Finally, Course Aggregation Made Easy


Creative Commons License photo credit: Tambako the Jaguar

Well, it took us over a year, and with several iterations along the way, but I think UMW Blogs will now be able to provide dead simple aggregation of posts from numerous, distributed blogs with very little work, but a little bit of money for the plugin extension ($50 to be exact). Henri Simeon’s MuTags plugin and the $50 extension we bought from him gave UMW Blogs a RSS feed for each and every site wide tag.

Once sitewide tags have an RSS feed, the whole problem of grabbing each student’s RSS feed, and making sure you have the right URIs becomes irrelevant. The only thing that needs to be done is that the class has to decide upon a unique tag for their posts. After that, any post a student wants to be fed into that course blog must be tagged appropriately. So, for example, if I am teaching a pirate class and I want students to tag posts in their blogs with “pirategroom” (no quotes), then all they have to do is tag the post correctly. On the course blog I just activate the FeedWordPress plugin and put in one very simple URI:

http://umwblogs.org/tag/pirategroom/rss

That’s it (you can see the test here). The only caveat being that this site wide tag feed only works for UMW Blogs (or your local WPMu installation). If students are using other services to host their own blogs then this solution won’t work. However, you can throw in a little BDP RSS coupled with Andre Malan’s Add Feed plugin which will provide a quick and elegant solution for solving this—read more about this here.

Wow, we are getting closer and closer, and while the MuTags RSS feeds is choking on images and video (annoying!), we are going to get that straight over the next month and have a full fledged, scalable solution for aggregating posts from numerous student blogs into one, central course blog with no overhead. Yeeeeeeees!!!

BTW: This is my first post on the bava using WPMu 1.5.1—so I can finally get used to   and document the new WordPress backend interface.

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7 Responses to Finally, Course Aggregation Made Easy

  1. Reverend says:

    Thanks Brian,

    Though I didn’t do anything but spend $50 of UMW’s money. But perhaps we’ll use the occasion to celebrate over a beer some time soon 😉

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  3. So, who manages the tags to guarantee their uniqueness? Especially across semesters? Have you devised a naming convention for everyone to use, and if so, how will you manage adherence to the convention.

    I hope it works, I really do, but I’ve talked about the above issues many times, and I hope that we get lucky enough for the tags not to collide.

    When it looks at the tags, is it case insensitive? That’s just one of many tricky parts to manage. Notice that we weren’t able to get that straight for us just about faculty academy–at one point we said lowercase, then it was published as uppercase.

  4. Jim says:

    Patrick,

    All of your concerns are valid, and as I said in the post, it is just one more attempt of a number along the way. If faculty and students can agree upom a unique tag for each of their courses, then that would be a start. It may prove problematic, and I’m sure there may be semantic tools that can do this better (if not now, then eventually), but I am thinking more specifically about helping faculty and students see the potential for course aggregation and an easy solution like this (if the agreed upon rules are followed) shopuld be thought of as the end (and I apologize if my post suggests thgat) but more as a compelling example of the things to come with aggregation, syndication, and the distributed network.

  5. Sue F. says:

    Thanks Jim, this looks like helpful stuff for a web portfolio (and blogging) component of a FSEM I’ll be doing next year. Patrick’s point does seem important too. This past spring I was having students utilize a dept. code and course number and an abbreviation of the course title (H471prc for “History 471: Cultural Hist. of the PRC”) as a del.icio.us tag… maybe we might invite a similar process for courses, along acronyms for student organizations etc., and then a broader range for overlapping themes (“China,” “globalization,” etc.)

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