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.
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 The 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 history 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 continuing 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.”