Domains as Ground Zero for the Struggle over Agency

BYU’s Bold Plan to Give Students Control of Their Data

BYU’s Bold Plan to Give Students Control of Their Data

I was really pleased with Marguerite McNeal‘s article in edSurge on Brigham Young University’s Personal API experiment. It can be hard to explain (at least for me), but she does an excellent job providing an accessible frame for the project by looking at it in terms of students finally being able to manage and control their own data. I think the following paragraph summarizes the idea behind a personal API as clearly as anything else I’ve seen:

A personal API builds on the domain concept—students store information on their site, whether it’s class assignments, financial aid information or personal blogs, and then decide how they want to share that data with other applications and services. The idea is to give students autonomy in how they develop and manage their digital identities at the university and well into their professional lives

The idea of autonomy in relationship to our personal data puts the discussion in a far broader context, and its immediacy is anything but academic. That said, I think it’s telling that a number of universities have been pushing hard to bring the importance of controlling your data to their academic communities. BYU’s work around the personal API is a really exciting early attempt at what this might look like. I could listen to Phil Windley talk about what he calls “sovereign source identity,” an idea he credits to Long islander and UMW grad Devon Loffreto:

“We want to teach students that this isn’t the only way identity happens online. They can create their own,” Windley says. This fall BYU introduced its Domain of One’s Own pilot to 1,000 student and faculty participants. But offering personal Web spaces is just the beginning, Windley says. “Domains help students understand their personal identity. The next step is understanding your personal data and how you control that.”

Absolutely right! And Adam Croom, who has been going gang busters with University of Oklahoma’s Domain of One’s Own project OU Create, frames this argument along the lines of a negotiation that should be taking place but isn’t:

“It’s the idea that tapping into one’s data should be a negotiation that the student gets to make,” says Adam Croom, director of digital learning at the Center for Teaching Excellence at the University of Oklahoma (OU). “Why can’t I manage what apps tap into my data, whether that’s the learning management system or the bursar’s office? Why aren’t there terms and conditions for students to understand who has access to their data?”

Another article I found alongside this one, thanks to the Cassandra of Ed-Tech*, was the article in Education Week proclaiming 2016 will be “The Year of Agency.” If that’s right—and I hope it is—that means more an more universities will need to start rethinking their infrastructure, and APIs have helped BYU and University of Oklahoma do just that. And so much of that work has been make possible thanks to the tireless evangelism of Kin Lane who has provided a vision of what APIs can be for Higher Ed. One we desperately needed.

At the same time, giving students, faculty, and staff more control over their data will be without some serious struggle. A response to this article published today on EducationDive illustrates why giving students control over their data might be an issue for some:

Schools are tracking student movements around campuses, incorporating data about how many times they visit the library or the tutoring center into performance data, merging that with student information system and learning management system data, and then developing predictive models to help counselors and students themselves. Giving students access to their own data is one thing, but letting them block others from seeing it is a different beast that could derail retention efforts.

Derailing retention? It’s strange to see the idea of allowing students to decide who gets to see their data, for how long, and why as somehow antithetical to keeping them? There is a joke in there somewhere. Fact is, the realities behind the learning analytics applications that have been relentlessly tracking student’s personal data may very soon be coming to a head. I would bet there has been little to no transparency about what student data universities are tracking, and whom they are sharing it with. Hell, I’m sure a number of universities aren’t even aware themselves of what data these third party applications are collecting. The idea that someone empowering students to opt-out of these unilateral relationships with various technology vendors is somehow preventing them from doing their job is demonstrative of just how much of the job of teaching and learning they’re offshoring to third-party technology solutions. And I won’t even get into the insane idea that tracking a student’s movement around campus is a sound academic counseling strategy.

Reclaim Hosting was born out of a movement that is grounded in the principle of empowering students and faculty to take control of their teaching and learning. And as Phil Windley notes, understanding who has access to their data and how it is being used will be ground zero for that struggle if we are, indeed, entering the year of agency.

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*I found this article thanks to the all-knowing, all-seeing Audrey Watters, who linked to it in this week’s Newsletter. You’d think given I was quoted in this I might know about it, but Audrey actually reads the web—all of it—unlike me :)

Reclaiming Your Addon Domains

Today’s entry in Reclaim Hosting’s #DocumentationDecember brings you a guide on how to set up and manage your addon domains! We’ll go over what an addon domain is, why it might make sense for you, and we’ll walk you through how to get an addon domain activated on your Reclaim Hosting account.

What is an addon domain?

In our documentation on how to set up and manage your subdomains, we make the analogy that owning a domain is sort of like having a piece of “territory” on the web, like a tract of “web land.” Using a subdomain (like docs.reclaimhosting.com or domains.reclaimhosting.com) is a great way to develop your land and put different kinds of property on it, but if you want more land for an entirely different purpose, an addon domain might be a better choice for you. Eventually if you have enough domains you can start building houses on them, and then if you have enough houses you can build a hotel.

