Portfolio Guidelines

Portfolio Guidelines

Portfolios are required for all master's degree students. In fall and spring semesters, campus and distance students work with the IST Faculty Portfolio Committee (no course credit is given).  In the summer, a Portfolio Workshop (R505) is available as a course for credit for Online students.

The portfolio requirement is both a "capstone" experience in which you demonstrate the skills and abilities you are taking with you into the job market, and an on-going experience of reflection that begins when you enter the IST program. If you will be job-hunting, the portfolio process provides an opportunity for you to define your professional goals as clearly as possible through assembling the evidence of your skills and abilities. If you are returning to a job that has already been established for you, the portfolio provides a complete picture of the skills and abilities you are taking back with you from this program.

From your first day in the program you should begin collecting the tangible evidence of skills that you are developing; save your project work and your drafts and protoypes. If you have brought professional or academic experience with you into the program, begin thinking about the evidence you might be able to show from that experience. Your portfolio will reflect your overall professional profile, not just your work as a student

In addition to saving and collecting your own work, you should be carrying out reflections for yourself, perhaps at the end of each semester or course. What have you learned? How has your perspective shifted, and what can you do now that you could not do before? What about your professional goals? Which kinds of activity are you going to want to do more often, and which less? What are the possibilities for your professional future that you see differently, see for the first time, or see again with increased clarity? Most importantly, what does the work you are saving this term for possible inclusion in your portfolio demonstrate about you? When you show that work to someone in the future, what do you want that person to know about you from reviewing the work?

What is the portfolio not?

The portfolio is not supposed to be simply a record of the work you did in the IST program. Do not assemble your portfolio as a plain chronology of your course work or project work in the IST program.

It is not a document produced to a standard specification. It must be unique to you and your professional goals -- one of the primary measures of success for your portfolio is the degree to which it supports your statement of professional goals.

Portfolio samples

Look for print-based portfolio samples in the main IST office. You are welcome to review these within the department, but they cannot be taken away from the building. For online examples, review the portfolios linked below. All samples are used with the express permission of their creators.

Artifacts are the authentic products of your activities. They serve as indicators of your skills and abilities, and should be presented in a manner that is both attractive and easy to understand. You may have conducted these activities with a team or alone, inside or outside of school. They do not necessarily have to be class projects, IST projects, or anything you have done connected to your degree program -- as long as they are activities that demonstrate skills relevant to your professional goals.

Each artifact should serve to fulfill several functions:

Provide objective evidence of your skillsActual samples of your work are the best evidence you can provide of your skills. You may decide to include awards, reviews or endorsements in your portfolio, but these should be used sparingly. Concentrate on using samples of your work to convince a reviewer or potential employer of your skills. The reviewers of your portfolio want to make up their own minds about the quality of what you can do.

Demonstrate skills appropriate for your professional goals

If you want to work primarily in performance improvement, but your portfolio samples are primarily screen shots from Web sites then you are probably not demonstrating the skills most appropriate for your professional goals. What can you show instead of screen shots? Just about anything, including:

  • executive summaries from various types of reports or studies
  • key tables or charts that summarize the data from analysis or evaluation
  • project management documents like PERT or GANTT charts
  • code samples from programs you have written
  • script and/or storyboard samples

Present your work efficiently and effectively

Your portfolio needs to work in at least two situations:

  • when people have time to look carefully at each item
  • when people do not have time to look carefully at each item

You must show excerpts of work, not a huge compendium of project reports, PowerPoint presentations, and full-length papers. You must select these excerpts carefully so that they represent the most salient features of the larger works for which they are standing as samples.



Annotation is concise, accurate prose that explains the significance of an artifact. When your annotation is well done, the viewer of your portfolio gets a complete picture of where this artifact came from, and what it signifies regarding your capabilities. Annotation for each artifact should cover the types of information listed in the table below, but does not have to take the form shown here. In fact, you may develop a much more successful portfolio if you do not use this format than you will if you do. Although you need to include the information below, you can probably do so more gracefully if you develop your own annotation format than if you try to squeeze your own personality into this table.

