OU Create

*This post was written as part of Keegan Long-Wheeler’s Mobile Blogging Workshop series in response to his prompt: What campus resource has been most helpful to you and/or your work this year?

Create.ou.edu, as the website says, “provides domain names and web space to members of the OU community, encouraging individuals to explore the creation and development of their digital identities.”  Rather than settling for the LMS and the generic web presence that we, as academics, have become accustomed to, Create provides a very simple yet extremeley powerful room of one’s own. The ability to freely develop Drupal sites, write D3 visualizations, experiment with JavaScript, host a blog and generally play in the open web has opened new avenues in my research and teaching.

When I first came to OU as an undergraduate in 2002, I was given a student page.  This subdirectory of a subdirectory could handle html files and provided each student with 2mb of space.  While this was adequate for hosting gifs of dancing babies or writing static fan pages for Buffy, it was already dated, and it was uselessly obsolete by 2006 when I graduated.  

In the first year of graduate school, I tried to build an online journal based on Drupal’s Open Journal System installation.  I asked the IT department for domain space or at the very least the ability to run a php based site with a database.  My request was not immediately denied, because no one seemed to understand what I was even asking for.  The concept of a student or even a faculty member or department requesting space on the Universitiy’s site to run an app was literally unthinkable in that it had not been thought of.  I was referred up the chain of IT for weeks without ever running into anyone who understood why I needed virtual server space, database access, shell access, or anything else beyond an ftp connection.  Eventually, I gave up, signing up instead for a site served from then ubiquitous Bluehost corporate servers.

After wandering through the desert, building websites on my own time and own dime for six years, I was offered salvation….or rather a place in a pilot program for the OU adaptation of Jim Groom’s Domain of One’s Own project.  Adam Croom, having just recently joined the Center for Teaching Excellence, had invited Jim Groom to OU to present on the concept and technical feasability of offering students and faculty domain space.  As part of the workshop, we were allowed to sign up for a domain and given 1gb of server space.  The service also provided one click installs of WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, WikiMedia, and dozens of other apps.  

After 10 years of waiting, I now had access and support to build my own site and to populate it with subdomains and subdirectories to my heart’s content.  This site now supports a couple of linked subdomains alogn with another ten experimental subdomains with installations of WordPress and Drupal.  I am currently building two courses in WordPress, a research database in Drupal, a developmental version of another research database in Drupal, and experimental apps for colleagues on this campus and beyond.  Create is not a cutting edge tool or technology, but rather a means of access to a trailing edge technology that academics forgot about.  It provides the means to return to a time when we, as academics, built the web and used it for open communication about research, pedagogy, and most importantly, our cats.  

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1 Comment

  1. Great post Sir! I especially enjoy the history leading up to your adoption of the OU Create tool.

    From your experiences with each web application you listed, which one do you enjoy working with the most?

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