Class Blogs: Advanced Tips

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One benefit of choosing WordPress as a platform is the way it interacts with other web tools, media sites, and mobile devices. After you’ve mastered the basics, here are a few hints for adding features or simplifying updates to your class blog.

#1 Adding Other Types of Content

#2 Post by Email

#3 Posting Content Quickly

#4 Managing Users on Your Class Blog

#5 Changing Privacy Settings

 

#1  Adding Other Types of Content

The real power of WordPress is the variety of content that can be added to posts and pages. Assignments can contain images, links to documents or media files, or content from external sites like YouTube.

First, you can upload content of your own to posts or pages from the Text Editor window. Look for the Add Media icon just above the editing window to add image, audio, or video files.

The fastest, easiest way to embed YouTube on ACU Blogs is by pasting the URL into an email using Post by Email (described next); however, you can also embed video from over 50 other video sites with shortcodes using the WP Video plugin.

For more information about embedding video or PollDaddy polls, see the videos in the Mid-Semester Updates post.

How-To Podcasts:

Add Images or Media to Posts

Creating a Poll on PollDaddy

 

#2  Post by Email

Perhaps the easiest way to post new content to your class blog is by email using the Postie plugin. New class blogs at ACU are automatically set up to accept new posts sent by the teacher to a class email address. This capability can also be granted to TAs or students based on their WP Roles but is only available to the instructor by default.

Ways to use Post by Email:

  • quickly post an assignment sheet or class slides
  • upload images of interest to the class
  • send a YouTube link (automatically embedded in a YouTube player)

IMPORTANT CHANGE: In order to use Post by Email, you will now need to activate Postie in the Plugins menu of the Dashboard. If Postie is deactivated, even the instructor will be unable to post by email.

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Post by Email screencast

When sending attachments from your laptop, remember that any file types compatible with the iPhone should be accessible from the blog. This includes most document file types (pdf, doc, ppt, or xls, txt, rtf) as well as QuickTime media formats (mp3, mp4, mov, m4v, m4a).

For iPhone or iPod touch users, this also means content created on the device can be sent to the blog as well since photos, weblinks, YouTube links, and now audio and video recordings can be shared via email.

*One caveat: There is a 25mb limit to Gmail attachments and a 100mb total for each class blog, so if you’re working with large files talk to someone in the Adams Center.

How-To Podcast:

Post by Email on ACU Blogs

Four Ways to Post to a Blog Quickly

 

#3  Posting Content Quickly

In addition to post by email, several faculty bloggers have recommended the Press This applet as a quick way to share weblinks back to the class blog. In the Tools section of the Dashboard, you’ll find instructions for adding the applet to your browser’s bookmarks bar, then whenever you run across a useful site while on the web you’re just one click away from posting it to WordPress.

One other option for posting a short note is the Quick Press box on the front page of the Dashboard. Think of it as a stripped down version of the full text editor; from Quick Press you can add content, tags, categories, and images or media immediately after logging into admin panel.


How-To Podcast:

Getting a Post Out Quickly

 

#4  Managing Users on Your Class Blog

When a class blog is created, your students are automatically added as subscribers. This means they will have access to all blog content from their MyACU login, much as they do with other course tools like Class Folders or Blackboard. As students are added and dropped from your class, those students are automatically added and dropped as subscribers to your blog as well.

One exception to the way students are treated is how Roles are handled. In the Users section of the Dashboard, you’ll find a list of all users subscribed to your class blog. Each has a certain level of access or what WordPress calls a Role.

  • Administrator – has access to all admin features (the Instructor)
  • Editor – can publish and manage posts as well as manage other people’s posts (a TA)
  • Author – can publish and manage their own posts
  • Contributor – can write and manage but not publish their own posts
  • Subscriber – can read content and add comments (Students by default)

The main exception is that after a class blog is created, a student’s Role can be changed by the instructor. This is useful if you plan to have students contribute blog posts during the semester as some type of a graded assignment. From the Users panel, you’d simply select individual students and then use the Change role to… drop-down at the top of the list to give them either Contributor or Author access.

Finally, if you choose, you can also change post by email settings in Postie to allow students to post drafts or publish posts to the class blog using the same class email described in #2. Talk to someone in the Adams Center about the potential for using this for classroom interaction.


How-To Podcasts:

Adding Users to a WordPress Blog

Removing Users from Your Blog

 

#5  Changing Privacy Settings

One final setting for your class blog is Privacy. By default class blogs are set to private just as with other class tools like Class Folders and Blackboard. However for some types of class blogs, you may choose to make content more broadly available, either to users with a campus login or to users across the web. Here are the privacy levels you can select under the Settings tab in the Dashboard:

  • Visible to everyone  OR  Allow normal visitors (available widely across the Web)
  • Visible only to registered users from blog community (everyone behind MyACU login)
  • Visible only to registered members of this blog (only your students; *Default setting)
  • Visible only to administrators (basically just you)

Generally, if students will be posting content that will be graded or is connected to their success in the class, you may want to keep the blog private, but if you will be the main contributor to posts and pages on the blog or have explained blog usage clearly in the syllabus feel free to open up access.

If you as the blog administrator choose to allow non-ACU users to post comments or contribute blog posts, set posts to be approved before posting to the blog.

If you have questions about student privacy policies and class blogs, feel free to talk to someone in the Adams Center.


How-To Podcasts:

Setting Posts or Entire Blog to Private

Setting Your Discussion Settings