Having decided what to do about my SOOC (Small Open Online Class or Semi-Open Online Class, depending on how crazy it gets), I set up a WordPress blog to do it.
Basic steps to installing WordPress:
– Downloaded current WP.
– Created a new database in Control Panel – MySQL. (I have Lunarpages hosting.)
– Changed the config file and uploaded all files according to the Five Minute Instructions.
– Logged in to new blog.
– Installed Atahualpa theme.
– Added plugins:
Comment Form Toolbar — to allow students to add images by URL.
Comment Image Embedder is now… -> Comment-Images — — to allow students to add images by URL
Editable Comments (didn’t work) –> Edit Comments added and we’ll see
Email Users — so I can email all users
Insere Iframe — so I can use iframes to display pages, like the syllabus and Engrade book
User photo — so students can have a photo with their account
Custom Meta — so I can give instructions in the title of the Meta box and leave out the wordpress.org link
Stuff that didn’t work last time and won’t work this time:
Students use Reply (comment, essentially) to add their material — nothing in the universe lets them edit their own comments without editing everyone’s, so they can’t edit their comments once they’re posted.
Embedding my web pages
I have static web pages elsewhere for things like Grading policies and the Syllabus. The tabs at the top are Pages, so I createdone for each page, but to get a static web page to embed in an iframe is a little tricky, and involved templates.
In a plain text document, I have to create a template for each page, naming it something obvious, and saving it in the atahualpa folder.
They look like this (this one is called “iframetemplatehome.php”):
and have to be saved as .php.
Atahualpa theme options
I discovered last semester that the Atahualpa theme is the best for something like this, because it lets you customize everything.
I got rid of the Posts and Comments images in the upper right corner — my typical students won’t know what they are, and Guest Students can use the text links at the bottom. I got rid of the “You may use these HTML tags” from above the comment windows by turning it off in Style & Configure Comments. (I don’t need it with the Comment toolbars, and they confuse people.)
For the header, I added three images to the themes-atahualpa-images-header folder, all 1200 w x 160 h. I added image credits and the college logo to plain HTML widgets.
For users I allowed anyone to register, then used the About the Class page to ask Guest Students not to register. I removed all the Links, then stole an idea from Jim Groom’s ds106 class and added the Add Links plugin so I have a widget where if anyone is working on the course at their own blog, they can add a link.
I made categories for each task (Post Theses Here! and Groupwork), and more child categories for each week and each group. I had to add a post to the Theses and Groupwork categories to get them to show, but I scheduled the Theses items to appear after the previous homework was due so they couldn’t post too far ahead and wouldn’t get confused.
I added the Simply Exclude plug in so that all posts to the Groupwork and Theses categories don’t appear on the main page. This way all discussion can be on the main page without other stuff interfering (like a…blog).
Now on to what I didn’t do last time — create scheduled posts for each week so that everyone (on-site students and Guest Students) can discuss some cool issues for each era. That will be the fun part!
You can take a peek. Suggestions welcome!