For a long time I wanted to publish a low-threshold tutorial on how you can design your own website and use it for teaching and learning. Now I take the current Corona crisis as an opportunity to publish in this blog post at least a first overview about it. This article is intended for people who don’t have their own website yet and don’t have any special technical knowledge. Some things will probably be unfamiliar or difficult at first. I have tried to explain as simply as possible and write a guide that you can go through in a self-organized, step-by-step manner. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.
Why is an own website a good idea for teaching (and learning) people??
Why having your own website makes sense can be illustrated by following challenges from faculty during the Corona crisis. Again and again I get these or similar questions, for example:
- Where and how to provide learning content for my students?
- Where and how to start a blog project with learners?
- Where can I find H5P content (d.h. create and publish interactive online educational materials)?
- What tool can be used to get feedback from learners?
- How can I exchange with other teachers?
- How to comply with data protection laws when teaching online?
The answer to this and many similar questions could be: With/ thanks to/ on my own website. If you don’t have your own website and consequently can’t give this answer, you often can’t find a convincing alternative. You can’t share your content openly, content is not available for a longer period of time, there is a lack of transparency on data usage of a platform used, you have to accept advertising on the site..
Against this background it should be indisputable that having your own space on the net, which you can control yourself and which can be designed in the form of your own website, is a sensible step, especially for teachers. Is it but also a step that is affordable, if you are actually already more than busy?
How time-consuming is it to set up and maintain your own website??
One thing is clear: If you don’t have your own website yet and don’t know much about the technical side of things, you will have to invest a bit of time to first roughly familiarize yourself with it and design your website. My assessment, however, is that this is very well invested time that will pay off in the longer term. Because without your own website you will always face the above mentioned challenges and have to continuously reckon with the fact that a platform you are currently using changes its business model or discontinues its service altogether. On the other hand you design your own website once and then you can use it reliably for your desired activities. There is also a certain maintenance effort, but this is very limited if you choose a relatively intuitive software – in this tutorial I suggest WordPress.
What do I need to get in order to create my own website??
First of all, you need a URL (= an address/link) for your own website, which you and others can use to reach it on the Internet. Secondly, you need a server (= a place on the Internet linked to this URL where you can store your desired content).) and thirdly you need a software to be able to transfer contents from your computer to your place in the Internet. All this you can get relatively easily and at very low cost.
Think about the address (URL)When choosing your URL you should consider under which address you want to be found in the net: via your name (nele-hirsch.en), about your activities (ebildungslabor.en) or something completely different. Helpful are addresses that are not too long and as easy as possible to write and communicate. You can choose the extension as well as the name, i.e. z.B. .de or .net or .org – and also many more like z.B. .rocks or .io or .xyz (However, my experience is that most people are comfortable with simple .de endings is still easiest to do with us.) The most important thing is to choose a URL that suits you and that you like to communicate.
Buy server package and register address: In order to rent your space on the Internet and at the same time register your address considered in point 1, you can use the services of hosting providers. There is an almost unmanageable variety of them – and you will surely get different recommendations if you ask different people. To make it easier for you: If you ‘only’ have If you want to install a simple website, then almost all hosting providers offer you what you need in their standard hosting packages. So you do not have to do extensive research. It is only important that on the one hand your hosting package includes a database (MySQL) (at least if you want to install WordPress as suggested in the following). On the other hand, if it is important to you that the server of your website is located in Germany, you should pay attention to that as well. I myself am with Hetzner and satisfied. A simple and for the purposes described here sufficient webhosting package with database and server location Germany will cost you there 1,90 Euro/ month – in addition there is a one-time setup fee of 9,90 Euro. If you order for the first time at Hetzner, you first have to create a customer account, then log in with your received access data via KonsoleH and there click on New Order, scroll down to WebHosting and there select a Level 1 package. In the next step you can enter your desired web address and it will be checked if it is still available. After you have completed the order, you have a little break: it can take up to 24 hours until your address is available on the net and you can continue to work. (In my experience it usually takes about 2-3 hours to get it right).)
