Category Archives: Projects


Creating Course Sites in MiddCreate

Interested in creating a course site or assignment using MiddCreate? Not sure which application fits your needs? Look no further! This guide will provide resources to help you think through how a domain can best serve you and your students.

A “Domain of One’s Own” asks us to consider the infrastructure. It asks us to understand the Web and our place on it. It asks to us to pay attention to the content we create — as teachers and as students — and to weigh where it best resides — who has access to it, and for how long.

Audrey Watters

Technology is all about removing limitations and building connections. The MiddCreate application you select for your course site or project should connect your students with new, useful content and experiences. Having specific goals is the key to maximizing a digital tool’s value. It’s also important to determine how the new tool will figure into your existing tool inventory and pedagogy. Do you intend it to replace something or is it just an addition? Thinking about these questions will help inform your course objectives, determine how to proceed with initial set up and how much time the configuration will take.

Design Your Project

It’s a good idea to focus on what the technology can do uniquely well (such as enabling multiple modes of participation) when thinking about how it will integrate with your course. MiddCreate applications like WordPress, Known, Dokuwiki, and Omeka can be used to help your students collaborate and build a sense of community among the class. There are many models by which you can achieve this. For example, by establishing a communal space where everyone can create content, or by syndicating content students create individually to a community space.

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You might also consider the site’s intended users and audience: who will be utilizing the site and how will they interact with it? Will this change over time? An example of this would be having students collaborate to draft information into a wiki resource site, then opening it up for public contributions once the initial entries are completed. In order to make this run smoothly, an instructor would need to understand not only how to create and edit pages within the wiki application, but also have a plan for how to configure changes in privacy and multiple user access settings at each stage of the project.

Every application has unique aspects that will require careful thought and intentional planning to ensure that your project fulfills its purpose and provides a rewarding, enjoyable learning experience for everyone involved.

Identify Appropriate Challenges

Before you decide which MiddCreate tool to use, properly consider its drawbacks. These could include limitations that arise due to its features, or the extra time and effort needed to create, maintain, and grade digital assignments. You and your students are busy, so you’ll want to consider how long it will take to get your site ready. Will the application require extensive configuration to make it do what you want it to, or will it be usable soon after installation? Consider this carefully when planning your course, learning objectives, and the timing of assignments you expect students to complete.

You should also take into account how comfortable you and your students are with technology. Think about the tools they have used previously and how those compare to your potential selection. Even if students lack experience with this kind of digital tool, it could still be a valuable learning opportunity, but be aware that using it may require planning in extra time to accommodate the learning curve.

No doubt you want to give students the freedom to explore their own ideas and interests. However, leaving things too open can be intimidating and cause students to feel lost. The best way to increase students’ comfort level with new, experimental methods of learning is by including clear structure. Provide detailed requirements and frameworks for those who need them, but encourage students to take off in their own direction when appropriate. Remember that digital tools can give students the chance to take risks with the material they are learning, providing instructors insight into their students’ unexpected capabilities.

Plan for the Future

After students complete assignments, it might be nice to ask if you can feature the best work for all to admire. It’s also a good idea to archive the semester’s best examples for future classes. When students are struggling to find inspiration or understand what the project should look like, it often helps to give them a look at some of the best work from previous semesters.

Another thing to consider is whether you’ll be using the same course site again in future semesters, or would like to archive and duplicate it each time. Think about how much of your content you can create as separate assets that can be easily migrated if and when you decide to move on.

Evaluate the App

Think you’ve found the right digital tool for your site? Go though the questions in this handy, comprehensive guide to choosing digital tools for course sites. This resource offers queries to develop and improve the digital pedagogy of your classes, focusing on the unique complexities and responsibilities that incorporating MiddCreate’s web tools into a curriculum may present.

Additional Resources

Learn more about MiddCreate »

If you’d like help getting started in MiddCreate, feel free to drop by the DLC Learning Lab or make an appointment with a DLC staff member.


Creating an E-Portfolio

Creating an e-portfolio is a great way to showcase your past and present work, as well as build your professional web presence. You may wonder why you should bother putting your information in an online portfolio. For one, résumés are boring. No pictures, no videos, no flair, and very little personality. On a website, you can link to work samples and presentations, easily link to your LinkedIn profile, and imbue the site with your personality. Moreover, it shows potential employers and connections that you are technically savvy, which is important in the 21st century economy.

In addition, résumés are static. As soon as you give someone your résumé, they forever have that version of it. However, if you include your personal site’s URL on your résumé or business card, your connections will have access to a dynamic, up-to-date (hopefully!) source of information.

