Saturday, 7 July 2012

Realisation of a Sound Design Portfolio

In my last few posts I have been considering the creation of academic portfolios for sound design.  In this post I will now examine the realisation options for building a portfolio.  Back in the "old days" a sound designers portfolio would normally consisted of a showreel that would be used as a showcase of their best work.  The advent of digital portfolios meant that it became possible to adopt the two faces of an academic portfolio that I have already spoken about in my previous posts.  From an academic point of view, the two faces makes lots of sense and can help to provide the foundations for a portfolio that can be carried forward into a professional career.  Recently work has been published that seems to advocate using different digital choices: Electronic Portfolios - ePortfolio (Dalziel 2006), Blog Portfolios - bPortfolios (Wicks 2011), Mobile Portfolios - mPortfolios (Barrett 2010), etc. However, in my opinion these seem to be missing the point!  I'm not sure that these different implementation technologies really make much of a difference.  For me it seems far more important to make sure that when implemented, the key elements that I highlighted in my previous post are covered with a suitable realisation.  For testing purposes I have built a prototype sound design portfolio using a platform called Mahara ( However, it should be possible to build a digital portfolio that meets all of these elements using different platforms.
  • Planning what sounds need to be created to meet the brief and consideration of how the individual sounds will work together in the final content = blogging to create a Personal Development Plan (PDP) for the content being created and the portfolio itself 
  • Log individual sound elements, complete with providing an inspiration for the sound created and details of how it was made and produced = blogging with possible document upload and SoundCloud can be used to embed audio content that can have comments placed at specific points in the content timeline
  • Final content showing how the individual sound elements have been integrated together to create a final piece = blogging with text documents that can be either uploaded or embedded and SoundCloud can be used for audio content
  • Formal report giving precise details of how one of the individual sounds was created and exactly how it was integrated into the final content = document created from the blog entries and can be either uploaded or embedded
  • Provide a mechanism for students to reflect on what has been achieved = reflective blog entries
  • Able to upload or embed different documents or media = support for web 2.0 technologies
  • Provide storage for work in progress = local or cloud servers
  • Allow formative feedback, ideally at corresponding points in the audio content = embed SoundCloud tracks
  • Support for networking and conversation between both students and tutors = add "comments" to all content (audio, blogs, forums, etc.)
  • Ability to keep some parts private and make others public = maintain an unpublished workspace and published showcases 
  • Provide wider networking between to students and the "outside" world = externally visible blogs and forums
  • Give confidential summative feedback and final grade = provide integration between portfolio and institutions Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) grade centre
  • Allow the work to be showcased to the wider world when completed = combine appropriate elements from the above to create a showcase - use social media to help publicise

As well as these elements I have also identified that students need stimulation to develop their content and themselves, over an extended period of time.  The stimulation mechanisms maybe generated using the following elements:
  • Student based reflection = reflective blog entries containing analysis and evaluation
  • Formative feedback from the tutor = adding comments directly to the portfolio elements (audio, blogs, forums, etc.)
  • Collaboration between students and the wider world = forums and making the content (showcases) visible on the internet

As I mentioned previously, I have created a prototype portfolio using Mahara as the complete implementation plateform.  Although Mahara fits very well with the academic requirements and does offer a very user friendly construction process (when you get your head around the different components), it does have a big drawback!  It does allow blogs, forums and networks to be created, however these do have a visibility issues.  In the sound design area there are already well established online communities and while using these institutional communities will work fine for collaboration between the students themselves, they will not open them up to the wider world.  This will then impact on the ability of the students to network with the professional/semi-professional sound community and build a reputation.  This is particularly important for the sound domain as most people work freelance and get into the industry through a long process of building a reputation and working their way up.  Ideally a portfolio started in their academic careers will form the foundations of a professional professional that will be continued through their Personal Development Plan (PDP).  Therefore, it seems important to not only use the institutional communities, but to also make the students aware of the wider communities and encourage them to fully engage with the networking possibilities.

Dalziel, C., Challen, R., & Sutherland, S. (2006). ePortfolio in the UK: Emerging Practice.  A. Jafari,& C. Kaufman, (Eds), Handbook of Research on ePortfolios. PA: Idea Group Reference. Ch. XXXIII

Wicks, D,, Andrew Lumpe, Henry Algera, Kris Gritter, Helen Barrett, Janiess Sallee (2011). bPortfolios: An Overview of Blogging for Reflective Practice. Seattle Pacific University School of Education August 2011.

Barrett, Helen. (2010). The future of mPortfolios (m=mobile) for Lifelong Learning. mPortfolios web-site,