It is now possible for individuals to host their own websites using open source applications with relative ease, and in some cases at no cost other than the time to set up the website.
In DS4OER, which focuses on digital skills, we will provide an authentic experience for learners to publish the course materials they have authored in WikiEducator on the WordPress content management system using a cloud hosted service. This may sound like a complex process, but we will show you how easy it can be to set up your own WordPress site for the course materials you have authored in the wiki.
Radical reduction in the cost of hosting websites
The cost of hosted web services has decreased significantly in recent years. This has been achieved through economies of scale, in part through cloud computing and related technologies like hardware virtualisation, where multiple web servers can be hosted on the same physical hardware.
When combined with open source applications, this means that individuals and institutions can host their own web server infrastructure in the cloud at surprisingly low cost. A number of cloud service providers offer free tier services for a limited period, or even unrestricted periods for small installations. Of course, free tiers have restricted storage, limited memory capacity and will be subject to load and performance constraints. Notwithstanding these restrictions, they provide ideal environments for testing small sites with low traffic and developing your skills and understanding of the Internet.
For example, the course site for DS4OER is hosted on OpenShift by Red Hat using their free tier hosting service. Apart from the cost advantages, many cloud service providers have implemented web interfaces which simplify the set up and administration for hosting pre-configured applications like WordPress.
We’re not all programmers
A key philosophy of open source software is the freedom for anyone to have access to the source code to see and understand how a program works. This comes with the corresponding freedom to improve the code. In the real world, we are not all programmers and most of us do not have the skills needed to read, understand or improve the source code. However, the important point is the freedom you have to do this. You can always employ an open source developer to tweak the code for your purposes.
In a similar vein, we would like DS4OER learners to experience this freedom first hand by setting up and hosting their own WordPress site. We appreciate that most educators are not coders or experts in managing security related issues and sometimes things can go wrong. However, in this context, it doesn’t matter if you encounter difficulties with your installation or make mistakes. Your content is safe in WikiEducator so be bold and experiment. Its the open source way.
Three steps to hosting your own course site on OpenShift
The process for converting your individual wiki pages in your course outline into a self-hosted WordPress site involves three steps:
- Creating an account and signing up for the free tier account on OpenShift.
- Installing a WordPress image which embeds the OERu WordPress theme
- Executing the process to “copy” the WikiEducator pages on your outline page to your own WordPress installation.
The learning challenge for publishing your course site contains detailed instructions on how to do this.
There are a number of alternative options you can consider (but we don’t cover these in the course):
- Installing the OERu WordPress theme on any WordPress hosted service that permits the user to install custom themes. (Note that the free WordPress.com service does not permit the installation of custom themes). This requires knowledge of how to install a theme. (You can obtain a ZIP archive of the theme for uploading to your WordPress installation.)
- Working with your own technical team to execute the scripts for harvesting the WikiEducator pages.