Why Domain of One’s Own is important for higher ed.

Digital Spa 2016

              Digital Spa 2016  @/FIT

The creation of a Domain of One’s Own, provides an environment where faculty can develop and expand their digital fluencies and focus on creating a professional identity in online spaces. The act of creating, curating and sharing online content contributes to the socially constructed digital identities as an educator.

For students it creates a central repository that contributes to a sense of ownership, agency and empowerment of learners in online spaces (O’Byrne, 2016). Schools need to engage students (and faculty) in meaningful literacy practices, that contribute to the development of a digital identity. This aspect of building one’s online identity is often missing from students’ and faculty members’ higher education experiences.

I have previously written about the issues of working with an LMS (learning management system) in higher education. From a faculty perspective, each semester you are re-creating the course in a new “shell”. The ability to pour content from one semester to another is often glitchy, and requires extensive clean-up. Visually the content is unappealing, and since most (or all) LMSs were designed for text-based courses, multimodal information; images, video and audio based are difficult and time-consuming to upload.

From a student perspective the LMSs often require a double authentication process, and is an unappealing interface. More importantly, after the semester is over, as a student you lose access to whatever knowledge you have contributed and co-constructed within the LMS. Any documentation of your learning experience that occurred with the time frame of the course evaporates, unless the student has taken extraordinary measures to prevent that from happening.

Developing a personal cyberinfrastructure (Campbell, 2009) is an important skill for 21st learning. Learning how to craft a digital identity, what to share, how to design and format multimodal information, and curate information streams replicate a real-world experience, not the walled garden the real world, unlike LMSs.   For the most part, institutions of higher education failed to empower students and faculty in developing their digital identities, and relied on templated one-stop environments to engage with students in online spaces. By the time students are in college, being digitally fluent is an important factor in being academically successful. Being able to research digitally in one’s given discipline is often not a skill that is taught, often because the faculty member themselves is not comfortable with the idea of using social media as a research tool.

The Domain of One’s Own initiative is an important step for institutions of higher education to explore and implement. Sharing research across the silos in higher education can only make us all stronger collectively and individually.