Opening up the Web for Students and Faculty


Image courtesy of Jim Groom’s website.

Last fall, our neighbors just two and a half hours to the north at the University of Mary Washington launched an eye-opening program for their students, faculty, and staff. It is a service to allow users to register an Internet domain and house it on internal servers, called A Domain of One’s Own. The name is an allusion, it seems, to Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, a treatise on the marginalization of women writers in a patriarchal literary tradition. In this case, the focus is on empowering digital citizens to carve out their own spaces on the Web to develop their digital identity, thoughts, and networks outside of the corporatized Internet tradition.

College Students and Digital Literacy

The project falls within larger conversations about digital literacies for college students that I alluded to in my last post. Offering access to server space and a domain opens up the opportunity for the college community to explore using the Web outside of privately designed and controlled programs and applications. Users can develop websites that are either publicly available to the entire Web, or privately to a select group.

The UMW team has done a tremendous amount of work to make A Domain of One’s Own as user-friendly as possible, grounding user navigation within their home WordPress site. Intriguingly, they make the migration of all of the content straightforward and simple: Students and faculty can readily take all of their work with them when they move on from school. The idea behind their work and the detailed documentation of it is to support others’ development of similar projects on their campuses. Maybe we can start to imagine something like this at William & Mary.

The Possibilities of This Kind of Program Are Limitless

The program actively supports curricular explorations by organizing regular faculty meetings to discuss implications and possibilities of incorporating the Web space into coursework and assignments. For instance, websites on the server can be aggregated by a department, course, or faculty member so that associated content can be found and students can share work. But if we understand these domains as entirely blank slates, on to which anything can be drawn, the possibilities are limitless. For more details about recent updates to the platform, check out one of the projects spear-headers, Jim Groom’s, blog.


Image courtesy of the OpenVA website.

The project also resonates with larger conversation about open education that are gaining traction in Virginia. On October 18th the second annual OpenVA meeting was held at Tidewater Community College’s Virginia Beach campus. The sessions focused on three topics: Open infrastructure, open content and resources, and open pedagogy and curriculum. I attended along with Swem’s Arts Librarian, Kathleen Delaurenti. We took lots of notes and pictures, and will be back on the AT Blog shortly with some ideas.