OERxDomains: Early Planning and Display Site

OERxDomains21. Where to begin. Easily a career highlight. Hard to put into words.

I suppose I’ll start at the beginning because I do think its worth having everything documented on my little corner of the internet. That takes us back to at some point last fall, knowing that our biennial Domains event was coming around the corner. We knew that we would want to do something, but also knew that it would have to be pared down significantly compared to what we’ve done in previous years. I think the ALT team was in a similar boat regarding their annual OER conference, so after a couple of brainstorming conversations we decided to join forces and create an epic online event that catered to both communities. I’ve been an attendee and speaker at the OER conferences since 2018 (you can read my about my previous experiences here, here, and here) and have grown to look forward to it every year. It was an honor to get to work along Maren Deepwell and the rest of the of the ALT team, as well as be announced as a co-chair alongside Jim Groom, Joe Wilson, Louise Drumm, and Lou Mycroft.

In combining forces between OER & Domains, we knew that we wanted the themes for the event to reflect the interests and goals of both communities, while also acknowledging that 2020 was not normal. Here are the themes that were decided:

  1. Openness, care, and joy in the times of pandemic
  2. Open Education responses to surveillance technologies and data ownership in education
  3. Open in Action: open teaching, educational practices and resources, how you might be using Domains and other tools
  4. Shifts in agency and creativity as empowerment of learners and educators
  5. Open Source Tools: infrastructure, cloud environments, targeted teaching tools

Around the same time that we were in the early stages of planning, Tim, Jim and I spoke at DigitalOcean’s virtual Deploy conference with Kaysi Holman and Inés Vañó García at CUNY and DO’s Erin Glass. You can view our presentation here & you can read Jim’s post about it here.

The conference and speaker experience at Deploy was super seamless, easy to watch, and required minimal effort to engage. Our session was prerecorded and branded for the event in StreamYard. StreamYard allows you to have moderators that sit behind the scenes to effectively produce videos on the fly, so all layout changes, screen-shares, and intro/outro jingles are added in real time. The sessions were then scheduled to play or “go live” at a given time, and speakers were told to be around for Q&A in Discord where all event conversation took place. This allowed speakers to engage with other participants without the added pressure of presenting live. What’s more, Discord felt casual and collaborative as a participant. In a world of zoom fatigue, the Deploy conference was refreshing, and we knew that we wanted to take pointers from it as we were thinking about delivery for OERxDomains.

I also find it a bit poetic that ^this quote from Tim stuck out to me during our DigitalOcean Presentation, and our tagline for OERxDomains21 became Open Community Production:

(I’ll save the artwork for another post, because wow.)

Reclaim’s role in the OERxDomains21 event, beyond building content for the Domains21 track, was to think through the online delivery. Our goals/big ticket items were as follows:

  • It had to work reliably. We couldn’t afford site crashes, slow loads, playback errors, etc. It had to be live and online the whole time.
  • It needed redundancy. In the event that YouTube or StreamYard went down, how would we communicate with participants?
  • It needed different levels of engagement to accommodate “the passive watcher” to “the live tweeter” and everyone in between.
  • It needed a sense of community and connection. How could we think beyond the 8 hour zoom conference where everyone has their camera turned off?

Of course there were other logistical priorities like working across various time zones and being available as an archive after the fact, but overall, the big requirements for me screamed flexibility and preparedness. We needed to be prepared for just about anything while also offering flexibility in the way that the conference was consumed.

This ultimately led to a setup in which an OER Track (or 2) and Domains Track were running alongside each other. The OER Track would consist primarily of live presentations, whereas the Domains track would be prerecorded, scheduled talks. This would allow the Reclaim team to be more available during the actual event for support and engagement with the participants.

All sessions (both live and prerecorded) were to be produced in StreamYard for consistent branding and behind-the-scenes management. Prerecorded sessions would save in YouTube as unlisted links and would be scheduled to play publicly with YouTube Premier (a last minute find from Tim). Live presentations would also take place in StreamYard and would broadcast live to YouTube.

Participants could comment on YouTube Live videos in the chat section, and those comments would pull into the StreamYard window for speakers to see. Conversations for prerecorded sessions, as well as other miscellaneous discussions we referred to as Hallway Chats, would take place in Discord.

To prevent people from getting confused on where to go for what chats, sessions and tracks, we would need a One Stop Shop. Enter the headless OERxDomains21.org: our event schedule, video player, chat embedder, session archive, time converter, the list goes on.

