[wp-edu] GSoC 2010, BuddyPress for teaching

Kyle M. Jones kylejones at thecorkboard.org
Sun Apr 4 17:09:00 UTC 2010


> I like Buddypress, but I don't think it is currently a good option for 
> course management. It is great for more interaction (like the messaging 
> system)  and forum integration, but the code is very new and Buddypress 
> generates a huge amount of mysql queries so you'd almost have to have a 
> dedicated server for more than a few students on the site at a time.

From an admin perspective this is probably true.  BuddyPress tends to run slowly when pushed - at least on my shared hosting account even with W3cache enabled and WP-DBmanager doing some cleanup occasionally.

But from an instructor's angle, BuddyPress increases communication peer-to-peer and peer-to-professor in non-standard ways that a typical LMS usually doesn't enable.  This interaction, as I have observed, leads to more class engagement and anecdotally more learning.

> Why force the user to have Buddypress to use a plugin?  Making a plugin 
> depend on another plugin to work is not great design. If that other 
> plugin breaks or changes in a way that is incompatible, your plugin 
> stops working too!
> It would be for the best to let the plugin do what it is supposed to do 
> with or without Buddypress so no functionality would be lost if 
> Buddypress has to be disabled due to server load or compatibility issues.

I see your concern with this.  I'd counter by saying that BuddyPress has WordPress (the Organization) support since Andy Peatling and JJ Scooby are involved.  This isn't a plugin that is going to go by the wayside.

I guess I see groups & courses as having this natural relationship and that it's tough to envision a non-BuddyPress WP-as-LMS.  But you're right, not everyone would want the BuddyPress features (but why not?!).

> Well, for scholarpress to work for me, it would need to be redesigned to:
> 1. give homework and other tasks based on days from course enrollment 
> (I'd like to see email updates sent to enrolled students. It really 
> isn't practical to expect students to log in to the site frequently to 
> know what they should do.)

But logging into the site is de facto practice in my experience with Blackboard.  However, extending notifications beyond e-mail to RSS and maybe SMS would be a nice change.  I'm in agreement with you though, we need to provide multiple ways to keep track of dynamic course content like assignment and grade updates.

> 4. not force me to use the plugin's course pages since Wordpress is the 
> CMS. I don't need bloatware! The plugin should not manage content. It 
> should manage the course features... I hope that makes sense.  Wordpress 
> should continue to manage site registration and user profiles (an issue 
> I have with Buddypress for using separate profile data)

Ah, but again BuddyPress adds key functionality with its profile data.  Completely customizable - something WP doesn't do out of the box.  I know I create a lot of profile fields for input so that the professor I assist can get some key information on his students (if they provide it, which most do).


> I'm very excited to see where this can go.  

Glad our paths continue to cross. :)

> WordPress as a course management system is really already quite viable--for more experienced and skilled users.  For the average teacher, there is still some smoothing out to do.

Yep.  They way you and I use BP/WP as LMS isn't something that a general user can pick up and run with on the fly.  It does take a bit of courtship....

> So I would recommend, very strongly, that any approach to making new LMS-type plugins for WordPress should keep them atomized and specifically tailored to specific tasks.

I couldn't agree more.  Keep it focused on modules (parts of the plugin as a whole) that can be switched on and off depending on need.  I advocate for complete customization of the LMS for the professor but also for the student.  Of course, this granularity of customization, I imagine, increases complexity with the plugin as a whole.

> We really should not be thinking of beating moodle or blackboard at their own game.  It's not a good game or one that has much of a future.

That's an interesting statement...  I think my approach to WP-as-LMS is motivated by the fact that I do in fact want to beat Blackboard and create a separate alternative to Moodle.  It's about options - preferably free options created by a community that truly cares about their online learning environment.  I'd agree that Blackboard doesn't have a happy future years away, but institutions still buy-in to this behemoth because it has a solid foothold in the LMS domain and it will stay as such in the present unless more and better options (like WP or a better Moodle) start to break it down, or it implodes.  God, I hope it implodes....

> Again--none of this is meant to be critical in the sense of stopping progress!  I'm just ecstatic to see the project getting rolling, and we should see it as opening up possibilities, rather than closing than down.

Same here!  If there's any criticism from me, it's only constructive.
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