Reclaim Hosting is a web hosting service for educators and students, providing simple one-click installation of a variety of web apps, including WordPress, Omeka, MediaWiki, and many others….And indeed, the one-click installation of popular web applications is only part of what Reclaim Hosting offers its users. Each domain includes secure FTP access, an email account, the ability to run Cron jobs (which execute scripts and programs at regular intervals), and SSH/Shell Access, meaning students can work on the command line, programming in Perl and Python. In short, students get all the benefits of a typical shared server hosting service (say, Dreamhost) for the cost of several slices of pizza.
I’m a big fan of pizza, so I love that closing analogy. One of the other things we’ve started realizing recently thanks to Martha Burtis’s work on creating customized packages using “Installatron” (an aptly named application installer) is that we can start offering particular WordPress installations that are customized to be out-of-the-box solutions to something like course syndication. The idea that faculty and/or students can deploy a fully- functioning syndicated course hub in seconds is really exciting. This is an idea we’re working though currently at DTLT, and you can see the early stages of thinking through this here. This approach is done with WordPress, and it populates free plugins and some custom code that enables students to automatically push their work to the course hub.
And while some might balk at the automation of this, it by no means precludes anyone from hacking away, building their own, or taking this in a bold new direction. What this does is makes the syndicated course setup that much more seamless for faculty to use, which I ‘ve found makes a huge difference in their willingness to experiment with such an option. The fact that the experimentation with this through Domain of One’s own has made such an idea possible already justifies this project, but add to that the fact that we are using Reclaim Hosting as a way to make these possibilities available to as many faculty and students as possible is downright awesome.
Another feature I’m beginning to explore in the True Crime Freshman Seminar with the students, all of whom have their own web host and domain as part of UMW’s Domain of One’s Own, is being able to help them manage their web hosting by being able to access their cPanels (see image above). With this setup I can act as a server admin for all of their sites and help them out with issues that in the past I found difficult to resolve when teaching ds106. I can help them trouble shoot DNS issues, installation problems, plugin snafus, databases problems, etc. If you’re using Reclaim Hosting as a way to show your students how to manage web hosting, maintain their own space online, and get familiar with the affordances of web hosting—this is one possibility for enabling some powerful support. That said, you might want to let them know as much, becuase with great power comes great responsibility.