  • Where and when was the work done?
  • Was it a class project? A professional consulting project? A project completed during an internship?
  • Did you have access to specialists for parts of the project?
  • Did you work within a budget? A limited schedule?
  • Did you inherit this project from someone else?
  • Was the content or the analysis provided at the beginning?
  • Were the graphics adapted from elsewhere or created as original material?
  • Was this a prototype? Draft? Proposal? A revision of existing material?
  • Did the project go to completion?
  • Was it developed further after you worked on it?
  • Was the version you worked on the one that was finally delivered?
  • Was your analysis used to inform another project?
  • How many people used it or are using it now?
  • Did you have a designated role on the project?
  • What were your major contributions?
  • Did you work collaboratively? On which parts?
  • Did your role change during the project?

Present the annotation consistently throughout the portfolio so that it is easy to find and scan through. Placing the annotation on colored paper (light blue, beige, gray, or some other unobtrusive color) helps distinguish the annotation from the rest of the portfolio's contents, and establish a baseline "look" for the portfolio.

Choosing work for the portfolio

Choose work that is relevant to your professional goals. No matter how great a project was, it shouldn't be represented in your portfolio unless it is relevant to your professional goals. There are two dangers inherent in showing work that is not relevant:

Of your relevant work, choose your best work. It is tempting to put samples in your portfolio to fill gaps that you perceive in your skills or experience, even when that work is not good quality. You are better off leaving such work out of your portfolio and looking for opportunities to do better work as soon as possible. Explaining that you have not had a chance to perfect a skill may reduce your standing as a candidate, but will not leave nearly as bad an impression as that left by a weak item in your portfolio.

Although you may have a long list of work assembled when you get to the point of assembling your portfolio (or a great big cardboard box full of project artifacts), don't choose anything for the portfolio until you have created your goals statement. You will find it much easier to follow the advice above after you have written your goals statement.

Development project

What is it? This is a single project which spans at least three of the five major ISD components: analysis, design, development, production, implementation and evaluation. Although it is likely that you will have completed this project as part of a course (R641, for example), you may have, with the permission of your project mentor, completed an independent study project or external project to satisfy this requirement for graduation.

Does it have to appear in my portfolio? It is likely that your development project will appear in your portfolio; it is recent work, and should have been done in an area that interests you and supports your career goals. However, it is not required that your development project appear in your portfolio.

The development project and the portfolio are not the same thing. Even if your development project is very large and very successful, it should not be the only thing in your portfolio. The portfolio is not simply a vehicle for displaying your development project, although you may elect to use your development project as one of your portfolio items.

Required supporting materials

In addition to the portfolio itself, you must turn in the following items shown below.These items should be submitted in a separate report cover or folder, clipped together and identified with your name so they don't get lost during the review process.

Masters StudentsPh.D. Students
  • goals statement describing specifically the kind of position you expect to hold when you graduate (you may include a goals statement in your portfolio, but this one should be specific and thorough enough to explain to your advisor and to the portfolio committee how the portfolio is going to be used and what it is trying to convey -- this will be a different goals statement than the one you might show a prospective employer or a current employer
  • resume (which should be included in the portfolio also)
  • proof that you are in your last regular semester before graduation -- acceptable proof is your filled-out Masters planning sheet
  • list of professional references (3 minimum)
  • a brief statement indicating who each of your references is, and why you have selected these people as references (you will generally not include this statement directly in the portfolio, although you may list your references along with your resume or vita)
  • goals statement describing specifically the kind of position you expect to hold when you graduate (you may include a goals statement in your portfolio, but this one should be specific and thorough enough to explain to your advisor and to the portfolio committee how the portfolio is going to be used and what it is trying to convey -- this will be a different goals statement than the one you might show a prospective employer or a current employer
  • academic vita (which should be included in the portfolio also)
  • proof that you are within 1-2 semesters of taking your qualifying exams (for doctoral students) -- acceptable proof is your doctoral program of studies form
  • list of professional references (3 minimum)
  • a brief statement indicating who each of your references is, and why you have selected these people as references (you will generally not include this statement directly in the portfolio, although you may list your references along with your resume or vita)


