I’m compelled by the Teaching with WordPress open course the folks at UBC are running over the next few weeks. This is a topic near and dear to my heart, something I have spent countless hours talking about on this blog. In fact, the infrastructure they’re using to aggregate this post is something I finally settled upon for UMW Blogs‘s aggregation model (and subsequently the blog hub for ds106 and UMW Domains) after a long conversation with Andre Malan at Northern Voice in 2008—a conference that was hosted at UBC. It’s all connected.
I think the simple fact we have been returning again and again to WordPress over the last decade at UMW illustrates just how easy it is to build on top of this open source platform. It’s pretty crazy just how much you can do with it. I’ve already mentioned building a pretty sophisticated aggregation platform as just one example of what’s possible. When it comes to ds106, we were able to use WordPress to build an entire open course ecosystem: Martha Burtis built the ds106 assignment bank; Tim Owens built the Daily Create; Alan Levine built the Remix Machine, and two UMW students taking ds106 (Linda McKenna and Rachel McGuirk) created in[Spire]. Truly building the airplane while flying.
Whether for a one-off course or an entire ecosystem, it’s hard to argue with the simplicity of use and expansive community that undergirds WordPress. The idea is not to rebuild the LMS, although some try with WordPress, but to actually reposition your teaching to become part and parcel of the web. That’s a shift WordPress has made simple for us over the last decade because faculty and students could wrap their head around it. WordPress exists in the sweet spot between ease-of-use and robust options for building an entire application on top of it. In comparison, Drupal was designed for those more complex applications, yet never addressed the ease-of-use and interface concerns. The result is CMS history: WordPress powers a quarter of all sites on the web, and Drupal has become a niche application for self-loathing sysadmins 🙂
I’m looking forward to using the Teaching with WordPress experience as an excuse to look at all the work we have done with WordPress for teaching from 2005, when having RSS built-in seemed insane, up and until just last week, when Ryan Brazell ran a DataPress workshop for UMW faculty focused on building research databases on top of WordPress using the Toolset plugin suite.