‘Transfer’-Install the softwareIn the meantime you can install the necessary transfer software to be able to transfer data from your computer to your now rented space in the net later on. I use Filezilla (an open source software that you can install for free). You need the Filezilla client, which you can download here. We learn below how to use the software practically. Once you have installed it, you are done – and wait a few hours until your URL is available on the net.
What other preparations do I have to make?
You now have a space on the web and this space is accessible via an address of your choice. When you call this address, you will (after waiting a few hours) only see a Coming Soon welcome screen. If you are at Hetzner, then it looks like on this picture. We would now like to make three further preparations for you to be able to design your website.
1. Enable secure data transfer
To enable encrypted data transfer (which is standard for a website), log in to Hetzner, select your address under Orders and then click on Settings in the left menu and select the SSL Manager menu item under Tools. There you choose ‘free basic certificate and wait a few seconds until it is installed and then set the https redirection to on directly below it. The result should look like this:
2. Set up Filezilla:
You have already downloaded the Filezilla software above. Now we will set up a connection between your computer and your room in the network. This way you can easily move files back and forth – just like you would do it on your computer between different folders. To have this connection permanently available, open the server manager in Filezilla, select ‘new server’ there and then enter the data that you have entered in your Hetzner account under Access Details> You can find the login data. You can find the link to your server in the left menu in the overview.
I show you the exact setup with Filezilla in this screencast:
3. ‘Surface’ for your website and download
With the preparations you have made so far, you can transfer all kinds of files from your computer to your online room from now on. All you have to do is connect your computer and transfer the data you want to use. If you z.B. a pdf with the filename ‘tasks.pdf’ this is under your-website.en/tasks.pdf available. But surely this is not what you think of as a website. Instead you probably want a real interface with a navigation and ‘right’ Online pages. For this it is worth to install a software on your website, which offers you exactly that. I recommend the following open source software for your first steps WordPress. (Not wordpress.com, but wordpress.org). It is the most widely used software, it is very easy to maintain and above all you can get there useful tools for learning like z.B. Install H5P. If this choice makes sense for you, then I will show you the installation in the next step. For this you should download the software here (the link leads to the german WordPress installation).
How to install WordPress?
The most difficult steps you have now already behind you. The installation of WordPress takes only a few minutes. Promised! This is how you proceed:
- You unzip the files from WordPress.org downloaded software on your computer.
- You establish a connection between your computer and your server in Filezilla.
- You transfer all the files that are in your downloaded and unzipped WordPress folder to the public_html folder on your server.
- At Hetzner you click under Settings, Databases, MySQL on ‘Add. We will need the generated information right away.
- If everything is transferred, then you call your website – and you are led there by the installation procedure. In this installation procedure you have to enter the data of the database from point 1.
In this screencast I show you first point 1-4.
And here the concluding point 5:
Hurray, done! You have a working website!
What are the first steps to design my website?
Now comes the more exciting and beautiful part: You can think about how your website should be designed and what content can be found there. You can set up and design all this via the administration interface of your WordPress installation on your website.
For the beginning I recommend you:
- Select a design template under a design and set it up for yourself.
- Start publishing your first posts under posts.
You can install additional functions under Plugins. A very helpful plugin is H5P. With this you can then create, save and publish H5P content directly on your site.
In this screencast you get a first orientation in your newly installed WordPress environment (It is only recorded very quickly to show you roughly where and how you can start – and especially to show you directly that the Integtration of H5P is quite simple. For further questions and detailed representations you find in the net each quantity offers).
Conclusion: Good luck!
If you have followed the tutorial up to here, you have your own website where you can blog and publish educational content. The first time you will probably have been unfamiliar with the setup. But I hope that it still worked out well. If you work with WordPress, you will be able to find your way around your website more and more and use it more and more for teaching and learning.
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This text by Nele Hirsch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.