[wp-edu] GSoC 2010, BuddyPress for teaching

Joseph Ugoretz joseph.ugoretz at mhc.cuny.edu
Sun Apr 4 16:59:41 UTC 2010

Thanks, Skip, for the link to your course.  I had heard of your work but somehow had never actually seen your course sites, and they really provide an excellent set of models.  The idea of partly open and partly closed is an important one for me (and for my students). And using the variety of resources and evolving as the options change is just as important. I also would like a truly elegant discussion board grading solution...none of the lms solutions really have that.

As far as the gradebook itself, Christopher, I think we might be running into a disconnect between scoring and grading. Comments and extended feedback are really the heart of what grading can be if it is a tool for development and improvement beyond assessment. KB gradebook, because it is just taking anything the instructor enters, gives the opportunity for those comments and detailed responses right there on the grades page for the students, not just letter grades or numeric scores.  From the instructor's point of view, this is much less than work than composing a separate email or message to each student, because the feedback is all there in one place and saved so on assignment number three i can look back and see (it is in the same row on the spreadsheet) exactly what i said to the student about assignment number one. It is also more secure than email (important, because grades are federally-protected student information for public institutions), and easier to back up in multiple locations.

From the student's point of view, too, they can see the representation of their progress and the comments and feedback in a single word press page.

It is definitely busywork to grade multiple choice or numeric quizzes, and I am all in favor of avoiding that. But grading papers and projects is the bulk of the work i do in a course and that is not busywork! So anything that helps make that easier in terms of staying organized and getting the info out to students efficiently and securely is really important.

To go back to discussion forums for a minute...I can't say enough about the simple press forum plugin. It doesn't quite have the refined discussion grading that Skip is talking about, but it does have ratings by stars or thumbs-up/thumbs-down. And the privacy options are fine-grained and controllable.

What I think I would like most but am still missing is a good full-featured dropbox plugin for students to submit assignments and have the instructor (and other students? Groups?) receive and send them back. I'm currently using a plugin that I tegrates with dropbox.com<http://dropbox.com>. It is ok but not ideal, because it is really only one-way.


Joseph Ugoretz, PhD
Director of Technology and Learning
William E. Macaulay Honors College - CUNY
35 West 67th St.
New York, NY 10023

On Apr 4, 2010, at 12:28 PM, "Skip Knox" <<mailto:sknox at boisestate.edu>sknox at boisestate.edu<mailto:sknox at boisestate.edu>> wrote:

Just wanted to add my voice to Joseph's. Don't try to make WP into an LMS. It won't work anyway (for example, you have to choose your authentication method and there can be only one, so you're either an open system or a closed one--no way to have partly-open, partly-closed). But if we can find areas where the full library of WP, including plugins and widgets, is weak in terms of higher education, then improving those would be most welcome.

I too am an advocate of mixed systems. My virtual courses all, consist of an open area that anyone can read, with a closed discussion forum (to respect students' privacy). Even there, authentication is an additional burden, but as my classes have only about 30 students, I'm willing to put in the extra time.

My courses are old (oldest dates to 1994) and are showing their age--web pages with an external forum, and no WordPress in sight--but they might serve as an instructive comparison to the really excellent work Joe has done. The home page of each has links to the others, so I'll just list one.
I do blog about this a bit
and yeah that's Blogger. I'll get it moved one of these Fine Days.

Anyway, folks can look at mine and Joe's and see even in these two areas how radically different approaches can be -- and the range would be greater if we had someone from Health Sciences or Architecture or the Performing Arts or Physics. I echo Joe's basic objection to the big LMS systems: one size doesn't fit all and going down that road is actually a significant deviation from the basic principle of a university (which is a collection of different disciplines). And I second his preference for the loose collection approach.

I have a couple of things I'd love to see as improvements. One, a way for *me* to rate posts in discussion and to have those accumulate. Secondary to that, a way for me to reference my rubric quickly while rating, and a way to browse on two axes: by student and by thread. Nobody does this really elegantly yet.

The second thing I'd love to see is a versioning system. I've modified my courses over the years and in so doing I simply overwrite what was there before. I'd like to be able to have kept each version of my course *and* to have kept each forum with each course, so that any of my students could return not only to the course the way it is today, but the way it was when *they* took the course. Imagine how useful this would be if all students could do this with all their courses.

Skip Knox
Boise State University

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