During the Fall semester, Duke OIT began a pilot of WordPress MU, a popular web publishing platform for academic use and the CIT has been working with faculty testing the software for course blogs and websites. Outside of the pilot, Duke faculty have also been using blogs at sites external to Duke, including WordPress.com and Blogspot.
If you are currently using a course blog, or thinking about exploring blogs in your course, here are some ideas on how tools like WordPress MU can be used to enhance your course activities.
Personal reflection, portfolios and presentations
Blogs allow you and your students to make “posts” that can include text, links, and multimedia. Each user is an “author” at the site and their posts will show up in reverse chronological order, with the most recent posts visible first.
Posts can be used by students for a reflective journal as they go about research in your class or activities such as community service work. Some faculty also use the posts to have students reflect on readings as they progress through the semester or for summary presentations about their work.
Each post in a blog can include comments, so your students can provide feedback to each other on their work.
Engage the community
Blogs have become a major force on the web and are a popular way to explore topics or current information. With the WordPress MU pilot or other popular tools, you can limit access to the blog to students in your course, but you might consider opening the blog for public viewing and commenting.
A public blog works well in courses that are dealing with research or service in the Durham community or in areas where there may be broader public interest. Students become more engaged with their work, knowing that it can have an impact beyond the course. In addition, it can provide you, as a faculty member, with ways to reach out beyond the classroom about your teaching and research, making new connections locally or internationally.
Use widgets and pages
With WordPress MU, the “Pages” feature can be used to build static pages that can be accessed from a main toolbar at the top of your website or a side menu. In a course, you might use Pages to post your syllabus, links to resources or other information that your students might want to access during the course.
If your blog is public, a Page can be used to give external viewers of the site background information on your course and student projects.
WordPress MU features “Widgets” – small objects and tools that can be used to build a menu of options on the right or left side of each page on the site. A widget can be a simple text box or can show a list of categories or keywords for posts on your blogs. It can be even used for functions like or even bringing in a list of posts in another blog.
Find out more
To find out more or to sign up for your own blog, see the site for Duke’s WordPress MU Pilot. You can also see examples of how faculty are using WordPress MU at other institutions. If you’re interested in participating in the WordPress pilot for the Spring semester, please fill out an application.
Randy A. Riddle consults with faculty in the Humanities and Social Sciences on integrating technology into teaching. He has been a CIT consultant since 2000. His professional interests include e-learning, social networking, online productivity tools, video and multimedia, and visualization. Randy's current work includes management of the CIT's Faculty Fellows program, consulting on Coursera course design and exploring areas such as e-textbook authoring. His other interests outside of work include restoration of vintage recording formats and broadcasting and film history. He volunteers for the Old Time Radio Researchers Group and maintains an ongoing blog on radio history research.