Finally, a personal website is searchable. An important part of building web presence is controlling what results people find when they Google your name, and so your site provides a lot of relevant context that will be indexed with your name.

Ready to get started? This resource will guide you through the process and give you some tips for creating a basic e-portfolio.

Step 1: Choose Your Platform

Check out this great resource to learn more about the differences between some of the website building platforms available to students and how to choose the one that’s right for you. Keep in mind that there are many more platforms than what’s listed here, like Strikingly for example, which lets you create a simple one-page website.

Ideally, you will continue to use your site long after you leave school, so make sure you consider your exit strategy. If you choose a platform hosted by Middlebury or if you ever want to switch platforms as your site grows, what migration options or ways to export your site will be available to you? Thinking about this from the beginning may help you avoid unpleasant surprises and frustration in the future.

website builder comparison chart

Step 2: Select a Design

Depending on the platform you’ve chosen, one of the most important decisions will be choosing a theme. This will determine the look and to some degree, functionality of your site. Consider your personal brand: what do you want your site to visually communicate about you?

Changing themes will often change the formatting, so make sure you choose one you like because switching after creating lots of content sometimes requires a lot of tedious reconfiguring. It might be helpful to look at examples of e-portfolios, think of a potential vision first, then browse and test different themes until you find one you like.

Step 3: Add Your Content

Once you’ve found a home and a design for your portfolio, it’s time to consider what to include on it. I recommend creating the following basic sections:

About Me

This is a chance to express who you are as a person, share a little about your unique life experiences, and communicate your career goals. You could approach it as a cross between a short bio and a cover letter for your dream job position.

Résumé or CV

There are lots of ways to include the information on your traditional résumé. You could manually type it in, but this may restrict your text formatting. Another option is to take a large, clear screenshot of the document, then upload it as an image. You might also want to link the image to a downloadable PDF version of the document. You could also embrace the digital nature of the medium to visualize your skills in a completely new way, using interactive graphics.

Remember, the information on your e-portfolio will be publicly viewable on the internet so take the same safety measures to guard your privacy as you would anywhere else online. You may want to remove personal information such as your phone number, address, email, etc. from the résumé you post on your e-portfolio.

If you have a LinkedIn account, this is a good place to put a link or button to your profile. You can do this by embedding HTML code, linking a button image, or get a fancier profile preview via their plugin generator.

Project Showcase

Use this section to highlight your relevant coursework, projects, internships, research, or volunteer experiences. Be creative! Use video, photo galleries, slideshows, or upload audio to diversify the way you present your achievements to the world.


Make sure visitors have a way to get in contact with you, whether this takes the form of providing links to social media, your email address, or creating a contact form.

Show Off Your Specialized Skills

If you’re a translation or interpretation specialist, you could create your portfolio in multiple languages. Looking to start a career in international education management, trade, or development? Make a section that elaborates on your range of experiences abroad or the certifications you’ve received in your field.

Want more advice or one-on-one help getting started?

If you have any questions, feel free to come in to the DLC or make an appointment. We’ll be happy to help!

Additional Resources


Diary of a Summer Graduate Assistant

clarissa-photoHi, my name is Clarissa Stewart and I’m a graduate assistant at the Digital Learning Commons! This summer I had the privilege of working here full-time, assigned primarily to the MiddCreate project under Amy Collier, the Associate Provost for Digital Learning from Middlebury College, and Evelyn Helminen, Assistant Director for Digital Initiatives at MIIS. MiddCreate will officially launch for Middlebury community in September 2016, after a one year pilot phase.

Have you noticed something different about the DLC site? It still looks the same, but check out the URL. One of the major projects I completed this summer was migrating our website from the sites.miis platform over to a MiddCreate domain. This shift will allow us to greatly expand its functionality and integrate powerful apps like a Vtiger CRM to track the people we serve and find ways to better support them.

MiddCreate domains open up almost limitless possibilities, but while assessing our pilot I discovered that for new technologies like this to have a positive impact in the classroom, pedagogy must change first.  A lot of the work I did this summer involved creating support resources and processes that will help people think through how to design projects in MiddCreate. This included expanding our support documentation, configuring course sites for faculty, blogging about web security and adding external apps.

Thinking About Digital Pedagogy and Literacy

Pedagogy can become ineffective when it’s overly restricted by the tools it uses. MiddCreate challenges students to take responsibility for choosing the tools they want to use in their learning, and instructors to adopt more collaborative teaching practices.

