Thursday, May 14, 2009

Why faculty need their own websites

Over ten years ago, I decided to get my own independent website to use for teaching and other faculty purposes. I am SO glad I did! Let me tell you why I did it, why I'm glad I did it, and why you should get your own website, too!

The main reason I created my first independent website for students back in olden times is that our college then had a policy that if I posted a syllabus or any other material on the web it had to be sent to my dean for approval, then to the VP for marketing, then to the webmaster, THEN I could go ahead and post it. Not only when I was posting new material, but even when I wanted to change a typo or add an assignment! Clearly, the benefits of immediate publication were lost in this process. And talk about a disincentive to keep your pages current! So I completely avoided cumbersome policies and procedures at my college.

Another reason that I went in this direction was because I was teaching another course at another school. Some of the same resources could be used by students at both schools. Using two different websites, I'd duplicate much of my efforts. Using resources at one school for students at another school had its problems, too. So may own website allowed me to consolidate my efforts.

Also, being an author of educational material, I know how important it is for faculty to maintain ownership of their work. I don't want my school to own my work, because if they do then I can't use it at another school and I can have a textbook or software company publish it for me. There is a lot of legal precedent on my side, but web pages independent of any school can help avoid any claims on my work.

Of course, the down side to moving in this direction is that I'd have to be my own web page programmer and be my own webmaster.

But it turned out that this was not such a big deal. One can easily build a website with approximately the same skills as using a word processing program. Also, there is the up side to being your own webmaster . . . you are in control. You can do pretty much anything you want to do with your web pages. The only really hard part is getting over that huge hump of deciding to just go for it.

OK, this worked for Kevin . . . but why should I have my own website?

Here are some thoughts:
1. You are in control. No college policies or procedures. No standard design or limited web space or bandwidth to adhere to.

2. You can use it for more than one school or organization.

3. Helps you maintain ownership of your intellectual property.

4. You can password-protect your site (or certain pages) if you need to.

5. It's cheap. Often FREE.

6. It's flexible. You can change your design, your content, your format, any time you please.
Next time, I'll summarize some of the options you have in starting your own website.

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