Over the last month, the media exploded with news of Hogwarts is Here, a website designed to let Harry Potter fans live out their Hogwarts education fantasies. It all began when former myHogwarts.com users received emailed versions of the famous Hogwarts acceptance letter. (For those unfamiliar with myHogwarts, the site was marketed to be everything Pottermore wasn’t – a chance to take Hogwarts classes and meet with other fans in your city and around the world. After months of being down as the site was being worked on, it was shut down permanently after the creator received some form of communication (possibly a C&D?) from WB.) The former MH users were cautious, but overall excited at this opportunity to finally take Hogwarts classes!
The premise of the site is very cute ; basically, Hogwarts decided to open up to students from around the world. They’ve done so by opening up an online portion for those with access to muggle technology. Many members of the Slug Club (myself included) jumped on the chance, registering for accounts and signing up for classes the day they opened. Once they have created an account, students choose their House (saving the site from bitter people creating multiple accounts in the hopes of finally getting their preferred House), can get assigned a dorm room, sign up for classes, chat with others in their House or everyone in The Great Hall, or add friends.
What are some things you should know about the site before joining?
1. I totally overestimated the amount of work necessary. Seriously. I was a Hermione wanna-be who signed up for a ton of classes, but didn’t get Ministry approval for a time-turner. I had a few classes that had four assignments for the second week… understandable for a real school where I get an actual degree, but sadly, it’s not, and I don’t have time for that. I’m now in five classes but…
2. There are no due dates! It’s makes it hard to say no to signing up for a class… and hard not to procrastinate. I made an attempt at being on time with things, but then when everyone joined the site and it went down a lot while they tweaked it, I fell behind and sort of gave up. It’s comforting though to log in and see that everyone I had friended isn’t posting status updates either, so I assume they probably are in the same boat I am. And already touched on this before, but…
3. It’s glitchy. The site has had a lot of downtime. And really, it’s all understandable! I mean, Merlin’s knees, it’s been on the websites for The New York Times and The Washington Post. Everyone in fandom has at least checked it out. It is a small, free site with no major funding source and apparently only one person doing all of the coding. But I do feel like it should be mentioned, as I know there are some people out there who aren’t happy joining a site until all of the kinks have been worked out. The textbooks rolled out in pieces almost two weeks after classes started. The trivia section was pushed back a number of times, with just a vague message constantly displayed stating that it will open “tomorrow.”
4. It’s not Pottermore. And by this, I mean it’s not professional and it’s not necessarily the words of J.K. Rowling. Everyone working on the site is a volunteer, and it shows. Some of the textbooks are the size of a single chapter from another book. Some of it is pulled strictly from canon, which means the information used is from any of the seven Harry Potter books, the supplementary textbooks written by JKR herself, or Pottermore. Other classes use a combination of muggle knowledge, mythology, and their own imaginations to create course materials. All in all, it reminds me of the earlier fandom days when everyone had a Livejournal and used it to join sorting communities, where users filled out an application, were sorted by the members, then earned points for their Houses by completing assignments and participating in discussions and challenges.
The question on many fans’ minds is, of course, how sustainable is it? When starting on HiH, users are designated as “first years”, with the promise that completing all of the “first year” courses will move them up to “second years.” Each course takes nine weeks, if one turns in the assignments on time. Do the professors actually have seven “years” worth of material to teach about? Is there a plan in place yet for fifth years and O.W.L.s? Will the site last that long or will it be shut down by WB? Or maybe those who run Pottermore will get the hint from HiH on what fans are looking for when it comes to an interactive fandom experience? If it does last through the seven “years” of education, what comes after that? Will HiH incorporate some of the more local aspects of myHogwarts, such as a the Wizard Cities where people in various cities around the globe could talk and plan meetups? (Fun fact: that’s how the Central Florida Slug Club was formed! Thank you, myHogwarts!) Will there be more in-depth electives that explore non-European centric magical cultures? There are so many possibilities! I can’t wait to see what the future holds for this online Hogwarts!