Marc Sperber wanted
to build more than a website for Duke's Winter Forum, Pandemic 2011.
He needed an "active
learning space," where about 100 undergraduate students and faculty could
interact online using video, photos and real-time blogging, and share their
experience with the wider world.
The space he built -
using Duke WordPress, a free web-publishing service now available to all
faculty, staff and students - drew more than 12,000 pageviews and a thousand
unique visitors from 27 different countries.
"We received feedback
from students and faculty that they enjoyed the real-time blogging and that
they found the various perspectives on each session valuable and engaging,"
said Sperber, educational technologies consultant with the Duke Global Health
Institute, which sponsored the forum. "One thing that is so great about
WordPress is that you don't have to be a web designer or computer programmer to
be able to develop a great-looking site."
A Duke-hosted version
of the popular web-publishing platform WordPress, Duke WordPress grew out of a
pilot last year through the Duke Digital Initiative for academic course use.
Now available for
non-course uses, the service has about 900 sites and more than 4,000 users. A
standard toolkit of themes, plug-ins and configuration options is available,
including Duke-branded themes designed for use by schools, institutes, centers
and departments, who are able to work within standard Duke WordPress service
Charlotte Clark, a
visiting assistant professor in the Nicholas School of the Environment, is
looking forward to building sites for two interdisciplinary faculty groups - one interested in discussing tools and methods for qualitative research and
another focused on food studies.
"We want to have a
more formal presence, to take the next step and produce a site both for our own
benefit and to recruit others who might not even know we're there," Clark said. "We're hoping a WordPress site will enable us to have a broader reach on
She got excited about
Duke WordPress after teams of Nicholas master's students used it to produce
sites based on their capstone projects, working with real-world clients to
solve a problem such as cookstove implementation in developing countries. "Students can show the site to potential employers, and we can show our
students' work to prospective students," she said.
For researchers who
want to create a web presence to showcase their lab's work or to share insights
from conferences they attend, Duke WordPress offers a good solution, said Anton
Zuiker, communications director for the Department of Medicine.
"A frequently updated
lab website for posting news and publications can be useful in recruiting
postdocs and lab managers, as well as helping departments share the latest
information about their faculty," Zuiker said. "Keeping websites up to date
improves the availability of information and should lead to a larger awareness
and more collaboration.