You can organize your work a number of ways:

  • categorized by type of project
  • categorized by the skills demonstrated
  • ordered by your estimation of the work's quality
  • ordered by the relevance of the work to your goals

Whatever organization plan you use, pick one and stick to it. The reviewers of your portfolio will be looking to see if it is organized consistently and clearly. Consider including a table of contents, and make sure the organization of the portfolio is reflected in it. If you do use a table of contents, you may not need to include page numbers on it because your portfolio is not likely to be long enough to need them. The table of contents will serve more as a rough guide and an overview of the portfolio's organization than it will a specific navigation aid. If your portfolio is online, you will have to include some kind of top-level menu that serves this purpose.

You may decide to order your work by relevance or by quality, and provide an indicator on the annotation pages of the specific skills the work demonstrates. This method allows you to organize the portfolio on two levels, without adding so much complexity that viewers are confused or distracted by the organization scheme itself.

Many professional portfolios are constructed with the resume or vita in the back. If you chose to put your resume/vita in the back of your portfolio, you should put some identifying information (your name!) in the front of the portfolio, and you should turn in another copy of your resume/vita with the required materials that accompany your portfolio.


Tips on Presentation

Left-hand and right-hand pages

Right-hand pages in a print portfolio should never be left blank.blank righthand page - wrong
Left-hand pages in a print portfolio may be left blank.lefthand page blank - OK

Whole documents

As a general rule, avoid including whole documents. In an online portfolio, provide more than just a URL to another website as an example of your work.whole document - wrong
Choose meaningful excerpts from documents. In an online portfolio provide small scale versions of those excerpts and link them to larger versions.2-page document excerpt
If you include a whole document, you may punch it and bind it directly into the portfolio or, in online form, include a link to download the document or to open it as a pdf file. If your role on the project was specific to certain sections of the document, highlight those sections.whole document bound directly into portfolio
highlighted document
Another option for including a whole document is to bind it separately from the portfolio, and indicate in the annotation that the document is available (either in the back of the portfolio, as a document download for an online portfolio, or on request).whole document bound separately

Do not allow the structural elements (banners, rules, identity graphics, topic headings, and so on) to dominate the screens or pages of your portfolio so much that your artifacts are no longer the focus of attention.

Pay attention to the visual quality of the excerpts you use. If they are reduced in size, either in print or online, watch out for images breaking up nd for text that looks as though it should be readable but is not. In print a reduced image containing text should be readable even if it is quite small. Reduced images online must be linked to larger versions in which the text is readable.

Your portfolio should represent your professional self and be appropriate to the context in which you work now or hope to work soon. In most cases, this means it is not the place to indulge your fondness for cute kitty pictures, Nascar racing logos, or snapshots of yourself on vacation. For online portfolios especially, be sure the design of your portfolio is clearly delineated as your professional image.

One of the primary challenges in producing the portfolio lies in writing the annotation. Pay attention to the annotation, and leave yourself enough time to write and revise it. Although it will not be as personal as a diary or as informal as email, it should sound as though you are a real person. Be sure that your annotation reveals the way you think as a designer and the reflection you have done as a professional. Avoid bragging on yourself or sounding apologetic for your work, but don't avoid discussing the important decisions and accomplishments represented by the artifacts you are showing.

When the portfolios are handed in the first time, the portfolio committee simply checks to see that they are accompanied by the required supporting materials. If any of these materials are missing, you will be contacted by email and asked to supply them.

First review

  • the clarity of your presentation
  • the consistency and quality of your annotation
  • the professional craftsmanship with which the portfolio is assembled
  • the general congruence between your portfolio and your goals statement

Once the committee has checked for the required supporting materials, your portfolio is reviewed by a member of the portfolio committee and by your academic advisor for:

Requests for revision made by the committee and your academic advisor are then compiled and sent to you via email. You have approximately two weeks to complete the requested revisions.

Final review

Unless there have been major problems introduced into your portfolio as you complete the requested revisions, the final review is simply a check to make sure those revisions have been made. If you do not pass the final review, the committee will contact you immediately and give you every chance to correct any remaining problems before the portfolio celebration. If your revisions are satisfactory, you pass the final review and are notified by email.

