Students using ACU Blogs

0 Commentsby   |  01.29.10  |  Tutorials

Many students and faculty have asked for help introducing ACU Blogs, specifically post by email, to new users. Here are a couple short introductions from staff in the Digital Media Center that should help serve this need.

Feel free to leave comments to this thread if there are other intros you’d like added to this list, specifically to serve student users. Thanks for your help.

ACU Blogs Intro for Students (3 min)

Post by Email for Students (2 min)

Student Posts from the Dashboard (3 min)


*NOTE: The Post by Email function on any class blog is an option selected by some faculty, but this plugin is turned off by default. For faculty interested in the feature, here is the faculty introduction.

Post by Email for Faculty (8 min)

New Year Updates for 2010

0 Commentsby   |  12.18.09  |  Updates

As we prepare for a new year and our second semester on ACU Blogs, here is a quick list of updates to the core theme, sidebar widgets, and plugins available to blog owners.

ACU Blogs Theme

  • Author Archivesauthorarch

Now clicking on any name in a post or comment links you to the Author Archive page. Typically, author archives simply include the posts made to that blog, but we’ve added a comment archive at the bottom.

*If you’re grading a student’s contributions to a class blog, this will bring them all together on one page.

  • Blog Admin Comments

Another feature you may have seen on other blogs is a way to identify comments from the blog admin. Since in our case blog owners are often instructors, we have changed the style of the name block to set off admin comments more clearly.

  • Subscribe to Comments

Students now have the ability to receive follow-up comments to a particular post via email. *If you don’t see a checkbox beneath the Submit Comments button, check the Plugins menu on the Dashboard to see if you need to activate the Subscribe to Comments plugin.

  • Blog Excerpt Control

The ACU Blogs theme previously allowed admins to show either full posts on the homepage or one-paragraph excerpts. You may now select the length of automatic excerpts in the Theme Options menu as well as setting custom excerpts yourself in the post editor.

  • Homepages Categories

One other advanced feature on the Theme Options menu is to set individual categories to include or exclude from your blog homepage. You’ll need the category id number which can be a bit tricky to find, but this is a powerful way to limit which posts appear on the front page of the blog.

*For example, only posts with the category Announcements could appear on the homepage or you could exclude all student posts and have them appear on a different page.

ACU Widgets for Sidebar

  • ACU Loginaculogin

Many faculty and students wanted a faster way to get to the Dashboard or login to the blog. From the Appearance–>Widgets menu, just add ACU Login to your sidebar for login/logout as well as links to editing the blog and changing your avatar.

  • ACU Recent Posts

There may be times when you want to group links to posts by category. The ACU Recent Posts plugin can also work with the Homepage Categories feature above to make posts visible in the sidebar even when they don’t appear on the blog front page. The plugin will need the same category id you needed earlier.

  • ACU Custom Nav Sub-pages

Some users asked for sidebar links that expand and contract more like a webpage. The ACU Custom Nav widget now allows you to make sub-pages and sub-categories visible in the sidebar only when their parent is selected. For those with dozens of pages, links, or handouts to manage, this is a simple way to drill down to details when you need them.

Additional Plugins

This plugin will allow you to embed certain kinds of web pages into your blog, including Google Forms and Google Calendars.

For blog owners wanting to share Flickr photos and photo sets as well as search, embed, and link to Flickr photos with Creative Commons licenses.

If you’ve wanted to add your recent Twitter posts to the sidebar, Tweetable requires a simple one-time setup.

This powerful PDF viewer and archive can now embed Issuu documents directly into posts and pages.

For questions about updates or any thing else related to your class blog, send your email to

Four Ways to Post to a Blog Quickly

0 Commentsby   |  12.18.09  |  Updates

Heading into the semester, a number of things have changed on ACU Blogs, but one has stayed the same. The fastest way to add a post or file to your blog is Post by Email. Here are a couple examples.iphoneyoutube

  • YouTube and Vimeo videos

Now you can embed YouTube and Vimeo videos on your blog by pasting their URL into an email. Remember that the YouTube app on an iPhone or iPod touch also lets you share URLs by email.