The masterminds behind the headless Display Site were Tom Woodward and Michael Branson Smith, who wrote about his work here. I’ll save more details about OERxDomains in future posts, but for now enjoy our Reclaim Today episode with Tom & MBS where they talk about the development of the display site:

Reclaim Hosting at OER19

In case you missed it, I’ve just published my notes, thoughts, and reflections from my personal experiences at OER19. I’d now like to jump to Reclaim Hosting’s presence at the conference, which was a different, equally awesome piece of last week.

We were finally able to see our Be Kind, Reclaim Ad, new VHS shirts, and Ryan Seslow’s artwork for Domain19 come to life in one place and it was beautiful. I took a few pictures, but I think Jim’s video really captures the full setup nicely:

This was our first time ever sponsoring a conference as Reclaim Hosting, and it meant that we had a 10 min slot on the afternoon of Day One to quickly speak about who we are and what we stand for. I was elected to do the speaking (an honor that I do not take lightly) so I thought long and hard about what I wanted to say. These ‘sponsor slots’ can quickly feel vendory and salesy, so I made it my absolute mission to take an opposite stance.

Jim happened to record this little talk, and I’ve also decided to include my notes below as I think they do have a way of sharing the Reclaim story quite nicely.

Hey folks- for those of you who don’t know me, my name is Lauren Brumfield.

So a little birdie told me the other day that OER19 is the largest OER conference yet. Which is completely wild- very cool. It also means that there are likely some new faces in the crowd that aren’t super familiar with Reclaim Hosting, and therefore might be a bit confused by page 19 in your OER Program. Which is totally fine, but that means that you haven’t done your homework and now, as punishment, you have to sit and listen to me talk to you for the next hour. Completely kidding- I’ll only be up here for a few minutes, but I really just wanted to quickly go over our video shelf graphic, which actually tells the story of Reclaim Hosting.

Reclaim Hosting provides educators and institutions with an easy way to offer domains and web hosting within the classroom in a way that students and faculty can own and control. Our goal is to make the process for offering flexible web space for your community super seamless with the best support around. We always say that web hosting is nothing new, and in fact we would argue that this is “trailing edge technology”. So with that in mind, we’ve adopted this VHS metaphor and brand. And when we were asked to create an ad for OER19, a shelf with VHS tapes that highlight our values, history, and projects made total sense.


And as a fun fact, OER19 is the first time that we’re sponsoring a conference as Reclaim Hosting. That said, we’ve had a presence in some form or fashion at the OER conferences since 2016. Jim Groom wrote more about this in our OER blog post, which I encourage you to read, but we look forward to coming back year after year to support the ethos of the ALT group and pay tribute to the people and conversations at OER that absolutely make Reclaim Hosting what it is today. For that reason, we had to create a tape for this event. And I’m not sure what ET has to do Open Education, but it was perfect for our aesthetic so there ya go.


The next tape on the shelf is DS106, which arguably inspired the inception of Reclaim Hosting. DS106, which stands for Digital Storytelling, is an open, online course that began at the University of Mary Washington in 2010 and is open to join and leave, participate in and interact with by anyone, at any time. Building this community wasn’t a far jump from creating digital identities on Reclaim Hosting, which started taking off in 2013. DS106 started gaining so much traction, in fact, that Stephen Downes began referring to it as a cult, and this artwork was Martha Burtis’s response to that.

YourDomain . com

As I’ve already mentioned, this idea of curating a digital identity and controlling your digital narrative is something that we’re really passionate about at Reclaim. Your domain . com – Endless possibilities. When a new user signs up for an account and then navigate to their newly registered domain, they will see a VHS tape with their new domain scratch onto the spine of the tape. That splash page was designed by the wonderful Bryan Mathers, and we wanted to make sure that was cataloged on this shelf.


This Devo tape points our server infrastructure, which is obviously the boring part of web hosting. But to make it a little less boring, all of our Shared Hosting servers are named after 80’s punk rock bands. Which, if you know Jim Groom and Tim Owens— the founders of Reclaim— this should not be at all surprising.


As Reclaim has continued to grow over the last couple of years, we’ve been a part of conversations about making web hosting, cPanel, and online applications approachable. Because we realize it can feel scary over overwhelming if you’ve never worked with these tools before. So with that in mind, you may have heard of these things called SPLOTs, or site templates, which allow users to install a version of WordPress, for example, that’s already populated with text and images to help show the possibilities of a given theme or plugin. But if you want to learn more about it, talk with Alan Levine or Brian Lamb- they won’t shut up about it.