In his book Net Smart, Howard Rheingold says that the web’s architecture of participation lends itself to developing key digital literacies like critical awareness, collaboration, and network awareness. Having access to and control over their web tools helps all the members of our community appreciate how digital identity is formed, pushing them to understand not only the technologies themselves, but how they impact their lives.

This is a primary goal of Domain of One’s Own according to Martha Burtis, Director of the Digital Knowledge Center at the University of Mary Washington where the movement first began. I hope my efforts furthered that goal for those who had appointments and workshops with me or will use the resources I created. I think my own digital literacy definitely improved, particularly because learning by doing and teaching others seems to stick with me the best.

Embracing Failure and Experimentation

As an International Education Management student, my degree program focuses on developing intercultural competence: the ability to be comfortable in diverse, highly contingent environments and communities. Shouldn’t we encourage analogous experiences in the digital realm? Some people may be hesitant to embrace MiddCreate because of its unpredictability and lack of structure or dedicated support services. But I think one of its greatest strengths is that it rewards creative experimentation and promotes agency and activism.

At Middlebury language learners often hear that failure is how we learn, that we need to break down hierarchies and rhetorics of linguistic “ownership” to make progress. Working with MiddCreate has taught me to take the same approach to learning the web. If you build a site and something breaks, just think of it as a learning opportunity instead of a failure. Now you have a real reason to figure out how it works in order to fix it. I did a lot of this kind of problem solving while experimenting with MiddCreate applications. I got to dust off my long-neglected web design skills and put them to good use, practicing everything from PHP, CSS and HTML, to Javascript.

Looking to the Future

I think my experience this summer will be invaluable to my career in the international education field because I’m now more aware of how digital tools can be used to promote and support programs and higher education institutions. I’d like to imagine that Domain of One’s Own initiatives like MiddCreate could be used to not only connect students, faculty, and staff on our academic campuses, but engage and create new communities across the country and the globe.

I’ve learned so much about technology, digital pedagogy, and how university administration functions over the past three months. I’m very grateful to Amy Collier and all the DLC staff for the trust they placed in me to take on all these projects, as well as their encouragement and advice.

Recommended Reading


Expanding MiddCreate with Open Source Apps

MiddCreate provides around 150 applications that can be installed and used on your domain, but what if none of them are quite what you’re looking for? Don’t worry! One of the great things about having your own domain is the power to manage your own files. This means you can endlessly expand the utility of your domain by installing any application that will run on a LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP) server, which is what we use for MiddCreate.

When you use the MiddCreate Installatron, you don’t need to worry about moving files, creating databases, or doing the initial configuration because it’s all done for you. However, installing applications on your own means you’ll have to make sure it’s compatible with our servers and configure them on your own. You also need to be sure you take the appropriate security measures to confirm the quality of the application and that its configuration won’t leave your domain vulnerable to hackers.

Most web applications consist of files and a database, which you can view in the cPanel. To install an app you’ll need to make sure all of the files are copied over into the appropriate location, set up a database (and database user), and connect it to the files. There are installation guides for many of the open source web applications out there that can help you navigate this process.eafilemngrThe following tools and applications are not included in the Installatron suite, but can be added independently and integrate nicely with other MiddCreate applications.


eaEasy!Appointments is a free, customizable appointment scheduling web application. The Digital Learning Commons recently investigated this app as a possible way to streamline our appointment bookings. Here are some of its features:

  • manage multiple services and providers
  • show each provider their appointment details in a unique calendar
  • send email notifications
  • display user interfaces in multiple languages
  • sync your data with Google Calendar
  • integrate Google Analytics
  • access all of your customer info and their appointment history
  • embed your booking form into a WordPress site with the Easy!Appointments plugin


Intrigued? To add this app to your domain, just follow this easy installation and configuration guide from GitHub. If you need help or have questions, check out the E!A support group.

** One thing to note about this application is that you can’t edit the client information fields required by the booking form through the backend interface. If you want to customize the form you’ll have to edit the application files in the File Manager on the cPanel. Therefore, if those are changes you require, I’d only recommend this application to those who are comfortable editing PHP and Javascript code. You can find some configuration tips here. an annotation web tool that allows you to discuss, collaborate, organize your research, or take personal notes on any website. You can get it by generating a link from the homepage, downloading the browser plugin, or embedding it directly into a self-hosted website. You can learn more about how it works in the video below or in this FAQ. Some applications in MiddCreate, such as Scalar, have built-in functionality that you can toggle on and off.

Want to explore the unique layer of functionality this tool can bring to your site? Check out how Evelyn has used it to annotate her MiddCreate examples site.

