Introducing U.OSU.EDU

Last week brought some great news on the publishing front – the university-wide roll-out of U.OSU.EDU, Ohio State’s professional website platform. Created by the new Office of Distance Education and eLearning (ODEE), and Arts & Sciences Technology Services, U.OSU allows any OSU student, staffer, or faculty  member to create a website to showcase their work, or their studies, or their experience here at Ohio State. According to the U.OSU blog,

U.OSU provides web space to support professional and educational activities at The Ohio State University. Students, faculty and staff use U.OSU.EDU to share independent work, host course assignments, enhance project visibility, communicate within groups, and represent organizations.

The new platform is hosted by EduBlogs, and is built on WordPress software. Although it is based on a blogging platform, the creators are billing it – and teaching people how to use it – as a more general website platform, from which blogging functionality can be removed or de-emphasized if desired.  Right now it has a very limited selection of themes and plugins, but the ODEE team is tweaking and adding new functionality all the time, so you can expect the offerings to expand in the future. It is not, however, meant to be highly customizable; rather, it is meant to support the website needs of most of the OSU community in a standard way. A user can create up to five sites, but they are all tied to his or her name.#, and will not be maintained indefinitely after he or she graduates, or moves to a different institution, so it really is a tool meant to support the needs of current OSU students, faculty, and staff.

I’m a big fan of academic blogging and of similar programs elsewhere (like the University of Mary Washington’s UMW Blogs), so I’m thrilled this platform is now available to the OSU community. I also want to extend my appreciation to the folks at ODEE and ASC Tech, because a program like this at a place the size of OSU is not a trivial undertaking. Good work, folks!

So where does the Libraries come in?

As an organization engaged in scholarly publishing, obviously the Libraries would have a keen interest in the new platform. After playing around with it (and congratulating the creators on a job well done), our first order of business is to figure out how it complements our programs and services. I think there is a lot of potential ground to cover here, and I will try to get some other folks to weigh in on different aspects of it in later posts. For now, I’d like to start by looking at how U.OSU.EDU interacts with the Libraries’ Publishing Program, and how the two might support each other.

First of all, it’s worth saying, broadly, that the Publishing Program works with OSU faculty, staff, and students on scholarly publishing projects. Defining ‘scholarly publishing projects’ is a little more tricky, but I think it’s safe to say that those projects involve taking the results of research, curation, or other scholarly activity, and adding them to the scholarly record. Sometimes they also serve other aims, such as education (as with publishing a student research journal), but there is always a component of making scholarly work available. These projects can result in a traditional journal, or an archive of conference presentations, or a scholarly blog, or an online exhibit, or something else entirely. They probably DON’T result in a CV or portfolio, a study-abroad journal, or other non-scholarly output – at least not as their primary focus.

So, given all of that, how might U.OSU.EDU and the Publishing Program interact in a way that is most helpful for the OSU community?

Referring

The easiest thing we can do is to simply refer users to each others’ services when appropriate. If someone comes to me with a project whose needs can be satisfied by a U.OSU site, you better believe I’m going to suggest they try it out. These projects might be more informal or less scholarly in nature (like the portfolio example above), or they might involve a scholarly project that doesn’t need specialized editorial support or a persistent online presence and URL. Encouraging those projects to take advantage of OSU’s professional website platform will not only reserve finite library resources for projects that don’t fit elsewhere, but it will probably result in a better experience for them. Dealing with a platform that has lots more functionality than you need can be almost as frustrating as dealing with one that has less.

I would also invite the U.OSU.EDU team to refer folks to us when their project:

  • Needs publishing-related functionality that isn’t available on U.OSU, like support for peer review and multiple editing phases.
  • Will regularly involve non-OSU contributors.
  • Needs a permanent online home and a stable URL.
  • Needs to be branded differently. (This is often the case with scholarly journals, which maintain an identity separate from their host institution.)

Consulting

Referrals don’t need to be a one-way street. One of the goals of the Publishing Program is to provide education and consulting on publishing-related topics to the university community, whether or not we host the resulting publications. U.OSU.EDU users who are happy with the platform, but have questions about how to develop a scholarly publication, are welcome to contact us for advice. In the other direction, the U.OSU.EDU team is, I’m sure, rapidly developing a great deal of expertise that I hope to be able to draw on in the future, especially as we explore the possibility of publishing scholarly blogs. The more support there is for publishing on campus, the more we can learn from each other, and the more options our users will have.