Slide of appreciation

Shout out to: all the amazing students and staff making weird and wonderful things through Coventry.Domains (read about Coventry.Domains Award Winners 2020 and 2019) the Create University of Oklahoma team who from very early on in their project have openly shared their support resources, of which the Coventry.Domains team relied upon early on in the […]

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A living open resource

The breadth of guides made available through the Learn resource aims to meet the needs and curiosity of a large diverse community of students and staff at Coventry University, as well as the public.

Coventry.Domains currently has 30 undergraduate and postgraduate courses as well as research students, academics and department teams making use of the service. Therefore the guides need to talk to an audience who may have very limited Web literacy, have differing entry points to discovering the service, and who will have very different ideas about what they want to get out of their Web hosting.

The resource provides three paths of content – Think, Build, Grow – as a way to scaffold the content into a curriculum that the audience can follow at their own pace. At the top of the landing page there is a large text prompt that asks ‘What are you looking for?’ which sets the expectation that you as an individual can search out and decide how you want to make use of your space – rather than the resource being part of a customer service package or a linear online course.

The guides explain terminology within context, provide visual aids where appropriate, and aim to provide a meta example of how to write, publish and structure content on the Web.

The resource also aims to shift the burden of onboarding and Web literacy development from teaching staff and learning technologists through a shared open resource which can be remixed and repurposed within the VLE and elsewhere.

Image: Photo by Joshua Hibbert on Unsplash

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Structured paths of content

One of the things Coventry University’s Learn site inspired was us rethinking our documentation for all the schools we work with. The ways in which Coventry.Domains Learn faces outwards towards a broader community, and foregrounds web literacy as its raison d’etre helped us re-imagine how our support documentation was solving specific pain points, such as how to login to WordPress, how to use an addon domain, etc., but was not coming at the experience holistically as a pedagogical endeavor first and foremost. Part of this was a result of getting the trains to run on-time as Reclaim’s tiny team was in the position of supporting thousands of faculty, students and staff, a reality we are just recently coming up for air from. 

But the beauty of this is that the role of educational technologist, instructional designer, or whatever other not entirely adequate title tries to encapsulate what it is we do…is foregrounded through the design of a thoughtful, curated learning experience that helps provide a structured path of understanding how creating a domain and working through the conceptual foundations how how the web work becomes a literacy that can transcend the class or faculty specific limits of learning environments and merge them back onto the richest, most diverse, and beautifully complex educational network known to humanity: the web 

Coventry has been awesome enough to openly license all their work, and Reclaim wants to integrate the learning pathways defined in Learn into other schools Domains projects as seamlessly as possible.

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Emancipatory practice and testing new forms

This is an illustration of the Morant Rebellion in 1865 where Jamaican rebels challenged the limited notion of freedom offered by capitalism, being emancipated from slavery only to work on sugar plantations as waged slaves. They fought for an idea of freedom that meant having your own land to farm and work and organise social life in whatever way an individual or community wished.

Quoting Stavrides (2018, pp347) again:

“If emancipation has to do with the envisioning and testing of specific forms of social organization, possible spaces (understood as imagined arrangements or as specific possible sites) may become the means of both envisioning and testing those forms.”

In the context of the Web and virtual space, possible space provides the means to break from behaviours related to the current socio-technical system and 3rd party services, and imagine and test new forms of working online.

Coventry.Domains and microsite Learn were imagined to propose that all should have access to the means of Web production as well as the agency to learn on the Web in such a way that does not necessitate working under surveillance capitalism. The initiative also aims to advance the argument that educators and students should have the means to envision and test new forms of working and collaborating online.

The Learn resource includes guides on accessibility, privacy and copyright to build understanding of how other spaces on the Web potentially operate, and encourage reflection and active decision making on how an individual might govern a Web space and have the freedom to make use of the space for both the benefit of themselves and others.

Image: ‘The Jamaica Insurrection: Volunteers Firing On The Mob’, illustration of the Morant Bay rebellion by William Heysham Overend (1851-1898). From Cassell’s Illustrated History of England (1905), vol. IX, p150. Kindly contributed to Internet Archive by University of California Libraries.

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Ownership as it relates to agency

The idea of ownership, and the prevailing metaphor of the house, at the center of Domains definitely has its limits. As Maha Bali has pointed out, does anyone truly own their domain, or is it simply being leased from the registrars?  My understanding of ownership is that something belongs to me. That I have already […]

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Possible space

Here we will explain how the Learn resource frames free institutional web hosting as a ‘possible space’. Let’s think of the idea of social space in relation to virtual space.

Lefebvre said in the ‘The Production of Space’ (1991, p26):

“(Social) space is a (social) product … the space thus produced also serves as a tool of thought and of action; that in addition to being a means of production it is also a means of control, and hence of domination, of power”

In the essay ‘The Potentials of Space Commoning’ (2018), Stavrides sets out the idea of space commoning as a means of providing ‘possible space’.

Notice Stavrides’ use of the term ‘commoning’ rather than evoking the notion of ‘a commons’. Within art theory and other disciplines, the term ‘commons’ refers to activity rather than a specific resource.

Stavrides (2018, pp351) says:

“… to think about space as potentiality is to connect experiences of space to possibilities of expanding them and transcending them.”

“Performing space, performing through space, is always open to discovering space through performance, much like a dancer discovers possible movements by dancing and an actor possible gestures by acting or by rehearsing. By performing space actually means performing social relations, it means experiencing them as concrete unfolding realities, rather than abstract definitions of social identities. And this is a way to live potentiality by creating it.”

In this way, possible space is not a site of a specific resource but space as potentiality for performing new ways of working.

Through exposing the technologies that make up the Web, providing technical guidance to work like the Web, and framing access to web hosting as means to test and expand upon ways of working on the Web, the Learn resource encourages students and staff to imagine and create Web-based sites and activity that work for them and their communities.

Image: Photo by Elisa Kerschbaumer on Unsplash

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Work like the web

Crucial to understanding the technologies is coming up with a frame that enables and empowers educators and students alike to think like the web, which inspired technologist and patron saint of trailing edge technologies, Jon Udell, to come up with a list of 7 ways to think like the web in 2011. The list was […]

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Understanding the technologies that make up the web

At Coventry University, through use of the Coventry.Domains service, students and staff are given a subdomain and access to free web hosting to build Web-based works.

The Learn resource frames the Coventry.Domains initiative as an opportunity to understand what the World Wide Web is, issues related to different experiences on the Web, and the expanded role of the Web in contemporary life.

Through a set of open guides, the Learn resource aims to support students and staff to critically engage with how websites and online services are made and operate, and how they might imagine their own space and activity on the open Web.

The resource moves beyond a linear progression of literacies to make one-off works for assessment purposes, and instead aims to build the confidence of both students and staff in using digital technologies and making on the Web.

This includes onboarding walkthroughs to guides on how the Web works, what it means to self-host a website, and ways to imagine and plan your own Web space.

By exposing the technologies that make up the Web and providing materials that outline strategies for working on the Web, learners can go beyond developing the literacy to complete a task for a defined purpose towards building the procedural knowledge to work and live in a hyperconnected world.

Image: Photo by Ludwig S on Unsplash

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In 2012 the University of Mary Washington started experimenting with the idea of giving faculty, students, and staff their own “plot of land” on the web.  The impulse being that it was high time that universities start taking a pro-active role in providing opportunities for their community to imagine and create alternative online spaces that […]

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