If you find an application you’d like to use that requires additional components or has requirements that you’re not sure our servers can meet, submit a support ticket to Reclaim Hosting and they will look into it for you.

Learn more about MiddCreate »


How to Be Secure on the Web

This September, MiddCreate will officially launch for the Middlebury community! It provides spaces on the web that allow students, faculty, and staff to create and develop their digital identity using open source online applications. As we explore this new set of tools, it’s easy to get swept up in the excitement of having your own domain and forget the risks that come with that freedom.

Managing your own content means you must also take responsibility for the security of your sites. It’s tempting to procrastinate about web security because let’s be honest, it seems tedious and boring. We all wish there were one-click, set-it-and-forget-it solutions, but think of it this way: if your domain is an empty garden plot, waiting for you to plant whatever you like, it’s going to need regular tending and care to flourish.

Being proactive about web safety can help you avoid the unpleasant experience of being hacked, saving you a ton of time and trouble. Below I’ve listed some advice to help you understand the threats to self-hosted sites and how to defend them from hackers. Of course, these are just the basics, so check the resource links at the bottom of the page for more in-depth information.

How and why do sites get attacked?


You may wonder why anyone would be interested in hacking your little site, especially if it doesn’t contain any sensitive information or have a very large readership. The truth is most hacks are not done by people, but networks of automated bots that crawl the web looking for vulnerable openings.

If there is an opportunity, they’ll take advantage of it to use your site to infect visitors’ computers with malware, redirect them to generate income, or simply make use of your server to launch further attacks. So, how do hackers get into a site? Most attacks are a result of vulnerabilities in the hosting platform, flaws in the themes or plugins installed, or weak passwords.

Of all the applications available on MiddCreate, WordPress accounts for 65% of the installations people have made so far. WordPress is also one of the most popular targets for hackers. Why? One obvious reason is because it’s so widely used, but also because its open source nature and unlimited, customizable features can expose sites to attack. Most of the tips in this article can apply to any application you install on your domain, but some will focus specifically on hardening WordPress.

How to keep your site safe

Backlit keyboard

Keep Regular Backups

Always backup everything! Prepare for the worst so that even if your site gets hacked, you’ll be able to restore it. Seriously, if you think you’ll forget, set up a reminder in your calendar right now to make sure it gets done. The cPanel has a Backup Wizard that lets you easily backup and restore all or parts of your domain files and databases.backup wizard

A full backup will create an archive of all the files and configurations on your website. You can only use this to move your account to another server, or to keep a local copy of your files. You can’t restore full backups through your cPanel interface. In order to restore files, you’ll need to download partial backups.

Secure Your Login

Preventing hackers from cracking your login using trial-and-error brute force attacks can be as simple as setting up some additional security layers and maintaining good password habits.

  • Create a strong password: it should be long, complex (include numbers and special characters) and unique for each site. If you have trouble coming up with one, use a password generator or passphrase (such as an unusual sentence, memorable poetry/movie lines, or summary of a quirky event from your life)
  • Make other users do the same (if you can) by changing your settings to force strong passwords
  • Store your passwords in a secure place, such as a password manager (e.g Roboform, KeePass, LastPass, 1Password, or Dashlane)
  • Limit login attempts
  • Use two-step authentication so that you can only log in to your account if you also have access to your cell phone or social network credentials
  • In WordPress, avoid using the “admin” username, which is a common default and often targeted by hackers. You can also set your display name to something different than your actual username by going to Users on the lefthand sidebar menu from your Dashboard. Learn more about password and username security on WordPress in this video from WMUP DEV.

Choose Plugins and Themes Wisely

A high percentage of attacks occur due to vulnerabilities in plugins and themes. Only use up-to-date plugins and themes with well-written code by trusted developers.

  • Choose from products available in an application’s plugin and theme browsers. Look for ones with a high rating from a decent amount of users. If you’re unsure about its quality, click on ‘More Details’ or the author names to do more research. Check out the author’s history and assess their security measures. Look for stamps of confidence issued by reputable security solution providers or other evidence that the product has been submitted for a code auditplugins
  • Plugins with a high number of installs could potentially be greater targets, but also likely to have better documentation, support, and have security issues reported quicker
  • Look for plugins that are properly maintained: check when it was last updated (the more recently the better) and whether it’s compatible with your version of WordPress before downloading
  • Delete every plugin and theme on your site that isn’t strictly necessary. To delete a theme in WordPress, go to Appearance > Theme, then click on ‘Theme Details’ and hit ‘Delete’ in the lower right corner
  • Add security plugins that will configure a range of security options for you (e.g. WordFence for WordPress). You can also use free security scans that will look through your site’s code for malicious scripts
  • Keep up-to-date: many minor updates specifically address vulnerabilities, so make sure you have the latest versions of everything you use. It’s always a good idea to perform plugin and theme updates manually to avoid accidentally breaking the functionality of your site

Manage User and Access Permissions

A benefit of managing your own site is being able to control every aspect of how visitors and users interact with it. It’s very important to configure these permissions when you first set it up.

