videos to publish on YouTube, joined and contributed to groups on LinkedIn, and generated targeted Tweets that illustrated the students' employment interests and demonstrated social media savvy.

Literature Review

While the concept of ePortfolios in education evolved from the use of paper-based portfolios, their overall purpose has remained largely unchanged in most places of higher education. Balaban, Divjak, and Mu (2011) found that ePortfolios are used to assess student work, show development over time, showcase exemplary achievement, or as a hybrid of one or more of these functions. However, there is growing consensus that ePortfolios are also useful for student career development and job seeking (Amarian & Flanigan, 2006; Cambridge, 2010; Balaban, Divjak, & Mu, 2011; Lievens 2014), and using the Internet is an important tool for acquiring employment. Indeed, Kuhn and Mansour (2011) found that those who use used the Internet while seeking employment found work 25 percent faster than those who did not use online tools, siting social media sites like LinkedIn and Facebook as useful tools to build and maintain the connections that open the door to potential job openings. Furthermore, Lievens (2014) argued that career portfolios may "boost the quality of matches (of workers to jobs as well as) ... the mobility of workers" (p. 164). However, ePortfolios must be more than a collection of student work; they must offer a visual representation of student ethos that is constructed for the workplace. ePortfolios are a helpful tool to showcase student work and skills, but to truly prepare a student for a shift from academic study to corporate work, it is imperative for instructors who guide students through the construction of a transitional ePortfolio to address the design, as argued by Carpenter, Apostel, and Hyndman (2012), as well as the social media and online presence a student has in order to build connections and to ensure that the student's online persona reflects the quality and skill level that potential employers are seeking in a new hire. As employers conduct what Berkelaar (2010) called cybervetting (reviewing an applicant's online activity), students must be aware of what information they have about themselves posted online as well as the rhetorical implications those posts may have to a potential employer. …

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