Faculty websites made easy

Thanks to Cathy Derecki’s design/PHP skills we are currently experimenting with the possibility of using WPMu to allow faculty to create their own website/blog space with relative ease. Currently faculty and staff have a public folder as a part of their network space that will allow them to include basic HTML, it doesn’t allow PHP for any of those brave faculty who code. Moreover, this web space provides no way to manage multimedia from around the web, it can’t do RSS, and it has no real database structure that would allow faculty to update their online presence regularly with ease.

Admin Fac Theme

So, given all this, why not setup a WPMu domain (this could be done with one install that has several mapped domains) to allow faculty and staff to create their own website? Well, I guess because it isn’t necessarily our charge here at the Division of Teaching and Learning Technologies, but it’s just an idea that I keep coming back to again and again. Especially today when I sat down with a faculty member and spent about five minutes explaining WordPress and another fifteen letting her build a site. At the end of this experience she said, “That was easy, and my site looks pretty professional.” Disco! And that is only the tip of the iceberg, for if faculty see how easy it is to publish to their own space, how long before they start doing it in earnest, or even begin conceptualizing and experimenting with other integral features such as RSS?

Right now if I (or any other member of the UMW community) wanted to have a personal site for my work at UMW within the university’s domain, I would need to either code the site by hand in HTML (sorry Charlie, not happening), or I could spend some time and learn Dreamweaver or Fireworks or some other nonsense like that. Add to that the fact that I would have to figure out a way through the desert wilderness that is the Novell network environment. I’m speculating here, but I would guess that the number of faculty who don’t take advantage of the web space at UMW has more to do with the hurdles of using Novell than any perceived disinterest.

Now, being that I am lazy, a shortcut-taker, and a quitter when things get rough, I experimented with the easy way. About a week ago I set up a test case for a faculty site using WordPress and it took me about fifteen to twenty minutes to create it using the customized Semiologic theme Cathy designed. Take a look.

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4 Responses to Faculty websites made easy

  1. It’s interesting, because as you know I’m coming at the college blogging thing much from that angle by virtue of have 80% of my appointment paid by College Relations (and only 20% Academic Affairs).

    Part of what we’re hashing around here is how the web 2.0/social web push has to not be only from the pedagogical side. You and I “get” the Web 2.0 because we use it to do our jobs better. The amount of headache we’ve avoided by reading your blog is substantial, the efficiencies we’ve gained are enormous, and the formulation of a coherent rhetoric around the effort irreplaceable.

    So it’s important to remember that we believe in this because it has solved OUR problems.

    (Faculty, it’s worth noting, often believe in Blackboard because it has solved their problems. It’s not a bad impulse, it’s just turned inside out)

    So one key to this is to show faculty how they can advance their careers and scholarly work by embracing the Networked Lifestyle. (wow, did I just coin that phrase? Sounds swinging!

  2. Jami Bryan says:

    This would be super useful. I like Dreamweaver and HTML, but who has the time?

    Let’s take it beyond faculty and staff personal pages for a sec. A website/blog hybrid (the customizability of a website with some of the blog functionality and ease of setup), which is how I read what you and Cathy are working on, would have some awesome library uses. Check out the Research Guides at Northeastern Illinois: http://libguides.neiu.edu/. They run on something called LibGuides from Springshare, but I think it could be done with WPMU. I want to do something like this!

  3. jimgroom says:


    Neologism “Networked Lifestyle” works for me. Perhaps at some point my people might network on you people’s wiki -that would be swinging!

    I entirely agree with you that the attention to these tools is a two front concern: teaching and learning (sure) but also outreach like networking with alums, public access to information, and a more general connection between and amongst organizations of any given community. I find with UMW Blogs I know a lot more about what’s going on in our community than I ever have before, and it changes the way a appreciate this place dramatically.

    BTW thanks for the kind words, it’s kinda of strange to think a defunct b-movie blog is aiding a tech conversation in New Hampshire, especially given that town also has the likes of you and Jon Udell. These are strange days indeed 🙂


    Have you seen this yet? http://apps.facebook.com/unclibraries/

    Just saw this today and it actually brings a library search portal into Facebook, but it doesn’t do the very cool thing the site you pointed me to does. Namely, put a person with the advice and afford them a space to narrate their processes and help others search effectively, but more importantly reflect on the act of searching.

    There is no question in my mind that WPMu can do this! Wanna give it a test-drive? It would work wonderfully for all the cool work you and Charlotte have already done for searching techniques and database overviews. I think it’s a great idea for the libraries to experiment with.

  4. Jami Bryan says:

    I would like to give it a test-drive (because you can never have too many projects going at once!). Let’s set something up off-blog. I’ll be in touch.

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