Project Implements Personal Websites


Domain of One’s Own, a program that allows more than 600 Emory students to create a digital portfolio of coursework on their own website, started last fall and will host an incubator event later this month to expand the project to other schools.

The project is part of the Emory College Writing Program and run by Project Manager and Assistant Director of Emory Writing Center David Morgen.

Domain of One’s Own provides students enrolled in participating classes with domain names, which they may use to display multimedia portfolios for journalism, art, musical compositions and film projects, among other disciplines.

More than 30 professors in the College are participating in Domain of One’s Own this year, including faculty in the English, Religion, Anthropology, American Studies and Italian departments, among others, according to the project’s website on the Department of English’s homepage.

Ownership of a domain name grants the user administrative autonomy over a website address via the Internet.

“We’ve gotten really positive feedback from the faculty and students so far,” Morgen said.

According to Coordinator of the Writing Center and participating English professor Mandy Suhr-Sytsma, all participating professors underwent a training process last summer to learn how to build a website.

“I had never made a website in my life,” she said. “I was doing a lot of learning alongside the students.”

The Department of English’s website features tutorials for navigating domain mapping and learning the basic functions of the web host.

“There’s a certain kind of frustration that comes with working with technology that can be sometimes difficult to navigate in the classroom,” Morgen said of the challenges students face in learning to create a website. “It’s a productive kind of frustration.”

Morgen added that the websites can have future use after the student takes the class, for graduate school and employment applications, for example.

Senior Journalism lecturer Sissel McCarthy said her students were assigned multimedia assignments like podcasts, television broadcasts and online news articles for Domain of One’s Own.

She added that the personal websites were a huge benefit to her students because she said she believes digitization is the future of journalism.

According to Morgen, the websites are hosted under Weebly and WordPress, both of which are web-hosting services that employ a plug-in or drag-and-drop style of blog building.

The Emory Writing Program provides financial assistance for students who are unable to afford the cost of domain registration or maintenance, according to the website.

Originally, the project was piloted at the University of Mary Washington in Virginia by Director of the Division of Teaching and Learning Technologies Jim Groom.

The program is a result of a movement Groom coined in his essay called “edupunk.”

The term is defined by The New York Times as “an approach to teaching that avoids mainstream tools like PowerPoint and Blackboard and instead aims to bring the rebellious attitude and [Do It Yourself] ethos of 70s bands like the Clash to the classroom.”

“WordPress is free open source software,” Morgen said. “Why are we going through all these corporate sources?”

However, some students feel as though Domain of One’s Own’s effect on the classroom is more of a burden than a useful classroom tool.

“[Domain of One’s Own] assumes that we would know how to create a website, or that a student even owns or has regular access to a computer,” said College senior Emily Gutierrez, who works at the Emory Writing Center.

She added that an increased Internet presence can be “dangerous” because it assumes that students want their academic work shared on the Internet and anyone can find them.

Others said they feel it would be a benefit to their educational experience.

“I think it’s an incredible opportunity to be able to publish your own work to a site tailored specifically for you,” College junior and Film major Kara Lucarini said.

“The [website] would allow me to show future employers a portfolio of my work in a unique and organized way.”

Suhr-Sytsma said her students at first found it challenging to learn web design while simultaneously learning writing skills but ultimately had a positive experience.

The incubator event will be on Feb. 13-14 in the Goizueta Business School West Wing. According to a statement Morgen emailed to the Wheel, the purpose of the incubator is to “foster pedagogical conversation and innovation.”

The event will invite Emory participants as well as interested participants from schools like Agnes Scott College and Duke University in order to gain a broader outreach for domain programs, according to Morgen.

“Not only is my hope that it expands beyond Emory, but I think we can make Atlanta into the center for this kind of work,” Morgen said. “It’s exciting on a lot of different levels for me.”

— By Rupsha Basu