Collaborative Digital Publication Projects

Blogging platforms have made it easy to incorporate digital publishing projects into a course curriculum. Digital publishing offers students an easy and immediate way to experience collaborative writing production and a taste of “professional” work expectations and practices. Publication may raise the stakes of writing assignments for students. Rather than a private exchange between the professor and student, a publication project can propel a student’s writing through various stages of development and revision with an expanding audience, increasing peer collaboration, and, often, a group project that has a life outside of the classroom.  Many students comment that having a larger audience creates a sense of purpose for their work and that they notice that they work harder on pieces that will have a wider audience.

Blog site platforms such as WordPress, TumblrWixJekyll, which have some free access options and a fairly simple learning curve, may already be familiar to your students.. When Saraleah Fordyce integrated digital publishing into her graduate course in Design Criticism, she used the Google Sitesplatform as it was free for students at her institution.

OVERVIEW from Saraleah Fordyce

Digital publication and collaborative practice were integrated aspects of a recent course I taught in Design Criticism. The course was structured in three units, and each unit ended in a student publication. Students were organized into three groups, and for each publication two of these groups submitted written work and one group acted as publishers who collected, edited, arranged, and contextualized the written pieces in a digital publication.

Students described the satisfaction of having assignments “become something.” Rather than disappearing into a private exchange with a professor that ends when a student turns in their work for a grade, their assignments became the first step towards a larger community project with a wider audience.

The publication process helped students push their work further than they would have otherwise. They stated that they enjoyed both the presentation and access to each others’ writing. They were excited about the “object” of the publication; it was something that they could share with others and link to on their CV’s or in their portfolios. They also stated that they appreciated the introduction to digital publication and professional collaboration.

Note: When using publication as a class assignment it is necessary to consider questions of access, student privacy, and FERPA protection. Remember that whatever type of publication you use, privacy settings can be adjusted to share work only within the class, or within the institution, or beyond. Be sure everyone is very clear about the level of privacy and understands how the privacy settings work. Make sure to get permission from students before sharing their work.


Publishing and Presenting Due 2/16, 3/16, 4/27

Why are we doing this?

  • In this assignment we work on skills of collaboration, organization, editing, critical reading and writing, and web layout

How do we do it?

  • Collect all students’ pieces on the last week (publishing team does not have to submit a piece)
  • Assign roles within the group: proofreaders, layout, image/audio/video selection
  • Discuss themes, ways to organize student work
  • Find (sometimes from the writers) or make images, audio, and video to enhance the page
  • Assemble a Google Sites page
  • Write editor’s notes, or an introduction to either the work or the way you’ve organized it
  • Present the page: the rationale, the process, tips for future teams. 10-15 minutes.

How will it be assessed: (10% for the page 5% for the presentation)

  • Is the page organized, clear, easy to navigate?
  • Is it interesting? Did the team add non-text media to enhance the content?
  • Are pieces well edited?
  • Was the work distributed evenly?
  • Are the editor’s notes provocative, insightful, useful?
  • Is the presentation clear, organized, thorough?


Here is a link to Cheryl E. Ball’s excellent three part series on “Editorial Pedagogy” .

We recommend the journal Hybrid Pedagogy: a digital journal of learning, teaching, and technology as a go-to source for deeply considered and classroom tested innovative pedagogies that use digital tools. To further explore digital tools for use in the classroom or for your own digital humanities projects take a look at this list of digital research tools


If you do use and adapt this assignment or if you have an assignment that you’d like to share please let us know about your work in the comment section. Thank you.