OU Create 2.0

This year, I’ve spent a good bit of time restructuring the OU Create project. Since the start of the project, we had been giving all of the users a full domain where they could stand up as many websites as they wanted using anything from WordPress to Ruby to Python or plain old fashioned HTML.

We’ve known for a while now that most of our users are undergrad students who just want to set up a WordPress blog for whatever course they happen to be taking that semester. We would love for everyone to go through the process of learning about a domain and all the tools in their control panel, but this creates a big learning curve. The hardest part of blogging for their classes is the initial step of getting WordPress up and running.

At various times, we had discussed running a WordPress multisite. Each user would get their own site, but with a limited choice in plugins, themes, and site configurations. What they lose in control, they gain in having a site up and running in minutes with minimal fuss. At the end of the 2020-2021 academic year, we decided to pull the trigger, offering both our traditional domains and multisite WordPress as options.

Adam blogged about the project last month, providing some of the reasoning for the move. At the end of last week, I followed up on Adam’s post by talking about the concept and some of the technical set up in a Community Chat organized by Reclaim Hosting:

In that community chat, Noah Mitchell also presented on Coventry Domains. I hope I was able to emphasize how much of our project was modeled on Coventry Domains, particularly their language for students guiding them through their choice. Coventry has been running the Domains+WP-MS build for a while now, and I would not have been able to get our system up and running by the fall semester without drawing on some of their design decisions and documentation.

I’m going to write a few more posts about the project in the coming weeks that are more focused. In particular, I want to write about how we are thinking about different use cases for OU Create. I’ve been studying our databases and need to do some learning-out-loud about what the data tells us about how Create is being used. I also want to write something more technical about the particular themes, plugins, and set up of our WP-MS instance, in case its useful for anyone making a similar move.