So as Reclaim has continued to grow, our support needs have grown as well. And with that, support has become one of the largest focal points that dictates how we spend our time at Reclaim. Being able to offer authentic, helpful, and quick support has always been a top priority for us, so this obviously deserved space on the shelf. And I have to give Tim Owens, our support guru, credit for the beautiful artwork here, as he translated WordPress’s latest update into a Horror film. Which feels very true to form, as the horror around the release of Gutenberg made our support explode a few months ago.

Domains: Your Digital Identity

If you came to OER18, then this might look a little familiar and that’s because it’s taken from the 5 min video that Reclaim Hosting actually produced and released at last year’s conference to not only promote Domains, but our brand new, state of the art VHS store in Fredericksburg, Virginia. The store/alter ego is lovingly referred to as Reclaim Video. It was originally Jim’s personal brainchild, but he easily convinced the rest of the team as another way of making web hosting less boring. So you can actually stop by Reclaim Video to rent out VHS, betamax, and laserdisc (it’s completely free) or at the very least you can go to reclaimvideo.com and watch our awesome promo. (But I’m just a little biased.)


Our last tape on the shelf is for our Domains19 conference, which we will be hosting on June 10 & 11 in Durham, North Carolina. We’re hoping that it will not only be an extension for a lot of the conversations that have happened today and will happen tomorrow, but we’ll also be focusing on the uncertain futures of data ownership, privacy, access, targeted teaching tools, cloud infrastructures. I’m happy to chat further with you about the event if you have any questions, or you can go to domains.reclaimhosting.com for more information.

Be Kind, Reclaim

And to finish: We’ve also just printed these new /Be Kind, Reclaim/ stickers, which you’re welcome to take from our table setup. I personally love the double meaning that they offer. While they were firstly intended to play on the “Be Kind Rewind” stickers that used to go on VHS tapes, I actually enjoy reading it more as a call to action: Be Kind. Reclaim the Web.

My slides are available here. (Flip to the end for my new favorite GIF.)

Skidmore Workshop: Reclaim Roadshow

A few weeks ago Jim and I had the pleasure of running our very first Reclaim Roadshow in upstate New York at Skidmore College. We’ve done variants of this Domain of One’s Own administrator workshop in the past, but it was always in Fredericksburg, Va at Reclaim Hosting HQ. These worked well enough, but being able to take this content on the road now means that we’re able to reach a whole new set of folks who maybe wouldn’t be able to travel all the way to Virginia otherwise. So instead of semesterly workshops in Virginia, we’re thinking through what Regional workshops would look like across the U.S. There’s obviously a benefit to getting the undivided attention of the entire Reclaim Hosting team in Fredericksburg, but I also love the idea of being able to say, “Can’t make it? No worries, we’ll come to you.”

You can read through the full Roadshow Workshop itinerary here. We were originally thinking of breaking up the schedule into two parallel tracks, one that encompasses everything technical about Domain of One’s Own, and the other that addresses topics of Digital Literacy and Instructional strategies. However, after getting a sense of our final numbers and audience, I’m so happy that we ultimately decided to blend the two tracks together. The attendees represented variable degrees of experience and perspective in terms of DoOO, so the technical training acted as both a nice refresher for veterans and a big help for newbies. Jim and I spent the full first morning tackling the technical DoOO, which also allowed us to lay the foundation and make sure everyone was on the same page when it came time for discussions around growth, data ownership, exit strategies, and digital organization. 

We dove into a hands-on SPLOT/Site Template/Tiny Teaching Tools workshop after lunch, which was much needed. Though the technical overview is a necessity, it was nice to switch it up for the rest of the afternoon by focusing on creating tools for our respective communities. 

As shown in the embedded tweet above, Jim started by giving an overview of what SPLOTs are and how they’ve come to be. He gave a nod towards the awesome work that Alan Levine has done to build out templates with Reclaim Hosting, and even shared the custom one-click installers that Tim has built. Even though we’ve talked about SPLOTs at workshops past, the conversation always leads somewhere new and this time was no different.  

We tasked the group with going out and collecting little scenes from our surroundings and then uploading them to a quick TRUcollector template that Jim built on our Demo server, StateU. I used the above images taken behind Surrey-Williamson Inn, where we spent the majority of the two days, and then uploaded them to the site straight from my phone. (And did I mention participants don’t have to log in?) The process was seamless, and the site became a “tru” collection of images from the day in a matter of minutes. Very cool to see this live example of how students could quickly add to a course website, for instance. 

