More thoughts on course blogs

When it comes to creating a course site on WordPress I run into branding issues. WordPress MU is so much more than a blogging system. It’s a really effective pedagogical tool. But how can it be labelled so that the breadth of applications are not constrained by nomenclature? “Blog’ is too narrow. ‘Eportfolio’ too focussed. Can one system be used both for academic pursuits as well as social, community, philanthropic activities? Currently I’m running an all-in-one system that I have called ‘Earlham Learning Spaces’ (which is based on an obsolete and extinct version of Elgg (0.9)) but this is a mouthful and somewhat pretentious (“pretentious, moi?”).  All this is preamble to a look at Macaulay Honors College’s WordPress system that they brand with the title of Eportfolios@Macaulay.

The whole front page is rather smart with explanation about what they mean by ‘eportfolio’ and a ‘Getting started’ page and helpful videos:

Macaulay eportfolio home page

Most of the student eportfolio sites are inaccessible from the web (which is OK if your portfolio is strictly for internal use) but class blogs are not. I stumbled across an interesting course site called “Shaping the Future of the City“. Now first off, this is a course and not an eportfolio and yet it has a URL with “eportfolio” in it. So straight away we hit a problem with naming. But the site itself is rather cool and accessible with an inviting home page with graphic, course overview and syllabus sections and right hand column with Course Information, Contacts and Tags. The pull down menus are tres froid and evidently based on Categories.  The instructions for posting make it clear that this is a shared blog for the class (rather than post to your own blog and feed into the class blog) and that students are meant to assign a single category to each posting. That this is difficult to follow is evidenced by the number of posts that were miscategorized as ‘blog’ (besides the Weekly Blog’ instructions there were 4 introductions also cross categorized as ‘Introductions’ and one long posting ‘Anatomy of a Planning Study — Roosevelt Island’ which obviously belonged in the ‘Planning Projects’ Category).

Posts in the Introductions category

Having said that I liked the ‘home page’ I do think that it would be nice to have a different layout for the other pages though I’m not sure I could find a theme to do that!

What can Earlham take away from this course site example? I think that for our situation this would not be too difficult to either setup or manage.  Having a course site that incorporates student work is, to my mind, pedagogically very powerful — much more so than the Moodle model where the teacher-student relationship dominates. However, one could still play to Moodle’s strengths by using the BIM – Feed Aggregation Management and Marking module to grade appropriate entries into the class blog within the Moodle system. Thus one would have a public course and private grading and feedback — ideal!

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