Big Idea – Have students or a TA search YouTube for relevant examples of course content and share it to the blog.

  • Photos from an iPhone

Remember that the Photos app allows users to share images by email, so snap a pic and email it to the class blog.iphonephotos

Any image you run into while web browsing can also be shared. Just tap and hold on the image until the Save Image option appears. This will save a copy to the Photos app where you can go add it to an email.

Big Idea – Send students outside or to the web, searching for images that communicate a core concept they can then share to the blog.

  • Video and Audio from an iPhone

For those with the video iPhone 3GS, the Photos app also stores short videos. Shoot a short comment or interview question (50 seconds max) and email it to your class blog. (The new iVideoCamera app claims to offer the same capability to previous iPhone models.)

iphonevoicememoThe Voice Memo app on iPhones and iPod touches will also share recordings up to 8 minutes long by email in case you have more to say.

Big Idea – Send a class-wide evaluation of a recent assignment or ask students to share short discussion podcasts that document a group discussion.

  • Don’t Forget about Documents

If there are files or handouts you want students to have, send them as attachments in an email. Any Office document or PDF can be dropped into an email and linked from a post in minutes.

One quick way to generate PDFs from most any file type is Check the blog to read more.

Big Idea – Send slides or assignment sheets to the blog before heading to class to make them available to students without making a photocopy.

Of course, the secret is that all four ways are the same. Post by Email is a deceptively simple way to make your class blog more than a once-a-week recipient of class announcements.

To Get Started

There’s only really one thing you need to do before sending your first email, followed by a couple options you may want to know about.

  1. Activate the Postie plugin. Even if you used it last semester, check to make sure Postie is active on each class blog.
  2. – From the Dashboard, go to the Plugins menu.
    – Find Postie in the listing and if it is grayed out, click the blue Activate link next to it.

  3. Check the Postie menu for the class blog email address.
  4. – From the Dashboard, go to the Postie menu under Settings.
    – Check the Mailserver page for the Mail Userid.
    – You can also use if it’s easier to remember (for example, both and point to the same class email account).

  5. If you plan to have students post by email, you need to give them permission. (By default only the teacher can post by email.)
  6. – From the Dashboard, go to the Postie menu under Settings.
    – On the User page select the Roles that can Post.
    – Permission to Post can be given for a class period, a week, or all semester long by simply changing this setting.
    – You may also choose to accept student posts, but only as Drafts to be approved by you before being published to the class blog.

  7. Finally, the Post by Email scripts typically check for new mail every 10 minutes or so, but you can Run Posti manually at any point.
  8. – From the Dashboard, go to the Postie menu under Settings.
    – At the top of the Postie Options page, simply click Run Postie.

    Picture 10

Mid-Semester Updates

by   |  10.22.09  |  Tutorials

The past few weeks campus developers have been testing updates to WordPress MU that will go live Friday. For a quick summary of new plugins and capabilities, see the following four-part podcast.

Part 1: My Blogs and Plugins panels (2 min)

A quick introduction to the mid-semester updates and two additions to your Dashboard.


Part 2: New Video Embedding plugin (3 min)

Simple video embedding is now available through shortcodes for over 50 popular video services. For a complete list of available services and example shortcodes, visit the WordPress Video Plugin site.


Part 3: New PollDaddy Polls plugin (3 min)

Those looking for ways to add embedded polls to blog posts will also be interested in this update. To create your free account, visit the PollDaddy site (you’ll need this login before creating your first poll).


Part 4: Post by Email Change (3 min)

Finally, to improve the speed of the Post by Email system, there is one last change. If you are using Postie to post content to your blog, you’ll need to Activate the plugin. For more information on using Postie, see the Post by Email screencast.


For all other questions or comments about the update, please post to the Leave a Comment page.

Sharing Course Documents

0 Commentsby   |  10.14.09  |  Tutorials

Here is a quick walk-through of three ways to share files on a class blog. The process will be the same whether you’re sharing a Word document, PowerPoint presentation, PDF, or media file. Feel free to raise additional questions or issues in the comments below.

