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January 19, 2011

3

Experimenting with WordPress Plugin to Stalk My Students

fc2011

I’ve been blogging for years, and I have well over 10 blogs on WordPress.com, self hosted WordPress and Blogger. No, I do not try to update them all, just as I would not try to wear all my clothes on the same day. They are there for when the mood strikes me to post about xyz; I go to the blog that applies and post. But recently I began teaching my online courses out of WordPress blogs. I started with WordPress MU (multi-user), which was pretty close to a nitemare, but recently when WordPress updated to 3.0 the networking and multi-user features were built. Well, sort of. There’s one little step that needs to be done to activate it, but that was a lot easier to do than setting up WordPress MU.

Setting this all up as my course management system to replace Blackboard required a lot of experimenting. In fact, in this second semester of using it for my online classes, I’m still experimenting. For instance, with my ENG101 course last fall I installed BuddyPress to add more networking features, but in my ENG102 and ENH295 courses I did not.

BuddyPress: Social networking in a box. Build a social network for your company, school, sports team or niche community all based on the power and flexibility of WordPress.

I decided I liked the added social networking features of BuddyPress, but I wasn’t comfortable with using it or the look of it just yet, so I put that on hold. Instead I’ve been experimenting with some other plugins to add similar features.

One of my favorite plugins is Who’s Online. I have 72 students in 3 sections of ENG102, and it helps to know who has logged in recently. With this plugin I can add a widget to the sidebar that displays all 72 students’ pictures, names and last logged in status. Or if they are currently online, it will display that. I love looking at all the avatar photos of my students, and it’s easy to take “online roll call” with this feature. What would really be cool is if I could click on the photo or name and be taken to a profile page to read more about each one. Oh wait, that’s what BuddyPress does. Ah, I’m not ready for that just yet. Maybe next semester.

So I’m not really stalking my students. That was a pretty good attention getter though. Don’t you think? If you’d like to see a pretty good WordPress site running BuddyPress, you should check out @Teach42’s Fit42 Challenge. Not only is he running BuddyPress, but he also installed the Achievements plugins that allows him to award badges to users for completing various tasks. It’s really cool. I’ll save more on that for a later post.

3 Comments
  1. Jan 19 2011

    I’m actually using BuddyPress with a single blog for ds106.us. And there are some frustrating elements to Buddypress, but the members directory and profile pages are pretty neat. What’s more, i am try to get the activity stream to work with all the syndicated posts and comments, not sure it is possible, but we have followed very similar paths in terms of experimenting with WP for course sites and teaching online., Would love to compare notes how the online course go in WP.

  2. Coop
    Feb 6 2011

    Jim, I’m hoping to present at our conference this summer on WordPress multi-user and BuddyPress. As you will be there, you should sit in on the session. Or we could always meet up for a beer with CyberSalon while you’re here in Arizona.

  3. Feb 6 2011

    Coop,

    I think both options make a lot of sense. looking forward to it—see you in May!

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