An Online Record of Success

USF Honors College e-portfolios are a dynamic and powerful reflection of student achievement.



By Mary Beth Erskine News Writer


TAMPA, Fla. (Oct. 8, 2010) – A sophomore psychology major in USF’s Honors College, Samantha Groene has been working since last spring as an undergraduate research assistant. She studies a variety of psychological issues related to cultural and gender influences on behavior and is considering graduate school.


“However, few people knew that I do research in a social psychology lab on campus,” she said.


That is until University of South Florida Honors College Dean Stu Silverman encouraged her to develop an electronic portfolio and placed it on the Honors College website.


Not only does Groene’s “e-portfolio” highlight her undergraduate research work, but it provides details about her coursework, samples of her research papers, as well as insight into her obsession with Legos, saltwater aquariums and the double bass.


“Provost Ralph Wilcox is always looking for ways to help students showcase their accomplishments, and he suggested that we have students create electronic portfolios,” said Silverman.


An invaluable tool that goes beyond traditional transcripts, resumes and CVs, e-portfolios are a dynamic, web-based method for archiving and displaying work using various types of media. Their use is becoming increasingly widespread within higher education and among university students for showcasing educational goals and achievements.


At USF, when Honors College students are still in their first year of study, Silverman encourages them to start building an e-portfolio, using their high school accomplishments to jump start what he calls “a running record of their lives.”


Personal essays. International experiences. Service work. Extracurricular activities. Research. Even hobbies and personal interests. Silverman says it’s all potential material for creating a dynamic and professional presence on the web.


“An e-portfolio gives each student a running record of their accomplishments over time. It demonstrates their academic and social growth, as well as their creativity, and is a wonderful way to present themselves to prospective employers and graduate school admissions committees,” said Silverman.


USF’s e-portfolio initiative started last year in the Honors College with a small group of upper class students paving the way, including senior mechanical engineering and business administration major Sean Motta. In addition to his studies, Motta runs a small business specializing in custom web and logo design, online marketing, and data management.


“As a young professional, I understand the importance of being able to market myself, particularly in this economy,” said Motta.


Motta believes that e-portfolios are much more dynamic than traditional resumes because they provide a platform to include multimedia that is not an option in a traditional resume. “And because an e-portfolio is so much more dynamic, it is much easier to retain the attention and interest of viewers and gives you the opportunity to convey more information,” he said.


As webmaster for the Honors College, Motta was instrumental in getting the project up and running.


“When Dean Silverman told me he was interested in setting up an online portal for students to create a web presence for themselves, I started thinking of free resources that would simplify the design and creation of such a site,” said Motta. “We determined that Google Sites was an excellent resource that would not only eliminate much of the technical constraints of hosting the sites ourselves, but also significantly improve students’ ability to create and maintain their own site.”


According to Motta, the decision to use Google Sites infrastructure as the backbone greatly simplifies the creation and maintenance of a portfolio for a student. “With no web or design background, a user can easily take one of the pre-designed templates and adjust it to fit their needs.”


When it comes to ease of use, Ashley Hinton, a senior psychology and political science student, agrees. “It’s such an easy way to keep all of your achievements in one place,” she said. “And it’s an excellent vehicle to get the word out there about yourself whether you’re looking for a research mentor or looking for a job.”


Silverman says that in addition to creating a professional presence on the web, enabling students to post their e-portfolios on the Honors College website sends a powerful message. “As a university, we are telling these students that we believe their achievements are worthy of putting on our website, and that’s quite a confidence booster for them.”


Posting e-portfolios benefits prospective students, as well.


“I’ve had prospective students come in and tell me that they have been very impressed by the achievements they have seen posted in the e-portfolios,” said Silverman. “And that has helped attract them all the more to USF – the caliber of the students we have here.”


Mary Beth Erskine can be reached at 813-974-6993.