The End of the Faculty Web Site

Last fall I had bookmarked a blog post called "What Happened to the Personal Web Site?" It focuses on academic librarians using blogs versus personal web sites, but it started me thinking about the use of personal web sites by faculty. Here's an excerpt from that post:

The sample of prominent (legacy)academic librarians I chose suggests that traditional web site content may be a bit more commonplace among that crowd, but certainly blogs are quite limited. While I found more of the blogging academic librarians less likely to have well-developed web sites, I found more web site-like content than I expected. But I think it’s safe to say that for most newcomers to the profession a personal blog will win out over a personal web site.

A web site, in my experience, is more time consuming initially to design and implement, but once established it requires just occasional updating. I think there are some good skills to be learned from this process - FTP, file structures, web site architecture and design,absolute vs. relative linking, bookmark linking, etc. re-designing my personal web site gave me an opportunity to get more Dreamweaver experience, to figure out how to get a Flash file to load on a web page, and to experiment with new design features. Is the personal web site passe? For academic librarians that appears to be the trend. But I don’t doubt that its decline has something to do with the recognition factor and where a librarian gets more bang for the buck. In that department, these days, a blog has the web site beat by a mile.

A part of my instructional technology time the past 10 years has been spent working with faculty to get their websites started and learning how to do some basic web design. NJIT never offered any official templates for faculty, but my department had created some basic ones and many faculty were happy to use them. Nothing fancy - CV, publications, research, course notes, syllabi.

Now, I wonder if faculty web sites will be a quaint thing of the past.

If you have a blog and a Facebook account, you already have a more sophisticated web presence than a basic web site. And those sites are more dynamic in the true web sense. They're not static web pages. If used as intended, they are updated regularly with text and images and interactive with comments and feedback.

If you are a research-oriented instructor, a blog has a much better chance of bringing attention to your pages than a web site, and opening opportunities for collaboration.

Here's another issue. Should a college's faculty web content be on the college's web servers? I think it should be there. It brings attention to the school and its academic programs and research. I also feel that an institution (grades K-20) should be offering teachers web space and tools to do their academic work.

NJIT, like many universities, currently gives students and faculty web space. Right now, they don't offer any content management system for that space, so you have everything from empty URLs to sophisticated web sites. Faculty are not formally offered a blogging solution, so those faculty who have created a blog have done so independently. You could create a Moodle course and use the blog or wiki tool, and some faculty use their Blackboard course as their web presence, but I'm not referring to those types of apps here.

That's not all bad. If you leave a university, the site remains. Serendipity35 is at NJIT though I have left the university as a full-time employee (I remain as an adjunct). If I decided to export it and take it with me, besides all the technical hassles of that process, I would have to re-establish the connections that the site has with readers and inside that neural network of web sites, other blogs, Technorati et al that has been created over the years. Deleting this blog would be a very small stroke to the Net brain, but a broken connection nonetheless.

My home day-to-day home now at PCCC is a two-year college that does not offer faculty any web space. I'm just now working through the process of gaining some access to their web site so that I can create a presence for the Writing Initiative that I'm directing. It's not something they normally allow. Plus they are in the process of moving their original website over to a open source CMS (hurrah for OS!), so the very small web team is very busy.

Will we see more faculty buying their own URLs and hosting solutions? That's one path that I see some faculty taking, especially if they have consulting and a business aspect to their teaching and research.

Where do the instructors at your school post public materials online? Is there an "enterprise" blogging or wiki solution?


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