Many years ago, during the recession that started in 2008, I started going back to school to earn a TESOL certificate. I was thinking about this the other day when explaining to someone that I started working on a master’s degree this year. It seemed interesting that I started going back to school again in the midst of economic, social, and political upheaval. I didn’t plan it that way, but maybe the economic uncertainty feeds a subconscious desire to get a better education to (eventually) get a better job.
For the first few months of the lockdown, I was taking online courses paid for by my employer. While they were interesting, they didn’t seem like they would lead to a better job or better pay. They were more about making me better at my current job. Over the summer, I started looking into online master’s degree programs offered by my employer (a large university in the American Midwest), since they pay for some of the tuition. After looking at the different programs, I came across one for a Master of Science in Education in Instructional Systems Technology (an MSEd in IST). Since I work for a university and my job is dealing with technology, it seemed only natural. In August of 2020, I was accepted into the program and started taking classes.
There are a lot of differences between taking classes in-person and taking them online and asynchronously. I’ll write more about those in the future, but at the moment I want to point out my academic portfolio. I can already hear you asking,
What’s an academic portfolio?
I think of an academic portfolio as something to show prospective employers alongside a résumé or CV. You may already know there are artist portfolios, photographer portfolios, modeling portfolios, designer portfolios, and so on. People in these professions and others use their portfolios to show work they’ve already done in order to attract more work in the future. An academic portfolio is similar, but it’s used to show off work done in school, whether its essays, research papers, projects, or something else. It’s a curated collection of work you did in school.
A résumé is pretty basic and only contains a page or so of information. They’re pretty boring, and aren’t very enlightening to a prospective employer. Since a résumé is usually light on details, adding a link to an academic portfolio can give them an opportunity to find out more about the classes you took and the work you’ve done. Seeing the work you’ve done should give them an idea about the work you can do for their organization.
An academic portfolio is also useful alongside a curriculum vitae. A CV will include a bibliography of published work, while an academic portfolio can include the actual work that was published. If the CV is extensive, use the academic portfolio to show off a selection of your best work. Think of it as the GREATEST HITS collection of your career thus far.
My academic portfolio is going to be a bit thin for awhile because I only started working on it this year. I probably still have some work from my bachelor’s degree and TESOL, but I have to go through various notebooks, ZIP disks, and CDs to find them. However, since I never gave thought to an academic portfolio while working on them, I’m not sure how much I have or how useful they’ll be.
If you click on the Portfolio link in the sidebar, you’ll also see a photography portfolio and a coding portfolio in the list. I plan on adding those in the near future. I have a sizable collection of photos to go through, and a lot of miscellaneous coding projects to curate as well.