  • Review your site’s access permissions to edit how much outside visitors and users can see and do in your site. Typically you can assign users different “roles” with varying levels of privileges. For example, there are six user roles available in WordPress
  • Disable or limit open registration: this is extremely important if you’re using an application like DokuWiki that allows visitors to join and contribute content
  • Require a CAPTCHA (e.g. for access, page editing, contributions, etc.) to fend off bots

** Fun trivia fact! CAPTCHA stands for “Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart”.


Additional Resources

** If you want to really lock down your sites, some of these links include more advanced, technical methods you can employ if you’re comfortable working with code and files in the cPanel. I wouldn’t recommend trying most of them unless you are confident that you know how to reverse it if something goes wrong. Remember, when in doubt, always backup first!


Tips for a Personal Website

Building your personal website can seem like the most daunting task in the process of building your web presence. But it doesn’t have to be! There are a number of sites and services, many of them free, that provide a framework and templates that let you quickly and painlessly build a personal site.

So, why build a personal website? For one, résumés are boring. No pictures, no videos, no flair, and very little personality. On a website, you can link to work samples and presentations (from your beautiful new Slideshare profile), you can easily link to your LinkedIn profile, and you can imbue the site with your personality. Moreover, it shows potential employers and connections that you are technically savvy, which is important in the 21st century economy.

In addition, résumés are static. As soon as you hand (or even email) someone your résumé, they forever have that version of it. However, if you include your personal site’s URL on your résumé or business card, your connections will have access to a dynamic, up-to-date (hopefully!) source of information.

Finally, a personal website is searchable. Remember, an important part of building web presence is controlling what results people find when they Google your name, and so your site provides a lot of relevant context that will be indexed with your name.

Convinced? You’d better be. Below, I’ve listed some tools to easily make your new personal website. Needless to say, this isn’t an exhaustive list, but it’s a good place to start.

website builder comparison chart          sites-dot-miis-logo-c

As a MIIS student, you are able to create your own site on the domain. To set yours up and get started, go to, and click on “Create a Site” in the upper-right of the page. Once you’ve got your site registered, the content management system (or CMS) that you’ll use to build your site is WordPress, so I’ll direct you to that section for more information on using that platform.

***Note*** If you decide to use, know that your domain will expire six months after you graduate (or otherwise discontinue) from MIIS. At that point, you’d have the option of either moving your site to a new domain (which isn’t as complicated as it sounds) or letting your website disappear into virtual nothingness.

MiddCreate             middlebury-logo

Another option for MIIS students is to create your site at your own domain by using MiddCreate. MiddCreate allows you to create your own subdomain (for example: for free and install open source web tools on it, such as WordPress, Known, Omeka, Drupal, MediaWiki, etc. This gives you the flexibility to create as many sites as you want on whatever content management system you like, as well as have full creative control over its appearance. MiddCreate is hosted through Reclaim Hosting, a company that started out of the University of Mary Washington.

If you’ve already built a great website at SITES dot MIIS but want to customize it beyond the available options, you can migrate your site over to MiddCreate. You can learn more about the differences between SITES dot MIIS and MiddCreate at the Middlebury Office of Digital Learning’s blog.

***Note*** If you decide to use MiddCreate, you will lose access to your domain six months after you graduate (or otherwise discontinue) from MIIS. You then have the option to 1) pay Reclaim Hosting $45/year to keep everything, 2) download your entire site to store on your computer, or 3) move everything over to another hosting provider. Learn how to migrate your site in the MiddCreate Support Docs. When you migrate to a personal account, you’ll no longer be on “” and will be able to purchase a new URL.

WordPress                Wordpress-logo-hoz-rgb

WordPress is a great content management system that is as simple or sophisticated as you need it to be. It is also one of the most widely used website platforms on the MIIS campus and in the DLC, meaning that there are a lot of people who can offer a great deal of assistance with WordPress sites. To get started, you just signup, choose a theme (this does a lot of the design legwork for you) and fill it with your content.

