Preservation in the Digital World

Study room with binary overlay.

Do you remember that well thought out course module you designed that linked to a myriad of web resources?  Your students absolutely loved the internet scavenger hunt activity you spent hours designing for them.  Now, two or three years later, an annoyingly significant number of those links are…gone.  Just.  Plain.  Gone.

It happens more often than you might think.  Our assumption that digital resources, especially online ones, will “stay put” is not necessarily well-founded.  Links break, they rot, and resources either get pulled down or moved around.  And you’re left trying to either relocate those resources or recreate with some new material.

Aside from the fact that it is indeed a good idea to be revisiting assignments and activities on a regular basis anyway, there are some ways to combat this “digital decay” and sometimes resurrect web resources from their dusty binary graveyards.

The Internet Archive, affectionately known as the “Way Back Machine” has a feature to recover some missing web-pages.  You enter in a URL to the missing resource and the Way Back Machine will scour snapshots of pages and provide a calendar with points in time that a resources was saved.  It may not always be the most recent version of the page you had used, but often it is better than starting entirely from scratch.  The Higher Ed Chronicle has a good take on various tools and strategies to save your favorite web resources.  (No, bookmarking in your browser is not enough!)

So be sure to review your course modules and assignments often for valid links.  If you find something missing, the Wayback Machine just might make your day.


Photo: “Binary Office

Author: Geralt (Gerd Altman)

Usage: CC0 Public Domain

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