A Personal Cyberinfrastructure

Key takeaway: Higher education institutions could better fulfill their role as stewards of teaching and learning in innumerable ways by challenging and supporting students to inhabit the web and manage their digital presence. Rather than competing for instructional time, this endeavor would embody and facilitate many meaningful learning opportunities.

Implications for open education: Embark on building your own personal cyberinfrastructure and thereby understand how it can be meaningful, thrilling and essential for students and learning. Then, support students to build their own personal cyberinfrastructure.


“Yet higher education largely failed to empower the strong and effective imaginations that students need for creative citizenship [online]. The ‘progress’ that higher education achieved with massive turnkey online systems, especially with the LMS, actually moved in the opposite direction.”

—W. Gardner Campbell

In A Personal Cyberinfrastructure, W. Gardner Campbell argues that the time has come to revisit what it means for institutions of higher learning to inhabit the web and support their faculty and students to do the same. When higher education first began to go online in the “early days” of the internet, the trepidation experienced by faculty and staff was soon alleviated by a turnkey solution: the learning management systems (LMS). Over the years, it became apparent that while the LMS solution was effective in moving instruction online it ironically stifled authentic habitation; instead, holding its faculty and students in digital ghettos. This became more apparent as the web evolved with social media and other web syndication services. A viable and meaningful way forward, and out of the digital ghettos, is to permit faculty and especially students to become “system administrators for their own digital lives” and to be formally and comprehensively nurtured along in this process as a part of their undergraduate education. By cultivating and managing their own personal cyberinfrastructures students in particular may be afforded the opportunity to cultivate self-efficacy by navigating their own pathway through authentic digital citizenship.

This article stands as one of the foundational declarations of what a personal cyberinfrastructure means. While it references the equally important article by Jim Groom in laying out the framework, Campbell modestly omits that he preceded and overlapped Groom’s work at the University of Mary Washington where they were colleagues. Over the years they have collaborated and jointly advanced the vision of personal cyberinfrastructure which, by 2013, has gained extraordinary momentum at University of Mary Washington (through the Domain of One’s Own initiative) and in the higher education community in general.

This article is one that I return to again and again for its aspirational  (and inspirational) vision of what a personal cyberinfrastructure can mean for imparting education and citizenship beside the mere hosting of content. As this article approaches the 5-year mark it remains prophetic and relevant as the open education movement has grown beyond access to free and open resources and onward to a vision of uber-connectivity in which every netizen has the affordances to be full participants.


Campbell, W. G. (2009). A Personal Cyberinfrastructure. EDUCAUSE Review, 44 (5), 58–59.

Back to Articles page |  Zotero Group: Freshman Composition with Digital Literacy

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About Seth Goodman

Denizen of the southwest, college employee, ASU graduate student, unofficial student of Edu Tech; focused on family...tentatively enthralled by everything else. about.me/sethgoodman
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