The three methods described are posting documents by email, using the Add Media button in the editor window, or converting Word documents to pages using the Paste from Word button.

Sharing Documents (10 min)

*Remember that mobile users also have the ability to open most common file types from an iPhone or iPod touch. Unfortunately Flash files or media are not currently compatible with the iPhone software though links to the following formats can be opened from your blog.

    Other: PDF, TXT, RTF, Keynote, Pages, Numbers
    Images: JPEG, GIF, PNG, TIFF
    Audio: AAC, MP3, M4A, AIFF, WAV
    Video: MP4, M4V, MOV

Add User to campus blogs

0 Commentsby   |  09.30.09  |  News

Much of the work integrating WordPress MU into campus systems this summer was focused on managing users. Just as with Blackboard or Class Folders/Drop Boxes, this integration draws student lists from Banner and makes sure students are added or dropped from your blog automatically.

Picture 40However, a growing number of users on campus manage campus blogs for sharing announcements with a department or media with a multi-section course. For these “Unmanaged Blogs” (not tied to Banner), there will be situations where you want to add student editors, guest authors, or others on campus without opening the blog up to the web. All blog owners should now see the Add User button on the left menu under the Users section. When you select Add New, type in the ACU username of the student or employee you want to add and select an appropriate role. (For more information on WP roles, see the Advanced Tips page.)

*Please be aware that this does not work for Class Blogs. Just as with Blackboard, adding a user to a class blog with this method is temporary and will be deleted during the next Banner update. To add a student editor or TA to a class blog, go to the wrench tool in MyACU.

One other option for making your blog semi-private is simply to change the Privacy level (go to the Privacy panel under Settings). Making your blog available to “registered members from blog community” will keep it behind the MyACU login but accessible to any campus user you give the address.

We are currently investigating the FERPA implications of private and public class blogs, but for now this should give you a range of options for managing access to your site. Feel free to

Customizing your Mobile Blog

0 Commentsby   |  09.18.09  |  Updates

Here’s a video introducing the WordPress plugin that makes all ACU Blogs easier to access from a mobile device. The following screencast walks you through the basics of the WPtouch plugin and how it can help make the pages and categories users typically find in your sidebar available on the mobile blog.

The basic interface should already be set without any work on your part, but if you’d like some control over what users can get to from an iPhone or iPod touch we’ll get you started.

Mobile Blog View with WPtouch (16 min)

Draft and Pending Review

0 Commentsby   |  09.17.09  |  Updates

Enjoyed a great Adams Center lunch with faculty, but one question came up we didn’t have a very precise answer for: what is the difference between saving a post as a Draft or as Pending Review. It turns out there is little difference unless you’re using the Contributor role to allow students to submit, but not publish, posts to the blog.

Here is a nice discussion of the distinction and how it might work with students, but for the majority of the time Draft will serve to save your in-progress content without publishing it.

Look for a few other questions from today’s session soon.

WordPress Feature: Pending Review

Sample Class Blogs (updated)

by   |  09.09.09  |  Updates

If you’ve never created a blog and aren’t quite sure how it might support your particular classes or teaching style, here are a couple basic ideas from faculty last spring:

  • a class website for basic information, announcements or updates during the semester
  • a repository for documents, reading lists, assignment sheets, presentation slides, or links to articles
  • a collection of media you have created, links to strong content online or on iTunes, or embedded media from websites like YouTube
  • a discussion board for students to respond to material or the work of classmates
    (*ask about privacy settings)
  • a place for students to submit media projects or collaborative work for feedback
    (*ask about privacy settings)

What we learned last semester was that WordPress provides a flexible set of publishing tools that diverse faculty would use in a variety of ways.

While you’re considering how ACU Blogs might serve your needs, here are a handful of class blogs from faculty at ACU and at other universities to give you some idea of the range of possible uses:

WordPress Basics screencasts

0 Commentsby   |  08.29.09  |  Tutorials

Mike Wiggins put together a couple new screencasts that may help new WordPress users working with the text editor and adding images to their blog.

Publishing a Post (14 min)

Working with Images (9 min)