About ds106

Digital Storytelling (also affectionately known as ds106) is an open, online course that happens at various times throughout the year at the University of Mary Washington… but you can join in whenever you like and leave whenever you need. This course is free to anyone who wants to take it, and the only requirements are a real computer, a hardy internet connection, preferably a domain of your own and some commodity web hosting, and all the creativity you can muster.

In August-December 2013, we ran an experimental open version of ds106 where… THERE WAS NO TEACHER! What? How is that possible? Learn more about the idea for Headless ds106 and how it planned out including an unexpected group collaboration for the story of GIFACHROME.

The Headless ds106 content has been repackaged as an ongoing, not time bound Open DS106 Course Experience.

What is Digital Storytelling?

As to what exactly this course is all about, well according to Wikipedia Digital Storytelling is defined rather succinctly as “using digital tools so that ordinary people can tell their own real-life stories.” It then goes on to elaborate as follows:

Digital Storytelling is an emerging term, one that arises from a grassroots movement that uses new digital tools to help ordinary people tell their own “true stories” in a compelling and emotionally engaging form. These stories usually take the form of a relatively short story (less than 8 minutes) and can involve interactivity.

The term can also be a broader journalistic reference to the variety of emergent new forms of digital narratives (web-based stories, interactive stories, hypertexts, fan art/fiction, and narrative computer games).

As an emerging area of creative work, the definition of digital storytelling is still the subject of much debate.

There are a number of ideas and assumptions here that we will be interrogating over the course of ds106, namely the idea of “ordinary people,” “true stories,” and the debate around the meaning of this term.

The above article is rather vague about the details surrounding this emerging genre of narrative, and it is our responsibility to interrogate the term digital storytelling within the cultural context of our moment. This means each of you will be experimenting with your own digital platform for storytelling, as well as placing yourself within a larger narrative of networked conversation on the internet at large.

Digital Storytelling in ds106

This course will require you to both design and build an online identity (if you don’t have one already) and narrate your process throughout the fifteen week semester. Given this, you will be expected to openly frame this process and interact with one another throughout the course as well as engage and interact with the world beyond as a necessary part of such a development.

In many ways this course will be part storytelling workshop, part technology training, and, most importantly, part critical interrogation of the digital landscape that is ever increasingly mediating how we communicate with one another.

The course objectives are rather straightforward:

  • Develop skills in using technology as a tool for networking, sharing, narrating, and creative self-expression
  • Frame a digital identity wherein you become both a practitioner in and interrogator of various new modes of networking
  • Critically examine the digital landscape of communication technologies as emergent narrative forms and genres

Or more videos that we call Transmissions of ds106 Greatness. Some ways you can get a flavor for this course and its larger community include:

Need more? Do you need maybe something more like presentation? Watch this Faculty Academy 2011 video where Jim Groom and Martha Burtis describe ds106

Now you must be ready as anything! Review our Quick Start Guide and when you are ready, step up and sign up for ds106.

It is, as you will learn to say, #4life.

A storify collection of DS106 students was lost when the company pulled the plug on the service; an exported archive is available


  1. Chioma Agwuegbo

    December 22, 2010

    I’d like to find out who would be teaching what, and who we are to direct any questions we might have to.
    It would be my privilege to take part in this course.

  2. Kyle Tezak

    February 7, 2011

    I noticed you’re using my concept and an image of my work for The Four Icon Challenge as an assignment in your program. This is fine. However I see no attribution of any kind. Tim Owen’s even seems to be passing it off as his own project, which troubles me.

    • Reverend

      February 7, 2011

      That is bad attribution on the part of this site, and it stems from people associating their name with assignments they submit (which by default makes then “author”). I will change this now and I am sorry for the confusion. Your work with the “Four Icon Challenge” is brilliant, and was hoping the link to the image was recognition of that but, without a link to your post, all is naught. I have changed it here: http://ds106.us/2011/01/25/the-four-icon-challenge/

      Sorry about this, and I hope you can see it wasn’t in bad faith, rather bad design, though the two may be more related than I care to examine :)
      Jim Groom

  3. Kyle Tezak

    February 7, 2011


    Not a problem, I just thought it was worth investigating. I really am happy and flattered that people are using it as an educational tool, I never imagined it would be this well received.

    Good luck with this project.

