[wp-edu] GSoC 2010, BuddyPress for teaching

Stas Sușcov stas at nerd.ro
Sun Apr 4 19:00:59 UTC 2010

Hey, glad to see so much interest in this idea, I can't reply to every
message but I'll try to summarize the main points that brought

1. The WordPress/BuddyPress thingy
You must understand that it's not only the shortcodes problem.
BuddyPress brings a wrapper when it comes to grouping users, discussions
and data structuring. BuddyPress also is able to treat privacy aspects,
notifications control and per user preferences. With BuddyPress I can
make difference between who's a teacher and who's a student and show
control panels to one and another without messing all the data and
keeping the things clean. Be there a full LMS or a simple blog used to
publish some courses, BuddyPress can handle both, while building it on
WordPress we'll face constraints when it comes to growth and
scalability. So I would place use of BuddyPress as a must. To prove it
as a dependency I can create mockups and list you infinite possibilities
on how it can be extended [(c) jjj], but that's nothing when it comes to
data structuring and keeping things clean while handling a lot of user
generated content!
The last not the least, BuddyPress groups provide levels of privacy,
from public to hidden or moderated so its something a virtual school
must have.

2. Flexibility and modularity
I understand that every instance of learning tools you have/need will be
different, and I propose us to focus on some most common features such a
learning tool needs, make them work flawlessly and make them flexible in
options. I understand that a feature like tests/quizes creation tool
would be nice to have, but that's only a small part of our target users,
and I would propose us to focus on a more general tool where teachers
will be able to upload, list assignments and deliver them in a fast and
easy way to students. Making it a simple and easy to use tool, will
bring more interest than a complex and advanced tool that creates a lot
of magic but will be used in only 1/3 of the situations.

3. Gradebook
I'm afraid it's a must have and I would like some more opinions on
possible usages of it. So far I saw that some people are happy with its
features, others want something more complex. Also as Joseph mentioned,
things like rating forum posts isn't exactly what we should focus on.
My first idea was to offer a UI for a teacher inside an assignment
screen (or more general screen) to "grade the group users with marks".
CSV upload can be left as a backup solution, If we'll treat groups as
classes correctly, I think we won't deal with huge number of entries, so
creating a CSV and then uploading it will make less sense compared to
using a simple UI.

4. Notifications
The notification system from BuddyPress is our saviour. If in time a
developer will decide to write a SMS-delivery plugin for BuddyPress, we
will be able to use it with no problems. For courses, schedules and
grades notifications we can use private messaging or define our own
types of notifications and the end-user (student) will be able to simply
select what kind of notification he will receive (email, sms, rss).
Also there's already a plugin for group activity notifications.

5. User roles and mappings
LDAP/AD integration will be the second feature everyone will look for if
any of the discussed features will be implemented, and building from the
very beginning our tools with this in mind will save us a lot of time.
Kyle is right, messing with WP user roles is a bit complex, what about
using BuddyPress xprofile for that? :)
It's exactly what we need. Tag users just as Teacher/Student
and that's all. Make our plugin aware of that tags and we're saved.
So we can add LDAP integration and upon account creation, students and
teachers will get tagged. A SuperAdmin will also be able to change that
just by browsing users.

In short...
Use BuddyPress because it will integrate perfectly the content and user
profiles. Keep it simple and let's target the main audience, not
specific problems. Make it flexible.

Don't worry, any criticism is welcomed. 

P.S.: Thanks a lot for sharing your experience and implementations. And
I'm happy to know that there are people ready to mentor/help me. Thanks
a lot.

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