We have been experimenting at some length with WordPress Multi-User at UMW as of late. Now I have focused almost exclusively on creating course spaces using a series of distributed feeds. In short, students feed out their posts by particular categories (or an entire blog they create specifically for that class) to a designated space that aggregates all their work. Their posts can be aggregated in a distinct blog, or even using a page within a blog with a host of different aggregators -I have talked about at some length here. (A problem with the Autoblog is the constant trackbacks -thanks Shannon-I’m working on fixing that.)
Now, let’s take a look at another possibility for framing a class using WPMu. Say a professor creates a blog for a class on UMW Blogs and want to have this as the primary space for students to post. You can approach this from a few angles, if the student doesn’t have a blog and doesn’t want one -he or she can create just a username and be easily associated with a class by adding the user’s email to a particular blog using the “User” tab in the backend.
As you can see above, you can also set the permissions. Relatively straightforward process to include any student who already has signed up on the WPMu install for a blog or just a username. Now if the student already ahs a blog and wants their posts on this particular class site to be reflected in their own blog space, they can do one of two things.
- Post on the class site and be sure to associate all their posts with a unique category (say their name or some other tag). Then simply grab this category feed from the class blog and feed back into their own blog using an aggregator solution like BDP RSS, WP Autoblog, or WP-o-Matic.
- They can also also activate one of these aggregator plugins on the class blog, if they have sufficient permissions, and include a category feed they designate for this class on their own blog and do all their posting for the class from the comfort of their own blog
Why spend the time re-framing what might seem obvious to some here. Well, quite frankly, because not everyone is going to have or even want a blog, but they still should be able to participate in the class with little or no hassle. More than that, some folks may already have their own blog with services like Blogger, WordPress.com, etc. A class blog like the one I am outlining here allows for both of these possibilities and still makes it relatively easy for students who do not have a blog on a Multi-User space hosted by the university to participate with the class seamlessly.
An excellent example of such a setup on ELS Blogs is Professor Terry Kennedy’s Islam & Medieval Western Literature class site/blog. There were a couple of reasons to do a centralized space for this class. Terry is experimenting with course tags, and a centralized course blog is still (for the moment) the easiest way to handle this through categories tags.
Moreover, the space acts as much as a hub for course documents, readings, announcements, commentary, etc. -keeping the integrity of a more stable and unified course site in tact. One of the plugins for this course blog/site I installed recently and I think goes a long way towards further making such a space work as simultaneously a communal and individualized space is the Posts by Author plugin which appends links to other recent posts by a particular student on this blog. Giving readers an alternative means to access the various work a student has produced on a blog over time.
So, in short, Terry Kennedy’s experiment with her Islam & Medieval Literature course on the ELS Blogs site suggests that there is definitely more than one way to skin a course, and her class has done a bang up job on this one. This certainly speaks to the amazing versatility a web authoring platform like WPMu offers a university. What’s more, however, is that it speaks volumes about the unbelievable willingness of UMW’s finest faculty to experiment with new and unique possibilities for capturing and presenting the ideas, discussions , and resources that any class affords a larger community of learners. Bravo!