October 30, 2020

Peer Mentoring Elevates Domain of One’s Own

More than 1,000 University of Mary Washington students have created their digital identities, thanks to a pioneering program the university launched less than two years ago.   Jim Groom teaches a class The innovative initiative, Domain of One’s Own, encourages students to develop an online presence. The groundbreaking project provides free, personal domain names and web hosting to help students take responsibility for their online identities, as well as explore the creation of their own portfolios and websites. “We’ve had an increasing number of students, faculty and staff creating their own websites through the program,” said Jim Groom, executive director of teaching and learning technologies. “We’ve created cheap and easy web publishing for our campus.” Since its official launch in the fall of 2013, Domain of One’s Own has inspired 20 other colleges and universities to adopt a similar program. Among those schools are Brigham Young University, Davidson College and University of Oklahoma. UMW’s program has been featured in such national publications as The Chronicle of Higher Education, Wired and Campus Technology. Although originally intended as a resource for incoming freshman students, the UMW program expanded to the entire university. Currently, more than 1,300 domains have been developed by current students, alumni, faculty and staff.  UMW’s senior class leads the way with nearly 50 percent of the 2015 class in the digital sphere. “It’s a space entirely for me,” said senior Jessica Reingold, who uses the site as a digital resume and portfolio. For this geography major, the space is an opportunity to show potential employers the experience and skills she’s had throughout college. “I’ve listed my domain on every single job application I have filled out and also have it listed on my resume,” said Reingold. Bolstered by faculty support, UMW incorporated Domain of One’s Own into its curriculum. The result was a more meaningful first encounter with digital creations, giving students a taste to inspire future projects, according to Jim Groom, executive director of teaching and learning technologies. One key factor to the initiative’s success: the creation of the Digital Knowledge Center (DKC), said Groom. Modeled after the university’s writing and speaking center, the DKC provides peer tutoring to all UMW students on digital projects and assignments. The student-run operation assists with media production and editing, 3D printing and use of web-based tools. “We have nine well-trained students who are able to help their peers and manage the center,” said Martha Burtis, director of the digital knowledge center. “Working with peers is important – it’s the mentality of ‘if she can do it, I can do it.’” Not only critical for student success, the DKC has been essential for getting faculty to bring Domain of One’s Own into their classrooms. “The DKC is a safety net for faculty,” said Groom. “It encourages faculty to integrate digital into their curriculum because it provides a resource to support their student assignments.” With more colleges and universities continue to adopt the program, Domain of One’s Own is poised for growth as well. As Burtis explains, each school models the program a slightly different way, providing a learning opportunity. “It creates a collective of people thinking about what the system can do,” said Burtis. “We’re finding out about uses that we hadn’t thought of.”

Jim Groom Co-Authors Article in EDUCAUSE Review

Jim Groom and Brian Lamb published the article  “Reclaiming Innovation” in the May/June edition of EDUCAUSE Review. The article examines the state of innovation in higher education in regards to information and education technologies. Additionally, the article featured a series of supplemental videos about various sites of innovation, including one focusing on UMW’s intiaitive Domain of One’s Own. You can read the article online here and watch the video below.

UMW Domains in the News

UMW’s innovative initiative Domain of One’s Own has been receiving recognition in trade and academic publications alike. University Business, a publication for IT managers, published an article last week framing this innovative new approach to giving members of their campus the keys to the server. The author of the article for University BusinessMatt Zalaznick,  talked with Tim Owens of the Division of Teaching and Learning Technologies about the project and below is an excerpt from the article.

The tools provided by the “Domain of One’s Own” initiative make it easier for students to carve out their own space on the web, and control and customize it…

“Students want to make something their own—to personalize it and say this is my space, this is who I am, in a way to personify themselves on the web,” Owens says.

Users have complete control over the content and the design of the page. Mary Washington students can install a variety of open source software, such as the blogging platform WordPress, to help them design their sites.