Obtaining an addon domain

You can buy a new domain name directly from us through your client portal, or you can transfer a domain you have from another registrar to your Reclaim Hosting account. For this post, we’ll go over how to set up a new domain (purchased from us) first, and go over how to transfer in a domain from another registrar at the end.

Setting up your new domain

You don’t need a new Reclaim Hosting account to get another domain, and you can manage all of your domains from the same account portal. For example, let’s say you have an awesome blog that you’ve been posting to for 10 years, and you want to ride the success of your blog to new heights by opening Javatuesdays, a gourmet espresso shop. You decide you’d like to buy javatuesdays.com to commemorate the grand opening of your new shop.

To start, log-on to your Reclaim Hosting account, hover over “Domains,” and click “Register a New Domain.”

Reclaiming Your Addon Domains

Reclaiming Your Addon Domains

In this screen, simply type in the domain that you’d like to register and select a suffix (.com, .net, .org, etc) – our system will confirm that the domain is available (or not); in our case, javatuesdays.com is available, so I’ll click “continue.”

The next screen will give you a couple of options.  The first option is to purchase identity protection for your domain at a cost of $7.00. ICANN (basically the governing body of the Internet) requires you to identify yourself when you register a domain with your name, address, email, etc. Without identity protection, another Internet user can use a tool called whois to look up your information and contact you personally about products or services. Identity protection masks this information on your behalf, and if there is an issue with your domain, ICANN will contact the registrar (that’s us) and we will contact you on behalf of ICANN. Personally, I recommend the identity protection unless you are registering a domain for an Internet business and want your personally identifiable information to be “easily found.”

The second option asks if you’d like to change the nameservers for your domain. If you are hosting your website through Reclaim Hosting, you do not need to change these settings. You would only want to change your nameservers if you were hosting your website with another provider (like Squarespace) but wanted to keep your domain registered with Reclaim.

In our example, we’re hosting javatuesdays.com with Reclaim Hosting, and opted to purchase the Identity Protection. After clicking “Continue,” you can review your order and check out by putting your credit card information in the bottom right under “Payment Method.” When you’re all set, click the “Complete Order” button on the bottom. When your order is complete, you will see a link to return to your client area.

Starting up a site for your addon domain

As mentioned earlier, you don’t need a new hosting account for your new domain! Once you’re back in the Client Area, click on cpanel, and then click “addon domains.”

Reclaiming Your Addon Domains

In “addon domains,” fill in the “new domain name” field with the domain you just registered; the “subdomain” and “Document Root” fields will populate automatically. In our case, I am going to remove the “.com” from my “Document Root” folder, but that is only for my convenience, you do not need to do this.

Reclaiming Your Addon Domains

You also have the option of creating a new FTP account that has access to the content on your domain. You also do not need to do this, but you may want to if you’d like to give someone else FTP access to your site, so I am going to go ahead and set that up. Your existing FTP credentials will allow you to get access to all of your Reclaim sites, and a refresher on how to use FTP can be found here.

Once you’re done setting up your domain options, click “Continue” and wait a few seconds for your changes to process. That’s pretty much it!

Installing applications on your new domain

Once your domain is set-up, back in cpanel, you can select a featured application and install it to your new domain. For javatuesdays.com, I’d like to install WordPress, so I’ll click “WordPress” and then click “Install this application.”

On the install page, click on the drop-down menu at the top and select your new domain, then enjoy your new site!

Reclaiming Your Addon Domains

Transferring a domain from another registrar

Transferring a domain you already own is not too much different from registering a new domain, except the transfer process requires an EPP code, which is basically an agreement code obtained from your registrar that allows the registrar to release your domain. Basically, to start the process, click on “domains” in the client portal, but instead of clicking “register a new domain,” click “transfer domains to us.” You will be prompted to enter your EPP code on the same screen where we ask if you’d like to buy the identity protection. The process is pretty standard across registrars, but there are a couple of “gotchas” (these are the rules set by ICANN) to be aware of no matter what, and it’s worth noting that these rules also apply if you would like to transfer out of Reclaim Hosting (but we know it won’t come to that!):

  • If you have whois protection enabled through your registrar, you must disable it (temporarily) before you initiate the transfer. This is because we will send a confirmation of authorization email to the email address on your domain that you provided to the original registrar. (think of it like a “are you really sure you want to transfer? message)
  • You must click the confirmation link in the email we send, or you will have to start the process over!
  • Your domain must not be less than 60 days old, and you must not have previously transferred your domain in the last 60 days.
  • The domain transfer process can take up to 5 days.

Here are the transfer/EPP code instructions for some popular registrars:

Namecheap (they provide some of the most comprehensive info on this process, if you’re interested)

GoDaddy

Network Solutions

Hover

If your domain registrar doesn’t appear here, you can do a Google search for “epp code” and then the name of your registrar, and remember, if it’s helpful to you, it’s probably helpful for others, so send us a support note and we’ll feature your suggestion here!

We will confirm once your domain is transferred, and then you can follow the same directions (starting with cpanel) to set it up as an addon domain. Happy Reclaiming!