Below is the transcript of an email that I sent my team last night. I’m usually not one to publish private conversation, but this came together as much like a blog post as it did an email (and only includes what I have written). The only changes are some typos as well as several more links for external context.
You may have seen a blog post from Laura Gibbs over the weekend that chronicled her perspective of the history of open web projects at OU; much of which highlighted the rise and fall of previous web publishing services. If you haven’t read it, please find some time soon to do so. Sometimes nothing feels more beneficial to one’s position than a historical narrative of what has came before it.
Since it has recently been requested that OU Create become the primary university-supported publishing platform for the community, I wanted to take the time to articulate the promises we hold to our users and the broader institution. Several of her questions I can’t answer simply because I don’t have the knowledge or scope to do so. Yet as we venture into our second semester as an institutionalized service, I do believe I can speak to what I envision moving forward.
Learning is forever at the center of our project.
OU Create is a platform meant to be explored. Its beauty lies in its vastness. There will always be more applications available on OU Create via the Installatron that we haven’t touched than those we have. To me, this is exciting. This is learning.
Yet the goal isn’t for us (or anyone for that matter) to learn every crevice or know every available feature. If a faculty member approaches us about wanting to be a scholarship-focused web presence, we want to be able to assist them in growing their own digital literacy as well as accomplish their goal. Likewise, we want students to be able to utilize the space to better understand the technology that powers individuals on the web, share in a discpline-based learning experiences, and further understand themselves as they embark on crafting their own digital identity.
Whether its learning the technology, fulfilling a course objective, or simply about learning about ones self, this is the goal.
What you build, you keep.
Your data is forever portable. Several of the points that Laura brought up were an unclearness in how to access files on services that are being decommisioned. I want to emphasize that we have made sure that users had the appropriate tools and methods to leave OU Create at any point in time. We’ve built in ways for users to transfer completely to a commercial hosting company either in one-click to Reclaim Hosting, which is our partner in the intitative. Users can also export their CPanel so they can move to a hosting company that also uses CPanel (many do including Bluehost) or they can do something as simple as export their posts from a WordPress instance and move it to the free WordPress.com. It’s imperative that users know this because we believe that this project exists to allow our community to build identities and bodies of work that have value long after their tenure at OU.
As a follow up, we need to make sure our documentation clearly details the various workflows for how this can be accomplishing. Additionally, we need to make it a priority to communicate with users that this process exists.
We will walk the walk.
I don’t know if this was touched on terribly too much by Laura, but it’s something I’m passionate about. We aren’t just promoting a service that we wouldn’t and don’t use ourselves. I honestly believe that involvement in the project isn’t only a great practical service for our community–the ability to build, maintain, grow, and keep your own domain–it’s also the way I see education being most effective; promoting student agency and knowledge curation. The best way to see the fruits of OU Create is to use it ourselves. Some of us will use it personally, some will use it to create open curriculum either for for-credit courses or faculty development initiatives, and some of us will use it as an opportunity to explore our own curiosities. My ultimate wish is that we continue to be inside of it every day so we can learn where it flourishes and where it breaks down; where it’s superior and where it’s lacking. I’m encouraged to see how Anoop is blogging weekly about the OU Create activity, how John is narrating his passion for Wikipedia, and how Keegan has used it to promote his efforts in mobile blogging and scholarship. I also love our conversations where we discuss what does and doesn’t work. Let’s make sure other people get the benefit of hearing those as well.
We will be a part of a broader domains community.
What I see when I look at the good open sources community is sharing. Frequently, from source code to resources to solutions to assistance, the goal is to better the community as a whole. Similarly, I believe that the goal of the academy should, above anything else, be the creation and dissimentation of knowledge.
I want us to continue to help those inside and outside of the domains community as well as those, like Laura, who also make an effort to prioritize experimentation on the edge. To reiterate what I said above, what we learn should be shared broadly, first and foremost, through our own digital publishing platforms.
If we are going anywhere, you’ll hear from us.
We’ve received a commitment from the Office of the Provost and Senior Vice President to fully fund this project for multiple years. While I don’t expect OU Create to go away anytime soon, we need to make sure we take the appropriate steps to communicate the future of the platform; particularly if it ever goes away. There are too many ways for folks to get their data and its too valuable to simply turn the lights off.