Additionally, David Morgen (Emory University) and Pete Rorbaugh (Southern Polytechnic State University) published an article in Hybrid Pedagogy this week framing the theoretical context for building a cross-institutional community around web literacies at this moment. What’s more, they used the work happening at the Unviersity of Mary Washington with UWM Domains as their inspiration:

UMW’s Domain of One’s Own initiative offers a possible link between the experimental workings of a connectivist MOOC and an on-ground or hybrid course offered at an institution. The move toward hybridity goes both ways, and while higher education has been mostly exploring how to export a serviceable replica of face-to-face culture into online space (short answer: we can’t, and that culture has to be re-imagined in a fresh context) some of us have been interested in taking the networked values of viable online communities and dragging them across the boundary into our classrooms.

Digital Native

Caitlin Murphy ’12 knew she was prepared for a job that combined her history and digital studies degrees and thought a position at PBS would be the perfect fit.

Not long after she submitted her application, Murphy got a call from the internationally renowned public broadcasting network.

Caitlin Murphy ’12 works at PBS in Washington, D.C.

Caitlin Murphy ’12 works at PBS in Washington, D.C.

They had reviewed her resume and delved into her online portfolio, which she developed while a student at the University of Mary Washington, and it wasn’t long before she had the job.

“When I applied for the position, they said my online portfolio was one of the main reasons they had contacted me,” Murphy said. “It really helped me get a foot in the door. I don’t think I would have gotten called if I hadn’t had the portfolio I did.”

Murphy is a program associate at the PBS headquarters just outside Washington, D.C. She screens upcoming programs, like “Masterpiece Theatre” or “Foyle’s War,” to make sure they meet PBS’ standards.

The position requires an eye for detail and the ability to research, skills Murphy said she honed while a student at UMW.

“Caitlin took full advantage of the liberal arts experience at UMW,” said Jeff McClurken, chair and professor of history and American studies. “Not only was she a history major who wrote a thesis that earned her departmental honors, but she also crafted a second major in digital studies, anticipating our development of the formal digital studies minor by nearly two years.”

Her digital studies major combined her passion for history with her love of technology in a multi-disciplinary way, combining classes in English, art, history, computer science with ds106, UMW’s open online digital storytelling course.

Murphy’s online portfolio, which she developed as an undergraduate, includes work from her classes and her internships.

Murphy’s online portfolio, which she developed as an undergraduate, includes work from her classes and her internships.

Murphy’s portfolio, which she shared during her job interview with PBS, included work from her classes and internships, as well as her work on the James Farmer Lectures project.

“She co-produced a site making the words, sounds and images of Civil Rights leader James Farmer available to anyone,” McClurken said. “She then took an assignment in my class to create a digital portfolio and ran with it, producing an amazing site featuring her projects in several classes in multiple departments.  It’s no surprise to me that PBS hired her based on her work.”

Now, all incoming students have the opportunity to create an online presence like Murphy, through the Domain of One’s Own initiative, launched in August 2013. The pioneering project provides free, personal domain names and web hosting to help students take responsibility for their online identities, as well as explore the implications of what it might mean for them to take control of their work and manage their own portfolios.

“Mary Washington does a really great job of providing opportunities for students,” said Murphy. “A lot of departments are working really hard to integrate digital media into day to day classes and projects. The integration of creating a website, blog or video project to create content that is still valid and historical really provided something a traditional class didn’t.”

Digital Native

While at UMW, Caitlin Murphy '12 combined her passion for history with her love for technology.