WordPress sites created through are limited in the themes they can use, but you will have access to some plugins and can edit the PHP code behind your site to a degree.

Installing WordPress on your MiddCreate domain will give you full functionality (just like if you were to use This means you can upload and install any theme or plugin, edit the PHP code, and have access to your site’s files.

If you create your own account, your site will be hosted for free on and you won’t have to worry about purchasing a domain or losing access. However, this means that your site URL will by default include “” and you won’t be able to upload any custom themes, plugins, or modify the PHP code.           offers a simple, one-page personal website, that serves more as a landing page to redirect viewers to other pages, such as your LinkedIn profile. You could build this as a starter page while you’re working on a more comprehensive personal site, or you could use it in addition to your personal site in order to drive traffic and provide yet another relevant Google search result.

Wix                             Wix.com_Logo

Wix is another popular content management system, and it has a free version. Like WordPress, Wix offers myriad pre-made templates that you can use and fill with your personalized content. If you want to get more adventurous and customize your size further, the themes do offer some flexibility. One great feature that Wix offers is being able to control how your site is viewed on different devices; you can optimize your site for mobile devices vs. desktops. A downside to using the free version is that your site will have a small advertisement.


Weebly is similar to Wix; you choose from pre-made themes and fill them with your content. Weebly is advertised as more e-commerce friendly, and the interface is more beginner-friendly. Weebly also offers a mobile app that allows you to edit your site. The site offers free options, but many of the more advanced features require a subscription.

Additional Resources

Here are some additional resources that provide strategies for building a website. Enjoy!


Tips for Slideshare

Slideshare is a visual platform that allows you to upload files and presentations. Once uploaded to your Slideshare profile, you can share these files on your LinkedIn profile, your blog or personal website, or anywhere else you see fit. The site is owned by LinkedIn and so it syncs particularly well with that service. Below are some tips for making the most of your Slideshare profile.

  • Start with what you have. Look through the presentations, papers, and reports that you’ve already written, whether for academic or professional purposes. Filter through these and find the ones your proud of, and decide which ones will be relevant to your professional identity. Polish them as needed (for instance, remove the typical academic heading with your name, your professor’s name, and the due date) and upload them to your Slideshare account. These presentations are now searchable with your name, and can be easily shared on other web platforms.
  • As you make new content, remember that Slideshare is a visual platform. So, stay away from text heavy presentations. Create content with your Slideshare audience in mind, making the content clear, interesting, and concise for a viewer clicking through slides. Also, make sure to have an interesting cover slide that will draw people in.
  • On each file you upload, make sure it ends with a way to contact you. Even better, add a “call to action.”

Finally, as is the case with all the platforms I’ve recommended, remember to be consistent. Whether it’s once a week, once a month, or bi-monthly, determine how often you’re going to create content, and stick to it. This will help drive your profile up in search results, and will ensure that your profile consistently has the latest and most up-to-date content.


Tips for LinkedIn

LinkedIn is widely used in the professional world, with 94% of recruiters reporting that they use the site to vet candidates. So, it’s very important to have as part of your professional identity.

For professionals and job-seekers building web presence, LinkedIn is an absolute must. The site is widely used in the professional community, and provides a medium for you to make your credentials and skills easily searchable. However, it’s not enough to have a LinkedIn profile; follow these steps to make sure your profile is an asset to your web presence, rather than a disservice to it.

Custom URL

First things first, you’re going to want to customize your LinkedIn profile URL if you haven’t done so already. To do so:

  1. Move your cursor over Profile at the top of your homepage and select Edit Profile.
  2. You’ll see a URL link under your profile photo like Move your cursor over the link and click the Settings icon next to it.
    • Note: “Update your public profile settings” will show up if you don’t have a public profile. Learn how to enable your public profile.
  3. Under the Your public profile URL section on the right, click the Edit icon next to your URL.
  4. Type the last part of your new custom URL in the text box.
  5. Click Save.



Your LinkedIn profile photo should be a high-quality headshot of you in professional attire. Smile! Also, choose a picture where you’re making eye contact with the camera. It may seem trivial or silly, but this will help future employers get a sense of your personality, and feel a connection. This is enormously helpful, as employers search for someone with good fit for their organization. Also, as you’re taking the photo, remember that LinkedIn will crop it to a square.


Your headline, which will display beside your photo in search results, is your 120 character hook to draw potential employers and connections to your profile. The default on LinkedIn is for your headline to be your current employment. Personalizing it will add a personal touch, and it will differentiate your profile. According to LinkedIn, your headline should say what you are, who you help, how you help them, and give proof of your credibility. LinkedIn also warns of the four deadliest headline sins: having a cheesy headline, a confusing one, a boring one, or a desperate one.