    Kyle Tezak

  4. Liz Renshaw

    December 23, 2011

    I’m currently participating in Change11 and DS106 keeps popping up in various spaces. It just seemed that everyone was raving about it…. and it is even whispered in very hushed and reverential tones by some… I felt like I’d come across the holy grail when I saw there was another group going to take off in Jan 2012…. so Im really looking forward to being challenged and expanding my horizons and understandings about digital story telling….

    • timmmmyboy

      December 24, 2011

      Welcome to the group! The feed can get a little crazy at times (especially now with so many courses running through the site) so don’t worry about seeing and reading everything. Hopefully we can do a decent job of filtering some of the best stuff on the site anyway. I have a feeling this semester is going to be the best so you joined at a good time!

    • Reverend

      December 24, 2011


      Excellent, you should be all set, just share your blog with us here and I can be sure to syndicate it into the main site. What’s more, let me know if you will be using the ds106 tag or label so that we can filter the posts that get aggregated in.

    • Jonas Backelin

      January 17, 2012

      Hi Liz,

      Your enthusiasm is contagious, I’m now also in the course…

  5. Vanessa Vaile

    January 12, 2012

    I have a “real” computer (plastic parts not withstanding), a domain, some commodity web hosting (unless I misunderstand the term), and (hopefully) adequate creativity. The sticking point is that “hardy internet connection.” So I’ll just have to see what I can manage or not and if not passing muster, then just follow along.

    • Reverend

      January 13, 2012


      That should be enough. Did you register for the class?http://ds106.us/register

      I will be send out an email to all registrants shortly, and I think you should still be able to partake even if your connection is a bit spotty.


  6. Sandy Brown Jensen

    February 28, 2012

    I see you are still including that swipe at iPads, but I seem to be doing the majority of my coursework on my really amazingly powerful little iPad. I figure whoever wrote that didn’t have one or hadn’t learned to integrated it deeply into his work yet. I take umbrage on behalf of iPads everywhere! :)

    • Reverend

      March 4, 2012

      And iPad is great for parking my kids in front of a movie while I do my real work on a laptop. iPads are the devil’s work.

  7. Tanya T. Sasser

    March 4, 2012

    I have just discovered DS 106 & am blown away by the concept. I was wondering if my FYC students might be able to drop in and contribute a few assignments this term? They don’t have their own domains, but they have been blogging this term, most of them for the first time. I would love for them to try a few of the assignments and join the DS 106 community, if only in a minor way. Of course I would encourage those who are interested and able to meet the requirements to register for the full experience next term. I’d love to know if this is a possibility.

    • Reverend

      March 4, 2012


      It is open and available to anyone, if your students are blogging and you have a list of their URLs I can syndicate them in. Perhaps we can talk details to make it seamless, but in general I can pull in an entire feed or a specific tag off a blog feed. That way whenever they use that tag only those posts will pull in. Make sense? What’s more, if they do an assignment and use the appropriate assignment tags once they are syndicating in their work will show up on that assignment’s page.

      Joining midstream is encouraged, and do as much as you like and leave the rest. freedom is what we are all about, unless you take it for credit at UMW :)

      • Tanya T. Sasser

        March 8, 2012

        Thanks so much! This is a student-led course and they are still working on their current project but they haven’t decided on the next one, so I plan to suggest doing some DS 106 assignments. I’ll be in touch when they let me know what they think.

  8. Mandy-Jayne

    April 21, 2013

    DS106 as part of the H817 Open MOOC found it through comparing MOOC’s and commenting about
    and the general approach and philosophy

    I’m learning by doing and reading and exploring some of the posts and digital creations. Any comments, e-mails greatly appreciated. The Open MOOC is almost over, I’m going to play in here a while, learn some digital story telling as this will work well with my contribution to the H817 OU Course later when we slplit into course design groups! Thank you for being here, and for having me; it seems I’m a MOOC’er I love them!

  9. Chris Buttimer

    September 5, 2014

    Given the tech world’s sexism/misogyny issues, you may not want to have a woman being slapped in the face within the first minute of your “about ds106” video. Please consider removing that portion of the clip so others don’t have to have the same experience I had in learning about your course.


    Chris Buttimer

    • Reverend

      August 22, 2016

      Hi Rusty,

      It should be fun, classes at UMW, Kansas State, and UC Denver start up shortly, so things should start to get a bit more active soon, in the meantime have some fun!

Add a comment

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