UMW Freshmen Build Digital Identities Through Innovative Project

This fall, incoming freshmen at the University of Mary Washington will have the opportunity to create their digital identities through the Domain of One’s Own initiative. The Domain of One's Own initiative allows students and faculty to experiment with domains and web hosting. The pioneering project provides free, personal domain names and web hosting to help students take responsibility for their online identities, as well as explore the implications of what it might mean for them to take control of their work and manage their own portfolios. Domain of One’s Own reinforces UMW as a leader in higher education, according to Director of Teaching and Learning Technologies Jim Groom, since it is evidence that emerging technologies are central to the university’s student and faculty experience, not afterthoughts. “Domain of One’s Own is an opportunity to build on a tradition we have had for the past 10 years to build the Web into the curriculum,” said Groom, whom the Chronicle of Higher Education named one of a dozen top tech innovators in 2012. “UMW is one of the first [colleges and universities] to think about this in a central way. Mary Washington is suggesting and doing something radically different. We are building the Web into the fabric of how we teach and learn here.” Domain of One’s Own started as a pilot project in 2012, with more than 400 students and 30 faculty participating. It is the brainchild of Groom and his colleagues in the Division of Teaching and Learning Technologies. The initiative has two main goals, Instructional Technology Specialist Tim Owens explained, with the first focused on the value of archives and portfolios for students’ future professional and academic endeavors. “The other side of it is that it is valuable for students just to inhabit the Web and understand how the Web works,” he said. “It’s important for us to have those conversations with students about how stuff happens on the Web and how they can control it.”   Haley Campbell '13 has used her domain as a portfolio and academic blog. Haley Campbell ’13 has used her http://aetherbunny.com/ domain as everything from a portfolio to an academic blog to a place to experiment with online editing tools. “A lot of people take the Internet for granted,” Campbell said. “They know they have to use it, but they don’t necessarily think about how they’re using it. [Domain of One’s Own] encourages critical thinking about those tools.” The initiative has created a buzz on and off campus, including in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Wired, The Web Host Industry Review and The Center for Digital Education. The idea for the initiative started when the Division of Teaching and Learning Technologies’ staff received their own domains and web spaces in 2004. “Two years later, after we saw how it empowered us in so many ways, we informally banded around this idea of ‘wouldn’t it be cool if we could give this to every student?’” said Martha Burtis, special projects coordinator. “It really evolved over about 10 years to where we are now.” For Burtis, Domain of One’s Own isn’t just about technology, it’s about transforming students through meaningful interactions. “That kind of empowerment is huge in terms of what we can do for our students,” she said.

DTLT’s Innovative Work featured in The Blue Review

Leslie Madsen-Brooks featured the long history of innovative work coming out of UMW’s Division of Teaching and Learning Technology in her article “Beyond Disruption” for The Blue Review. Below is a somewhat extensive quote from the article:

Those who have been paying attention only to partnerships among Silicon Valley companies and the Ivies may be surprised that the beating heart of a tremendous amount of academic technology innovation is a small state university in Fredericksburg, Virginia. At theUniversity of Mary Washington, the Division of Teaching and Learning Technology has launched at least four amazing initiatives that should be replicated widely because it’s clear to even casual observers that they advance teaching and learning in myriad ways. For one, evidence of student learning appears on the open web, and I encourage you to check out the current blogs developed for courses. Faculty, too—and I know this from first-hand experience—benefit from knowing what students are thinking (as expressed in blog posts and comments) before they convene for class.

Several years ago, UMW’s DTLT premiered UMW Blogs, termed “the Bluehost experiment” by the DTLT staff because in its first iteration, it was little more than a WordPress Multi-User installation on an inexpensive ($6.95 per month) shared server at Bluehost. Today, any UMW student, faculty, or staff can set up a blog for class or personal use on UMW Blogs—and 500 courses have been brought onto the platform since fall 2008.  Anyone can browse the courses using UMW Blogs or discover all kinds of non-course blogs by exploring the latest posts featured on the home page. The UMW archives, for example, recently put online a series of lectures by the late civil rights leader James Farmer, and Jess Rigelhaupt’s Oral History class has createdRosie the Riveter, an excellent resource that includes “firsthand accounts of what people experienced on the American home front during World War II.”

Next to emerge from this innovation engine was DS 106, an open course on digital storytelling, originally taught by Jim Groom, but since taught by several different instructors, including noted ed tech thought leaders and innovators Martha Burtis and Alan Levine, and recently by instructors at other universities as well. Because of the strong networks of the instructors and students, DS 106 took on a life of its own, with students—both those enrolled at UMW and those following the course from elsewhere—providing daily fun assignments (“the Daily Create”) that stimulate participants’ creativity and stretch their technological savvy. DS 106 spawned ds106 radio, a free-form, streaming broadcast for which anyone could volunteer to provide content.  How popular is DS 106 and its apparently endless stream of creative multimedia content? In spring 2012, Groom launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund a better web server for DS 106, and the campaign raised 600% of its goal in just a few days, providing funding for all kinds of course improvements and expansions.  While Kickstarter provided private funds for this project, I’m excited about this kind of crowdsourced funding—although I’d be even more enthusiastic about greater public funding—because it allows project creators greater future freedom than would, say, funding from investors whose motive is more likely to be profit than pedagogical revolution.