Still looking for inspiration? Here’s a template to get you started:

I am a [subject matter expertise] who
[does what] for [client, company audience, project]. The proof is
[experience, education, GPA].


Your LinkedIn summary is a 2,000 character opportunity to introduce yourself. Other elements on your LinkedIn profile are fairly rigid and straightforward; your summary is an opportunity to show some personality!

So, now that you know why you should write a summary, here are some tips for writing an effective one:

  • Tell people what they can expect from you; describe what you do for someone unfamiliar with your job, and tell the world why you’re credible in that role.
  • Fill it out! Use all 2,000 characters if you can.
  • Break it up with headers, sub-headers, and graphics.
  • Include your contact info at the end. Some people also add some personal interests or hobbies at the end.

Got writers’ block? Here are some template ideas to get those creative juices flowing.

Experience & Education

This is the more straight-forward part of your LinkedIn profile. Use these sections as a dynamic, fleshed-out résumé. Keep your career goals in mind while you work on these sections, and tailor your profile accordingly; if you’re an aspiring translation freelancer, you may decide to not include your former career as a concessions stand attendant.

As you work on these sections, here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Be sure to link to the company or institution.
  • Use prose, not bullet points.
  • Keep entries to a 2-3 sentence summary.
  • Start with an overview.
  • Front load your achievements. Is there a project or major win you can brag about?
  • Describe how you brought value to your team


Once you have the aforementioned basic elements of a LinkedIn profile, you can snazzify and supplement your profile by adding media, such as PDFs, videos, and images. You can add these generally, or associate them with a particular position.

(If you want to extensively integrate media with your LinkedIn profile, I highly recommend setting up a SlideShare profile that you can connect.)


Now that you have a gorgeous and dynamic LinkedIn profile, you need to use it! Join LinkedIn groups relevant to your industry or background (for instance, the MIIS Alumni LinkedIn group), and post periodically in these groups so that professionals in your industry begin to see your posts. Also, consider following companies and organizations in your field, especially if you’re interested in working for them.


There are many more ways to improve and better use your LinkedIn profile. For instance, you can create a localized profile in another language, add a video, and search/apply for jobs.


Tips for Google+

it’s important to do what you can to impact what results people see when they search for you. That’s why it can be important to consider maintaining a Google+ profile. Moreover, if and when you have a virtual interview via Google Hangout, your profile will be visible, and you want it to complement your awesome interview.

Pretty much everyone uses Google, and Google prioritizes its own pages in its search results. So, make sure you have a Google+ profile, and a complete one. You may be like me and countless others that set up a Google+ account, worked on it for an hour, and didn’t go back for years. However, employers finding an out-of-date or incomplete profile will do an incredible disservice to your web presence. This will likely be one of the first results Google lists, so make sure it provides a good first impression. You don’t have to make this your primary profile or website, but make sure that you link to these from your Google+ profile; make it easy for those searching for you to find the information you want them to find.

Tips for Using Google+

Below are some wise tips I’ve gathered from the four corners of the world-wide web. Enjoy.

  • Use a headshot for your profile picture
    • Many users choose to use a picture of their dog, car, or their very blurry pixelated face as a profile picture. Using a professional looking headshot (à la LinkedIn) will set you apart and set a professional tone for your profile. Keep in mind that Google will crop this into a circle, so be sure to adjust your photo so it frames your face well.
  • Use a high-quality cover photo
    • Your profile picture, while important, doesn’t take up a great deal of real estate on your profile. The cover photo, however, spans across the entire upper page. So, be sure to use a professional picture (not too busy or distracting) that is high-quality enough that it won’t pixelate. Google recommends using 2120 x 1192 as the dimensions.
  • Accessibility settings
    • Decide how much information you want people to get from your profile, and whether people will be able to contact you through it. Adjust your privacy settings accordingly.
  • Fill out your profile story
    • Leverage your story on your profile to help you introduce yourself on your terms. Be sure to use keywords and links relevant to your field; Google will index this information, which will help improve your search-ability. Consider using the same text as your LinkedIn summary.
  • Share content
    • When you post relevant content (articles, blog posts, etc.) to your profile, it simultaneously demonstrates to searchers that your profile is up to date and that you are informed in your field. Some people even think that as you post more, Google will index your material quicker.



Building Your Web Presence

So, you want to build you web presence. But where do you start? Let this resource series be your guide to developing a web presence that will help you achieve your professional and personal goals.