SPLOT discussions continued on the afternoon day two, where Jim and I gave folks the opportunity to share what they had worked on the previous day. It was cool to see how existing templates were picked apart, manipulated and changed to meet the needs of various communities. I ended up sharing a template that I made for DoOO admins based off the Dimensions SPLOT:

As a brief backstory- the technical training on the morning of the first day exposed that some new administrators were having a hard time keeping up with the various DoOO platforms. I would have to agree; the acronyms are hard to adopt, and the login pages are long, hidden, and unfamiliar. Enter StateU.org/dooo-admin, a new landing page for admins that has quick descriptions of each platform and how they’re used:

Since this landing page is created from an existing template, it’s very easy to recreate and/or set up on DoOO servers. Now an entire team that manages a DoOO instance can navigate to the same landing page, get a quick refresher of how the platforms are used, click to specific guides, and lastly, navigate to their respective login pages.  (Psst- if this is something you want for your DoOO team, shoot me an email!)

On top of the SPLOTs show & tell time, day two was jam-packed with panel discussions, mini-presentations, and then free-flowing conversations that addressed any unanswered questions from the group. We heard specifically from schools like Colgate, UMass Amherst, Wesleyan, Drew, and Plymouth State on their specific cases for how DoOO is being used on campus which was (and always is) incredibly fascinating. Reclaim Hosting can’t always be ‘on the ground’ as folks roll out these projects, so listening to strategies that were bounced back and forth was easily one of my favorite parts of the workshop.

My biggest personal takeaways were the discussions around data ownership, migration strategies, and institutional archiving, which spawned from the following question: who owns student work after the student graduates? I’ll have to dive into that one on another day, but it’s safe to say that I left the first Reclaim Roadshow feeling inspired and even more ready for the future of Domains. 

Digital Literacy: Reclaiming Your Space

As promised in my last post, I wanted to take a moment to summarize & document my Workshop presentation meant for #OER18, even if I wasn’t feeling well enough to present it. Jim, Tim, and Meredith ended up covering for me on the day of, and I couldn’t be more thankful or proud of how it all turned out! I do hope that someday I’ll be given the opportunity to do the talking myself, but for now, a summary of the Workshop will have to do. :)

Workshop Abstract:

The abstract can be viewed here or in the PDF below.

Digital Literacy_ Reclaiming Your Space


One of the biggest changes made from the original abstract to the final product was how we decided to break up the hands-on time with the lecture time. Splitting it half and half made sense on paper, but thinking through the real deal made me realize that 45 min is quite a long time to hear one person talk, and a second block of 45 min is quite a long time to have an unstructured free time for a group of WordPress beginners. To combat this, I broke it up into 4 units of combined lecture & workshop time and then asked Jim & Tim to each take a unit. The idea was that when we weren’t up at the front talking, we’d be walking around the room contributing to the conversation and helping folks one on one. To clarify, here’s a quick outline of how the workshop would have been broken up:

Workshop Outline

Unit One: Lauren
Lecture: Digital Literacy
Workshop: Signing up for an account

-What is Digital Literacy? Why is it important?
-Case Study: Personal digital identity transformation from static HTML to professional documentation platform
-The other side of Digital Literacy: Responsibility; Understanding the scope of your digital presence

Unit Two: Tim
Lecture: Folder Structures
: Getting familiar with File Manager

-Understanding Servers
-Where are your files stored? How can you access them?
-Public_html & folder organization
-How do you create a file?

Unit Three: Jim
Lecture: Setting Up Your Domain with Installatron
Workshop: Installing WordPress

-What is Open-Source software?
-What apps are available within cPanel’s Installatron?
-Case Studies with Scalar, Omeka, and WordPress
-Software Files in File Manager

Unit Four: Lauren
Lecture: Using WordPress
Workshop: Designing Your Site

-Overview of the WordPress Dashboard
-How posts, pages, widgets, and menus on the back end correlate to your front-end website
-Recommended Themes, Plugins, and Widgets for getting started
-Refresher: What you’ve learned & what you’ve done

Presentation Slides:

Links for Case Studies:

+ Slide 3: html.labrumfield.com
+ Slides 4-5: labrumfield.com
+ Slide 18: baltimoreuprising2015.org
+ Slide 19: slavery.georgetown.edu/timeline
+ Slide 20: blackquotidian.com