Reclaim Open Learning

better online learning for higher ed


September 20, 2013 by Claudia Caro Sullivan

Jim Groom, University of Mary Washington
Martha Burtis, University of Mary Washington
Alan Levine, University of Mary Washington

dS106: An Open, OnlineDigital Storytelling Course

ds106 was imagined as a way to make students sysadmins of their own education. The course/community encourages them take control of the the online spaces they inhabit, and the experience is designed to guide them through that process both technically and culturally. It’s not only important to understand web servers, subdomains, and databases, but it’s equally essential to interrogate third party services like Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Youtube, etc., through which we narrate our digital selves on a daily basis. Much of what we do on the web is storytelling, and we need to have a deeper understanding of the platforms we are using to tell those stories.

ds106 not only asks students to take control of their digital work, but also asks them to use their spaces to contribute to the course at large. Each student sets up their own course blog with their own domain using their own web host. Once they do, it’s syndicated back into the course site at That site effectively becomes a distributed hub for the community registered students and open, online participants. Rather than an all encompassing system, ds106 provides a distributed, decentralized community of individuals, much like the web. For example the assignment repository ( features assignments from a range of media-inspired categories, i.e., visual, design, audio, visual, mashup, etc. that people who have been part of the class contributed. The students are charged with choosing a certain amount of assignments from each category over the course of the semester. What’s more, they’re also expected to contribute their own assignments to this repository, which allows them to contribute to the design and development of the course.

A brief answer to the following questions: How does your project exemplify open learning? How do you involve students as peer leaders and partners in open innovative learning? How do you incorporate digital resources and practices? Who is your audience? What have you learned so far from this project? What questions remain? What will you do next?

Additional Resources:
Interview with Anya Kamenetz:

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