First, assess where you are

To get where you’re going, you need to start where you are. So, first we have to figure out where you are. Whether you call it egogoogling, reconnaissance, or a vanity search, it’s a good idea to start by seeing what your web presence currently looks like. This is especially true when you’re entering the job market or preparing for a jump to new employment. This process will enable you to identify results you want to highlight, any you’d prefer to remove or bury, and what kinds of presence you’d like to build.

One more note before we get going: it will be best to Google yourself in a private browser window, ensuring that you aren’t signed in to anything (especially Google). If you can use a browser or computer you don’t typically use, even better. The reason for this is that Google tailors its search results to you, based on your Google account and cookies that have provided Google information over time. If you are signed in, or even just using your usual browser, Google will show you different results than it would show other users, as it tries to guess what kind of stuff you want to see. This is important to keep in mind as you move forward; just as Google tries to guess what YOU want to see, Google will be guessing what employers, colleagues, or others want to see based on THEIR account settings and viewing history. So, you’ll never have a perfectly clear picture of what someone else is seeing.

With that in mind, it is now time. GOOGLE YOURSELF! Search for your full name—with and without middle name—and also search for your family name, any nicknames you might use, and any other variations you can think of. Search for your name in conjunction with other identifiers, like your hometown, phone number, address, email address, or employer. For instance, if you regularly comment on a blog, Google your name in conjunction with the username you use. Google “[your username]” “[your real name]”, including the quotation marks. This will force Google to return a very specific result that contains both sets of words, to see if the two names can be linked. In addition, think of and search for personal descriptors; for example, if Joe sits next to Lucy on a flight and introduces himself as a student at MIIS in the MBA program, Lucy could likely find him online with that information. So, think through how you introduce yourself, and imagine how people could find you with that information. This provides an excellent opportunity to both revise your “elevator pitch” to include information people could use to Google you, and to build your new web presence to reflect the information from your intro.

Google search operators

You can use special search operators to narrow your search results to find particular results. Google itself is a good source for this “language.” This can be useful if you’re looking for a specific source, or if you’re looking for your name in conjunction with something else. Experienced web searchers (like the HR departments at the companies you’re applying to or the paranoid mother of your new roommate) will likely utilize these operators.

What do I look for?

You can go as deep as you want here, but remember that Google search results can go on and on. Keep in mind that the vast majority of people won’t look beyond the first page of search results. A good rule of thumb is to check the first three pages of the search results.

First, assess how many of the results are actually you. Second, evaluate the value of the results that are you. How could these results affect your reputation? Any drinking pictures from social media posts? Old angsty blog posts from high school? Besides reputation, also check for accuracy; do the generated results provide an up-to-date picture of the brand you’d like to project? Check for positive results you’d potentially like to boost, including professional profiles, articles about achievements, or connections to prominent organizations. To sum it up, you’ll be compiling a list of results you’d like to bury and others you’d like to boost. In the next step, we’ll identify gaps.

Next, plan what you want

Before you decide what you want, what do you want your web presence to do for you? How do you want to “brand” yourself to the world? Are you primarily interested in building a portfolio, making your accomplishments and work more accessible? Do you want to cultivate a reputation relevant to your current or desired career? Do you want to present yourself as a creative educator, a driven entrepreneur, a no-nonsense finance specialist, or a culturally-savvy interpreter? How can you leverage your web presence to express your personality?

Keep these (and other elements you discover along the way) in mind as you move forward to the building phase.

Now, let’s make it happen!

Building your web presence, when looked at for the very first time, can seem daunting and overwhelming, even with a plan for what you want. All web tools are not made equal, and so some are a particularly good place to start when you’re establishing your online identity. Below, I’ve suggested an order you can go in if you’re looking for some structure; following this path will help you grow from newbie to web presence master!

First things first

If you don’t have up-to-date Google+ and LinkedIn accounts, those are the best places to start.

Widening your gaze

Once you have the essentials out of the way, you can supplement those with a Slideshare account, personal website, and by adjusting your use of social media and email.

Going the Distance

Now that you’re a web presence pro, here are some ideas for ways to continue to improve and cultivate your identity.

Finally, keep it up!

5137992620_5ae53dbafb_oDesigning and curating your web presence is an ongoing project. As you continue to develop personally or professionally, be sure to tweak your web presence to reflect that. Maintaining your presence doesn’t have to be hard or cumbersome. Heck, it can (and should) even be fun!

Best of luck!


Want more advice?

If you have questions, feel free to come in to the DLC. We’ll be happy to help.