In episode 106 of Digital Campus (a.k.a dc106-coincidence? I think not) the director of the Roy Rosensweig Center for History and New Media, Stephen Robertson, gives a shout out to Reclaim Hosting suggesting how “absurdly easy” it is for students and faculty to setup and manage their own applications on their own domains. I couldn’t agree more.
I included a minute and 15 seconds of the discussion before Robertson mentions Reclaim because I’m interested in what Tom Scheinfeldt suggests is the paradox of teaching digital media: you can’t teach it online. I think one of the greatest learning experiences for me over the last five years of teaching ds106—it’s really been that long!—is that you actually can teach digital media online. But it requires the right platform and a lot of time and freedom to experiment. Giving students their own web hosting space and a domain is one way at it, and ,as Robertson notes, it provides the platform for both an individualized and distributed online experience that institutional learning systems aren’t even beginning to imagine.
But I want to believe that’s changing a bit, and the work Tim Owens and I are doing with Reclaim Hosting has been awesome for this very reason. We think we’re starting to provide different possibilities that people can consider. And given the regular notes I get from folks near and far about it’s value to them, it just reinforces that a lot of people want alternatives. Why aren’t more schools providing web hosting for their students and faculty? Hell, if a domain is too costly for your students and faculty, you can still provide web hosting through a subdomain model.
In fact, Tim built a setup for CSU Channel Islands CSU Channel Islands that provides users with a subdomain setup by default, but allows them to choose at the time of signup, or any time after that, if they want to addon a domain they purchase themselves. And this isn’t rocket science, you don’t need Reclaim Hosting to do this, you just need the will to recognize that by-and-large we are not providing viable digital spaces for our communities to explore the web.
Emory University (http://emorydomains.org/) has been exploring the Domain of One’s own approach for over a year now, and this academic year they got their own server and are doing some amazing things. To give a well deserved shout-out, the work David Morgen is doing down at Emory University in just this regard is amazing. Just take a look at the number of faculty exploring this, and the feed of posts being created on the various domains across the university. So good.
But crazier yet, the University of Oklahoma has gone full bore providing up to 1000 students and faculty with their own domain and web hosting through their pilot OU Create. Tim and I spent time with Adam Croom and Mark Morvant in Norman, OK in late July (I still have to blog that), and they really have an amazingly strong handle on what’s possible. Adam has blogged about his thinking around the project a couple of times recently. Like Tim and I, he really believes in the transformative potential of such a pilot. He’s even going full bore with tag-based course syndication! It also doesn’t hurt that he OU community is digging deep to help build excitement and gain traction. In particular, their provost, Kyle Harper, not only groked what Adam and Mark are trying to do, but was as excited and supportive as any administrator I’d ever seen. Tim and I came away from Oklahoma thinking this just might be scalable beyond our wildest dreams. It’s the biggest pilot Reclaim has done yet, and we couldn’t have asked for better partners. Hell, they even have their campus tech stores promoting what’s possible with open source applications through this pilot. I’m a Sooner #4life!
So, all this to say, I’ve been remiss posting about all the awesome stuff happening in the Reclaim Hosting world. Tim is finishing off the Davidson College server that will launch Davidson Domains very soon. CSU Channel Islands are exploring a slick subdomains project, and the great Pete Rorbaugh has more than 200 faculty and students with their own domains and web hosting through Reclaim at Southern Polytechnic State University.
The excitement and momentum around Reclaim over the past three or four months has Tim and I a bit dazed, to be honest. And given how intense our day job has been lately, we haven’t had much time to think about it, no less plan for the future. But whether through Reclaim Hosting or some other avenue, moving beyond what’s readily available to provide an extensible platform like a LAMP web hosting environment for both faculty and students has arrived. In fact, it’s been here for the last 12 years, we just couldn’t get out heads out of the LMS long enough to see it. Where and how we teach, learn, research, publish, and share in the future is not inevitable. It’s time to reclaim!