Spring 2018

Friday, 1/9

Deadline to confirm that you will participate in the portfolio review this semester; send email to Dr. Brush at tbrush@indiana.edu
Wednesday, 1/24Portfolio Review MEETING (10:30AM - 12:00PM, Rm 2261)

By this date you should have met with or contacted your academic advisor to:
  • let your advisor know you are completing a portfolio
  • seek any input your advisor may have concerning your professional goals and the contents of your portfolio

Wednesday, 2/21

Turn in a sketch Outline of your portfolio (goals statement and organization plan) to Dr. Brush's Office for the first review by the Portfolio Committee. This review will check your general approach plus the goals statement, plan of studies.

Your portfolio outline can be in your own web space or your IU webspace: send the URL to Dr. Brush at tbrush@indiana.edu. Send your goals statement in a word document, and attach your program of studies.

Signatures on your program of studies not required -- this is just to show the review committee that you are nearly done with your coursework -- which you should be in order to participate in portfolio review.

Wednesday, 2/28Feedback is given by the Portfolio Committee
Wednesday, 3/21

Draft portfolio due. Seek feedback from your advisor prior to sending the draft and the URL to Dr. Brush at tbrush@indiana.edu.

Wednesday, 3/28Feedback is given by the Portfolio Committee

Friday, 4/18

Final version of your portfolio is due. Send the URL to Dr. Brush at tbrush@indiana.edu.

Friday, 4/27

Status notification of your portfolio is sent to you.

Students are responsible for meeting the deadlines and should plan on completing key milestones in advance of the listed deadlines.

How many samples should be included in my portfolio?
Enough, but not too many! The norm is somewhere between 7-9 annotated samples because this is a number that offers you the chance to show what you can do and not lose the attention of whoever looks through your portfolio. However, you may find that you end up with more items (people seeking academic jobs often do), or fewer (if you have worked on several large, relevant projects, for example). Concentrate on demonstrating your abilities, and then worry about the number of items in your portfolio.

Since I'm demonstrating my own skills, is it ok to include work that I did with a group?
Yes. Your annotation should make it clear which parts of the project you contributed to, and you should credit your teammates either by name or by acknowledging that you worked with a team of 3, team of 5, or whatever.

What if I don't have any kind of original material from a certain project?
Make sure this is really true before you give up looking. If there is absolutely no physical evidence that the project ever took place, investigate whether or not there are artifacts that may be reproduced or reprinted. In some cases you can manufacture an artifact, but check with a portfolio advisor first to see what kinds of manufactured artifacts are considered ethical.

Should I reprint all my artifacts so that they look clean and consistent?
Reprint individual items that may have gotten bent or smudged over time. Do not reprint all your artifacts onto a single color of paper or reformat them into a consistent template. When you do that you lose their authentic quality. Put your efforts at consistency into the annotation portions of your portfolio and show your artifacts in their original form.

What about oddly shaped items -- small pamphlets, disks, or oversized print materials?
For many people, this is where your ingenuity will be tested! Some items can be photo-reduced through color copying or plain photocopying so that they fit into your portfolio. For others, you will need to comb the office supply stores to find the right size page protector, bind-in folder or other solution for including non-standard items in your portfolio.

"Artifacts" seems like a strange term -- is that what everyone calls them?
Probably not. The term is descriptive and therefore useful in discussing your portfolio, but it is probably not a term that should appear in the portfolio itself.

All my artifacts seem to be text. Is that ok? How can I avoid having a dull portfolio?
Yes, it's ok providing text is the natural output for most of the activities you expect to be doing professionally. For some people this will be the case and for other it will not. You and your advisor should discuss that. Remember that your portfolio will not look dull to a potential emplyer, or to your current employer, if it demonstrates abilities and accomplishments in line with your goals. If you hope to be a writer for print-based instruction, then your writing samples are going to be the most interesting thing you could show to a prospective employer. Remember also that a well organized presentation of material is attractive in its own right, whether it contains pictures or not.

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