Getting Started


As I am implementing several new features to this class this semester, I plan to blog about the activities so others may use these materials as a resource for adding these topics to their own programs/curricula. This semester, the Advanced Online Media course has two major team projects: the project (this is our 5th year covering SXSWi), and our new project funded by an AEJMC/Knight grant in which we will be reporting on Texas State's recent designation as Hispanic Serving Institution. So, we have an aggressive timetable and lots to learn.

We had our first class last night, a group of 14 grad students (well, 1 undergrad who was given permission to enter the class) ready to tackle the concepts of data and programming. This class is the next step that students in our program can take after a basic intro web design class.

We had several things to accomplish last night, basically getting everyone familiar and comfortable with the material we will be covering. You can see the topics on the Outline above, including the Intro to Web Development presentation.

I developed this course site in Drupal, so I could begin to learn the platform associated with the second project mentioned above. The grant pairs an educator with a Knight News Challenge winner. I received the grant to work with VIDI, which are data visualization modules built in Drupal, developed by the Jefferson Institute. So, I have spent the past couple weeks digging into Drupal. Expect a post on my Adventures in Drupal very soon.

But, first things first. Our first project is to get everyone familiar with content management systems by redesigning their personal sites on a self-hosted Wordpress platform. In the intro class, the students signed up for $0 ($25 for domain reg) hosting accounts through Doteasy. It is the cheapest web hosting option I have found to develop a site without a lot of bells and whistles, like PHP/MySQL, Rails, Drupal and Wordpress. It's been a stable and reliable host for the intro class projects. But for this Advanced class, we need the advanced platforms. Doteasy offers upgrades for most of those items (they don't include Rails). I was contacted over the break by a very helpful Bluehost rep, who offered us discount hosting and other perks, as well as a willingness to provide support and tutorials that we need or request. I highly recommend any educator to get in touch about Bluehost's education programs.

I have a few different student situations regarding hosting in the class:

  • 10 students were in an intro section last semester who had basic Doteasy accounts. They all need to upgrade to a Bluehost account (via the custom link Bluehost provided to us) and transfer their name servers on their Doteasy Control Panel. Then on the Bluehost Control Panel, they will use the one-click Wordpress install to get a fresh Wordpress site at the root of their domain. I had each student download a recent backup of their existing sites, so they can easily repurpose content and upload some of their old projects to the new host. We will also transfer domain registration to Bluehost. These students don't have any existing database-related projects like Wordpress or Drupal on their sites that need to be transferred to the new domain.
  • 2 of those students decided they wanted a new domain instead of transferring their old one. Easy. They will be getting a new domain via Bluehost and doing the Wordpress install via the Bluehost Control Panel.
  • 4 students were also in a Web Content Management Systems class last semester, taught by my colleague Jacie Yang. 3 of them already have a Bluehost account and have Wordpress and Drupal sites. So, they're set. They will use the first project to enhance the design and functionality of their existing Wordpress sites.
  • 1 student's situation provides the most challenge. He was in the Web Content Management System class last semester, but he chose to upgrade his Doteasy account. He would now like to transfer to Bluehost, to be consistent with the other students and because his Doteasy account is expiring 2/1. So, he needs to transfer his domain to Bluehost, but also needs to import his existing database-related projects (both Wordpress and Drupal) into the new account, so he doesn't lose them. I have an idea of how that should work, but need to work with him next week to accomplish this. Then we will transfer his name servers and eventually do the domain reg transfer.

Next, students are becoming familiar with the SXSW Interactive schedule and doing some forum posts regarding their interests in speakers, panels, events and tracks. But the students who were in the class last semester got a head start on content by doing 2 previews of accepted SXSW panels and case studies of Accelerator winners on our class blog. They are in the process of posting those to, so you should see some fresh content posted there soon. Follow us on Twitter (@sxtxstate) to stay in touch with news and announcements regarding this project. Students working on this project will be organized in three teams: Content (with an overall editor), Social Media, and Design/Plugins.

So, a lot of moving parts already, but I am already excited about the potential of what we have planned. The students seem excited, too. I am providing this level of detail, because anyone teaching a class of this nature will need to know how to do these things. Feel free to review the course outline to see the technologies I plan to cover. I will also be organizing a speaker series to accompany the AEJMC/Knight grant, so stayed tuned for more information about that.

Next week, we continue with Wordpress, learning how to design and customize. Your comments are appreciated. Feel free to connect with me on Twitter @cindyroyal.