What is the Digital Liberal Arts?

Over the next academic year, UMW’s Division of Teaching and Learning Technologies will be hosting a series of conversations and conversation starters focused on the digital liberal arts.

The digital liberal arts is continuing to be defined. There are a handful of initiatives focused on the digital liberal arts at various institutions across the country (Middlebury, Whittier, Occidental). However, with its recent 2020 strategic plan, University of Mary Washington has explicitly dedicated itself to the digital liberal arts.

As we consider the directions we’ll head as an institution, we find ourselves wanting to look back even as we look forward. What is the digital? What are the liberal arts? What happens at their intersection? What possibilities and what frictions arise?

In his post, “What is Liberal Education,” Kris Shaffer writes, “The idea of liberal education that we carry will have great impact for what digital liberal arts looks like. Digital technology brings something very different to the transmission of universal knowledge than to the empowerment for critical, transformative engagement with the world.”

The core of the liberal arts is what makes an institution like University of Mary Washington distinct — and what makes the UMW students incredibly unique in their skills and interests.

How, though, can the liberal arts be infused ethically into edtech, initiatives like Domain of One’s Own, fully online learning, continuing education? How does UMW grow ethically via these mechanisms while continuing to integrate the core values of the liberal arts?

DTLT’s series of faculty development events throughout 2016 – 2017 is aimed at bringing together the UMW community to contribute to these important conversations. Each month focuses on a specific topic and will include: (1) an open “town hall” with either an invited guest speaker to kickstart the conversation and/or a faculty panel; (2) a “design sprint” focused on application, workshopping, or hands-on practice.

The open town halls will be live-streamed with a Twitter backchannel using #DoOO. While we will aim to bring in outside experts and to highlight expertise from within UMW, central to the events will be the discussion had by participants — both on the ground and virtually.

Save the date for the following faculty development events (for folks joining Town Halls virtually, all times are Eastern):


The Digital Liberal Arts and Sciences [read a recap]
Town Hall — Wednesday, 9/14 at 4:00pm followed by a reception (HCC Digital Auditorium) [watch the live stream]
Design Sprint — Tuesday, 9/20 at 4:00pm (HCC 407)

The Future of Education [read a recap]
Town Hall — Tuesday, 10/4 at 4:00pm (HCC Digital Auditorium) [watch the live stream]
Design Sprint — Wednesday, 10/12 at 4:00pm (HCC 407)

Ethical Online Learning
Town Hall — Tuesday, 11/1 at 4:00pm (HCC Digital Auditorium) [watch the live stream]
Design Sprint — Monday, 11/7 at 4:00pm (HCC 407)

Grading, Measurement, Assessment in the Digital Age
Design Sprint — Tuesday, 12/6 at 4:00pm (HCC 407)

SPRING (more events TBA)

The Quantitative Liberal Arts
Town Hall — Wednesday, 3/15 at 4:00pm (HCC Digital Auditorium)
Special guest: Mike Caulfield, “Digital Literacies For A Post-Truth Era”

Design Sprint — Wednesday, 3/22 at 12:00pm (HCC 407)

Digital Citizenship
Design Sprint — Wednesday, 4/19 at 4:00pm (HCC 407)
Special guest: Audrey Watters, “Protests Bots: a Critical Workshop”

As individual events approach, we will be linking on this page to additional information about each session. If you are not able to join us in person, we will be including links to live streams of the Town Halls and will be encouraging everyone to join the Twitter backchannel on #DoOO.

[Photo “Engrenage” by flickr user Mam’zelle Kaelle licensed CC BY-NC-ND]