Setting up Camp at StateU

Cooking up a "subdomain of your own"

Hunters Supper by Frederic Remington

For the purposes of the workshop, we will start with the steps to establish your base camp for the workshop, a place you can also use for another 30 days. If you want more background information about domains, subdomains, and making them own, we put that down at the bottom.

Creating Your StateU Subdomain of Your Own (for 30 days)

Your first task is to think of what unique name you will use for your StateU.org site- maybe it's your twitter handle, or some mashup of your name, or... you choose.

Go to http://stateu.org/ and click the Get Started button. Next, authenticate your identity through wither Facebook, Google, or LinkedIn credentials.

Once logged in, follow the steps to choose your subdomain name

and eventually you should end up looking at a screen like below. If you have never operated a web site, now you will. This is known as cpanel, somewhat parallel to your desktop computer icons as series of tools / applications to run your web site.

There is much more here than we will deal with in this workshop; in fact we will only be using Wordpress. After the workshop, if you are interested in learning about the other icons and what they offer, please visit the Reclaim Hosting Documentation community space.

Your First Wordpress Installation

We are going to first set up a vey simple Wordpress blog at our main URL. We will not spend much time making it pretty, but we want you to set one up (a) so you can see how easy it is to install Wordpress; and (b) so each of you has a small blog we can use later when we set up a course syndication hub.

If you have never done a blog or never used Wordpress, do not worry. Our use here is minimal. The technical tasks are not much more than you do when writing an email message. We are using Wordpress as a platform, but are not teaching it's ins and outs.

Start by going to your StateU dashboard (cpanel) and under Applications click Wordpress. This will present the "Installatron" information screen for the app you have selected (Installatron is the script that makes the sites for you. It's cool).

Click the Install This Application button. This will show you the settings it will use to create a Wordpress site for you. We will edit only a few things. Almost none. The first section Location tells Installatron where the site will go, both on the server, and where it will be on the web. The domain field is set for the one domain you have here. Because we want this site at the main URL of our site, we will leave the Directory (optional) field blank. You might see the word blog in this box; if so clear it out.

Easy!

Now scroll down until you get to Wordpress Settings. You can edit your own admin user name and password, but it's not necessary-- you can log into your directly from this interface at anytime-- it's best not dealing with logins and passwords, right? The dashboard manages it for you. So you can leave the random generated username and passwords for now.

The only fields you might change now are the Website Title and Website Tagline to something that better represents you (you can also edit this later in the Wordpress settings).

That's it! Now click the Install button in the bottom right, and just watch the magic happen.

You have a Wordpress site (yes it is plain, that's okay):

Before we dive in, let's review how to get back to this Applications screen because eventually you will have several different Wordpress sites here.

  • Click Home in the top right, leading you to the StateU home
  • Click Dashboard to get to your cpanel.
  • Click Wordpress just like before when you installed your site.
  • Click My Applications tab in the upper right. This will show you all of the applications and sites you have installed (there is a limit of 6 in these demo sites, with a full Reclaim Hosting account, there is no limit).
  • Eventually you will have a few sites here, but for now you will see the one you just created.


    The first link under your site name will go to the public view of your blog; the second link that ends in /admin is the one you click to get to your Wordpress Dashboard, where you write posts and manage your blog. The third link will help with figuring things out about Wordpress.

We will ask you as much as possible to resist the temptation to tinker with this blog. It's not important for what we are doing-- we wanted you to have an easy first win. This is not going to be a Wordpress workshop. You can always make it pretty later, but for now just write one or two blog posts, maybe one to intriduce yourself, and another to express your huge expectations for this experience. Or flatter your instructors, that's always a good strategy ;-)

To write on your blog, just go to the top black menu. You can tell that you are logged in as a user/administrator when you see this menubar. Under the name of your blog, you should be able to jump to the public view of it.

Then, look under + New click Post. Enter a title, compose in the text area. If you want to be fancy, upload an image. Try formatting. Add hyperlinks. Write, write and write. Click Preview to... do that. Then when it looks good, click Publish. Now see if you can view your post. When viewing your own posts, if you ever notice something that needs changing, click Edit to do that.

Now you are blogging.

Do it again. And again. In fact, for every activity you try in this workshop, we suggest you write a blogpost. In the next hands on unit write a story about your experience setting up a SPLOT. Link to it. Write about any ideas you might have for it.

