The following email went out on May 31st, 2011 in preparation for the ds106 Summer of oblivion online course through UMW. It is directed primarily at the 27 UMW students registered for the course, but may be useful for anyone interested in a brief overview of the class.
Subject: ds106: Summer of Oblivion
Hello and welcome to the online, Summer version of Digital Storytelling (CPSC 106).
Please read this email in its entirety!
I wanted to take a moment to quickly orientate you all in regards to how this course will be run over the Summer (June 20th – July 21st).
Let me start by saying this course will probably be unlike most courses you have taken thus far in your school career, and that is not simply because it will be held entirely online—for it is quite likely in this day and age some of you have taken an online course before. What is different about ds106 (my nickname for the course) is that you will not only be asked, but required, to narrate your process of learning over the course of the semester. You will be required to purchase and manage your own domain and web hosting space (details forthcoming); you will be expected to create a series of online identities across several web services (including YouTube, Flickr, Twitter, delicious, Google Apps, etc.); and regularly update your own web space where you will be installing, designing, and customizing your own blog. More specifically, you will be asked to use these spaces to create digital narratives both individually and collaboratively over the course of this accelerated semester—so please be prepared to work together.
Also, it is very important to keep in mind that a lion’s share of the course work and by extension your grade will be focused around the regular updating of your own blog as well as commenting on the blogs of your classmates. I can not stress strongly enough how essential both blogging and commenting are to your success is this course. If you foresee any issue with either of these activities—particularly with doing them openly online—I recommend you reconsider taking this course.
One other issue that comes up again and again with this course is the time commitment. We will be creating a variety of narratives across a wide range of media, experimenting with everything from digital photography to digital audio to web video. These forms are often quite complicated and time consuming, and while the students who have taken this class in previous semesters enjoyed the process tremendously, they almost all noted it demands a significant amount of time. If you are taking a large number of credits or some particularly difficult classes in other disciplines this Summer (or trying to hold-down a full-time job, etc.), you may want to reconsider taking this course. What’s more, if you took this class as a 100-level filler and expect to get by with minimal work or engagement, you will quickly realize that it’s far more than that—and the dangerous part of the course is you will greatly enjoy the work. Don’t be seduced! At any rate, consider this fair warning. And please try not to make me remind you that you were warned before the class even began.
The main site for the course is located at http://.ds106.us. Please go there and register for the site, selecting that you are part of the “UMW Summer Online Course” during the registration process. If you have any problems registering please let me know.
Something to keep in mind about that course site is that it will not only include the posts of students from UMW, but also from others beyond the boundaries of our school. Ds106 may be taken by more people from outside UMW than the number enrolled in the class at UMW—and they will be taking it for free. Why free? Free because they are not getting credit for the class like you are from UMW. Your work as a class will not be filtered into a particular section of the course site, but you will be side-by-side assignments that are submitted by people from a wide range of experience and interests—almost all of whom have no association with UMW whatsoever. This is in many ways a microcosm of the web, we will not be working within a siloed learning management system, rather we will be doing our business out on the open web. If this is concern, then you have yet another reason to reconsider taking the course.
This course is designed to get you to both think about and interact within the digital landscapes and networks that everywhere surround us. Narratives and storytelling provide the frame we need for exploring and experimenting with emerging forms of creative expression in the digital realm as well as means for interrogating the digital environments we are increasingly dependent upon. To this end you will be asked to steward your own website, and one of your first assignments will be to purchase your own domain and establish your own web host—and by extension your own digital identity.
Shortly I will be sending out an email with instructions for getting your own webhost, domain, and installing WordPress. I will also be expecting you all to get Twitter, Flickr, and YouTube accounts as soon as possible and update your ds106 profiles with the relevant URLs for your accounts for each of these services.
In the meantime, be sure to register for the course site here to formally commit. Also, if you already have an account on the ds106 site for any reason you don’t need to sign-up a second time.