Springing next from the mind of the DTLT geniuses was Domain of One’s Own, in which each first-year student at UMW receives a domain name and space on a web server. The project encourages each student  to “reclaim the web” by “taking control of your digital identity,” gathering its artifacts “in a central place that you own and control.” And it’s offered in collaboration with the university’s Office of Information Technology Services,

The pilot gave 400 students and faculty their own domain name and web space to install a portfolio of work or map onto existing systems. In Fall of 2013 every incoming student at UMW will have the opportunity to choose their own domain and receive a web hosting account with the freedom to create subdomains, install any LAMP-compatible software, setup databases, email addresses and carve out their own space on the web that they own and control.

Then, as if granting students this creative freedom and technical autonomy wasn’t enough, this spring UMW launched Thinklab, amakerspace. According to its About page:

ThinkLab is the exciting new makerspace located in the Simpson Library at the University of Mary Washington. As a collaboration between the Division of Teaching and Learning Technologies, the College of Education, and the Library, ThinkLab hosts a variety of emerging technologies and tools for students and faculty across all disciplines. 3D printing, robotics, and electronics work using Arduinos and simple breadboard kits are just some of the many exciting things happening at ThinkLab.

The innovations and—yes, I’ll say it—disruptions, emerging from UMW exemplify some of the best practices in developing communities of learners, fostering collaboration, encouraging writing and reflection and developing curiosity about the world. Channeling George Kuh, Randall Bass emphasizes that such “high-impact practices” lead to “meaningful learning gains” as well as “high retention and persistence rates” because they encourage these specific behaviors:

  • Investing time and effort
  • Interacting with faculty and peers about substantive matters
  • Experiencing diversity
  • Responding to more frequent feedback
  • Reflecting and integrating learning
  • Discovering relevance of learning through real-world application

In an age when universities are pushing faculty ever harder to develop monetizable intellectual property, it’s refreshing to see faculty doubling down on using relatively inexpensive technologies to improve student learning. UMW is a case in point: it’s a modestly funded, small state university that, thanks to all the active minds (and periodic strategic hires) at DTLT and on the faculty, has become a major hub of innovation in higher education.

Faculty Recognized for Digital Pedagogy

A ceremony and reception on Friday, April 12 celebrated the work of faculty members in the realm of digital pedagogy.

Professor of Spanish Elizabeth Lewis and Assistant Professor of Historic Preservation Andrea Livi Smith were awarded the Innovative Digital Pedagogy Fellowship. Assistant Professor in the College of Education Janine Davis, Associate Professor of History Susan Fernsebner and Assistant Professor of Music Mark Snyder received honorariums for their work in digital pedagogy and scholarship. Faculty who participated in UMW’s first Domain of One’s Own Faculty-centered Initiative also were recognized at the ceremony.

President Richard V. Hurley was on-hand to congratulate the award recipients and to express his support for the initiatives. The Innovative Digital Pedagogy Fellowship Award Ceremony was a collaboration between the Division of Teaching and Learning Technologies and the Center for Teaching Excellence.

Jim Groom Keynotes OSU’s Ed Tech Conference

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Image credit: innovateOSU “Jim Groom Keynote”

Jim Groom delivered the keynote presentation at Ohio State University’s  fourth annual educational technology conference, innovateOSU, titled “Domain of One’s Own: Open Educational Experiences.” The presentation shared the work that has been happening at UMW over the past eight years, chronicling the fruits of  DTLT‘s experimentations with commodity web hosting which led to innovative projects  such as UMW Blogs, Digital Storytelling (ds106), and most recently Domain of One’s Own. You can see the slides for this presentation here. To see an archived video of the live presentation click here.

Tim Owens, Jim Groom Presented at Emory University

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Jim Groom

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Tim Owens

On Tuesday, January 29th, Tim Owens and Jim Groom, in the Division of Teaching and Learning Technologies, were invited to speak about Domain of One’s Own at Emory University’s inaugural “Symposium on Digital Publication, Undergraduate Research, and Writing.” The presentation covered the current pilot of UMW’s Domain of One’s Own while sharing the remarkable faculty development initiative happening around the pilot as well as the full blown implementation of this project come Fall 2013 wherein UMW gives all of its incoming freshman sponsored access to their own domain and web hosting.