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Digital Projects Toolkit

A guide for planning, implementing, and preserving digital scholarship projects.

A. Sustainability & Project Life Span

As a starting point to guide your decisions, check out this guide from HumTech UCLA: Scholarly Web Design Best Practices for Sustainability. It outlines best practices for digital projects based on risk tolerance and desired project longevity.

Key questions include:

  • What is my risk tolerance? (Low, Medium and High)
    • For example: High. My scholarship is only possible in interactive digital environments, and I’m prepared to take risks to realize it. Likely lifespan: 3-5 years.



Sustainability: In today's knowledge-based society digital tools are valuable resources. During the planning stages, you should identify how you can apply sustainable design principles to your project. The first step might be identifying the desired life span of your digital design. 

Life span: In the context of digital scholarship, life span refers to the duration of time in which a digital project remains viable. Determining your project's life span early in the planning process will help facilitate conversations surrounding sustainability and sustainable design. 



As you plan and implement your digital project you should pre-define its intended life span. In other words, how long do you want this project to exist before it needs to be upgraded, replaced, or permanently retired? Depending on your project's goals, its life span could be a few months, one year, or with careful planning, significantly longer. If you intend for your digital project to outlast your time at Davidson it is important that you take steps to ensure its viability. The first step in sustainable design is defining what sustainability means to your initiative. 



Design Considerations

Consider the following points as you design and implement your project.

  • Discuss sustainability in the context of your project. What is your project's life span?

  • Determine whether your design meets your users' needs. How will users benefit from this project?

  • Identify whether your project has long-term costs. How will you continue to fund your project? 

  • Pinpoint which partner will retain ownership of the project. Over the long term, who will maintain the initiative?




What is Davidson Domains?

"Davidson Domains is a service that provides all Davidson students and faculty with a personally-owned and managed internet presence. This presence can be anything from a simple personal Web page to a full-fledged e-commerce site." (Davidson College Technology & Innovation)

To learn more, explore this Frequently Asked Questions article on the T&I Support Center. 


Davidson Domains & Sustainability 

"If you choose to use Domains as the foundation of your digital project, please understand that once you graduate you are obligated to take over billing and hosting or retrieve the content from your account. Domains are cleared and removed in July of each year." (Davidson College Technology & Innovation) 

To learn more, explore this About article on the T&I Support Center.

How can I Learn More?

The Digital Learning Team collaborates with faculty on the use, development, and evaluation of a wide range of teaching and learning technologies. They are available to assist in the design of assignments, projects, or courses that involve digital tools and spaces. If you have additional questions regarding sustainable design or Davidson Domains, please contact the Digital Learning Team. 

B. Preservation Guidance


Digital Preservation: "Digital preservation combines policies, strategies and actions to ensure access to reformatted and born digital content regardless of the challenges of media failure and technological change. The goal of digital preservation is the accurate rendering of authenticated content over time." (Association of Library Collections & Technical Services)


As noted above, safeguarding long-term access to digital materials requires a combination of policies, strategies, and actions. While digital preservation is frequently misunderstood as being synonymous with digitization and digital storage, it is far more complex than just these two vital processes, due primarily to the fragile nature of digital information and its propensity for rapid obsolescence. 

Data stored on digital media depends on the seamless integration of software applications, operating systems, and hardware, all of which rapidly degrade over time. The practice of digital preservation seeks to protect and provide continued access to digital content despite that degradation.


Design Considerations

Early in the design process, you should begin considering whether you might want to preserve certain aspects of your project. Ask yourself this question, "do I think this project and its various components should be preserved beyond its pre-determined life span?" If the answer is an emphatic "yes!" then you should incorporate digital preservation best practices into your project design. This works may be as simple as documenting project goals, design choices, and technology decisions. 



The process of sunsetting a digital project or publication (thoughtfully ceasing to update or maintain a digital work) can  help to reclaim and refocus limited resources and help to focus attention on what aspects of the scholarly work are important to document.

Decisions about whether to preserve, sustain, or sunset a digital project are determined by considering at the ideation of the project the goals, what time frame and metrics will define when the project has completed its work, and whose input or engagement is necessary in making those decisions.

The Basics

Digital preservation is an ever-evolving field of practice that requires careful planning and quick action. Here are some easy steps you can take to preserve your digital project. 

  • Document important project decisions and processes in a readme file.

  • In writing have all project collaborators agree on which components should be preserved and made accessible.

  • Save and inventory all project files.

  • If possible, use open standards and open, non-proprietary, uncompressed file formats.

  • When naming your files use consistent and descriptive naming conventions.

  • Consider employing a web-archiving/ web-crawling tool to capture a static version of your project.



How Can I Learn More? 

Archives, Special Collections, & Community (ASCC) team advances Davidson’s teaching and learning mission by leading campus and community engagement with rare books, manuscripts, official college records, and digital and physical archival resources.  If you have additional questions regarding digital preservation guidance, please contact Archives, Special Collections, & Community. 

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