After the workshop, you may want to experiment with changing your themes. Adding Plugins. Exploring widgets. Get help via Wordpress Support.

This is just to get your feet in the domain saddle. We will move on to install several more Wordpress sites. Eventually you will have a small herd of them. You will be a web site rancher.

Background Info on Domains and StateU

The Domain of One's Own project started at the University of Mary Washington (UMW) provides all students, staff, and faculty an internet domain name and web hosting for the duration of their time at an institution. This idea has spread to many other institutions, many of them providing services via Reclaim Hosting, an education service started by Jim Groom and Tim Owens, who helped launch the project originally at UMW.

This provides more them web space or just a blog; running a Domain of One's Own provides an individual a dashboard interface (called cpanel) to install many web applications, wikis, content management systems, but also the tools to manage email accounts, ftp access, privacy controls, and more.

Reclaim Hosting provides a free place for 30 days to "test drive" management of a domain. Called "StateU" is is billed as a "sandbox for experimentation" with all the tools one can use for a site hosted by Reclaim Hosting.

We are using StateU for this workshop as a means to provide all participants the same platform, but more importantly, we are able to provide a customized installation of several Wordpress based tools that possible can be used in your own connected courses. These are not solutions in any way, nor every possible tool you might use. Instead, they are ones that have been used in a variety of other open connected courses.

Because of the way State U works, we can set it up so most of the site setup, which normally would require installing themes, plugins, and configuring Wordpress, is done for you, so you can focus on thinking how you might apply the capability of these tools in your own courses.

Even if you already have a domain and web hosting, we are going to ask that you use StateU. If you create something you really want to use on another web hosting account (Reclaim or not) we can help you later transfer your work there. If you do not have a domain or web hosting, if you decide that what you experimented has value, you can create an account on Reclaim hosting and move your work there.

Domains, Subdomain, Oh My

An internet domain of one's own is a combination of a personalized name you choose (like Alan's is "cogdogblog") and a "top level domain" like ".com" ".org", ".net" etc. You can just run one web site on it, but in a connected course or a personal web space you may create a handful or more specific web sites for different purposes. As owner of my domain cogdogblog.com I can create different web sites in addition to the "root" or main one, as "subdomains" e.g. lab.cogdogblog.com is different from stories.cogdogblog.com and 5card.cogdogblog.com.

Furthermore, we can also create different web sites at the directory level, so I might install an Omeka instance as a portfolio at cogdogblog.com/portfolio

Adam Croom from the University of Oklahoma created this nicely animated "Anatomy of a Domain" to help explain it to faculty he works with:

As a suggestion, we would typically use our main URL as a "calling card" small site, like http://jimgroom.net/-- like the front entrance to a house. We would then put our various blogs and photo galleries into theor own "rooms" -- subdomains or subdirectory sites.

Adam also illustrates how we might develop overlapping representations of ourselves via different sub sites:

What All This Means for Statu.Org

Technically, what StateU provides you is a personal subdomain. If the Lone Ranger's sidekick was in this workshop, he might create his as tonto.stateu.org -- and maybe put a simple site or blog at the main URL, and then put the other applications he installs in subdirectories, like a wiki, an assignment bank, and a course aggregation hub. If Tonto had a domain of his own, or transferred his work later, he could make all those sites subdomains.

To compare the differences:

A Domain of Tonto's Own

  • Main blog site: tonto.org
  • Poetry blog: poetry.tonto.org
  • Wiki: wiki.tonto.org
  • Photography: photos.tonto.org
  • Geology 323 Course: geo323.tonto.org

Tonto Trying Out StateU

  • Main blog site: tonto.stateu.org
  • Poetry blog: stateu.org/poetry
  • Wiki: stateu.org/wiki
  • Photography: stateu.org/photos
  • Geology 323 Course: stateu.org/geo323

The astute workshop participant will notice we put the main workshop materials on a StateU site at connectedcourses.stateu.org and you will find different sites used at URLs like connectedcourses.stateu.org/demo/writer and connectedcourses.stateu.org/demo/bank.

Hang on to Your Hats!

 

Image Credits

Hunters Supper by Frecderick Remington: Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons
Screenshot of Stateu.org