In this course we will build a personal website together, explore some of the reason for having a personal space online, especially in the educational context, and examine some of the challenges and opportunities provided by participating in online courses like this one.

While our focus will be on the expectations of those in the education field, particularly graduate students and instructors, participants from other fields are welcome. Similarly, while we will only cover the particular details of Wordpress and Reclaim Hosting, the course may be of interest to those who prefer different tools or those interested in technology and online education more generally.

Course Goals

  1. Build a personal website.
  2. Participate in an online course.
  3. Explore what it means to publish and learn in public.


Run in the spring of 2016, from February though until early April.

This course will consist of 5 sessions, which will each contain a mixture of readings, general assignments, and online discussion posts or comments. I will also run a few in-person (NYC) sessions to help guide people through the material, answer questions, or discuss everyone's ongoing work.

You will not need to participate at any particular time of day or day during the week so you should be able to participate regardless of your particular schedule or time zone. However, the class will change topics between each session and many activities and forms of participation will no longer be very useful after the next session has begun so keeping up with the material week to week will make sure you get the most from the course and that all of us get the most from being in the course with you.

In total I expect the work will take between 7-15 hours total spread over the 10 weeks of the course.

Why participate?

There are thousands of instructional guides online to walk you through creating a personal, website whether you are interested in a particular software platform or the specifics of using your chosen hosting provider's tools with that software. The materials in this course should by no means be considered the only way to learn the tools we will use. So why participate in this course?

I hope you will participate at least partly to answer that question for yourself. As the internet rapidly becomes the universal documentation for our world, the question "why take the class?" becomes increasingly common throughout society. This is especially true as the number of pre-recorded formal classes increases. If you can get not only the source material but also a recording of an expert teacher presenting the material, what is the value in structured participation? For those of us working in education, this is an increasingly important question to understand.

I find structured courses useful for a number of reasons. I feel much more motivated to continue working on something over the weeks and months if I know I am going to have to tell someone else how it went. I find it useful to have peers around with whom I can discuss that work, ask questions, and who can challenge me. I also find online courses interesting because they were not part of my formal education and I want to understand what that change means for the millions of people who now have online courses as part of their own education.


This course charges no fee, offers no grade, and is run in a public place where any who are interested can review the material. As such there are none of the traditional requirements that come with a course offered in a formal educational institution. However, there are still signs of success and there are still prerequisites that are worth considering.


Prerequisites include:

a) Internet connection
b) Time
c) English language skills
d) $25-32 USD/year

The funds listed in d) are the current rates offered by Reclaim Hosting for your own domain name plus personal hosting for the year. They are competitive but you may find other options for less and, depending on what you are looking to get from your online space, you can also sign up for a free service like, medium, or tumblr. We will discuss the reasons this course focuses on Reclaim's paid offering in depth later on.

I mention all of this to make clear from the outset that putting something online is not the same as making it universally accessible. If you are interested in the reality of online education, and especially if you are a teacher considering including online activities in your courses, it is important to recognize that access to the internet is a real barrier for many. In the US, many students who have internet access have it only as part of their cell phone plan.

Accessibility Challenge

For anyone who is interested in seeing what online participation looks like for a student whose only internet access, and likely only computer access, it through a smart phone, I challenge you to take this course only using your smart phone. Like most educational technology, everything in this course should work on a small screen but the experience will most certainly be different.

Getting an online "A"

To me, success in this course consists of three things:

1) Build yourself a platform 2) Contribute something to the group 3) Publish something to improve the course for next time

Because we are not actually giving grades, we can define what each of these points means as flexibly as we want. I especially want to encourage those of you who are less comfortable with some of the more common assigned participation formats in courses, i.e. chat sessions, mandatory "response" postings, etc, to try out some different kinds of contributions that you may have seen in other online contexts.

For instance, if you find value in what someone else has written you could find some links to sources that support key points in the discussion or even well written arguments that run counter to that piece to present a more full picture of the ideas under discussion. Or you could spread the initial piece to people and communities that you think will be interested in it, translate it to make it accessible to new communities that might not have previously seen it, or even create a shareable list of links to all the materials produced by participants in this course. Just think back to other online conversation you have seen and anything you were happy someone did. Any contributions made in good faith are welcome.

We can be as flexible in defining these points as we wish but I do take them seriously as markers of success in the course. One of the big differences between this course and a simple HowTo website is that we are all going through it together. While this course may not be a substantial time commitment compared to formal classes, I do hope you will treat it as a significant commitment.

Move on to the schedule