I’ve been using WordPress professionally since January 2016 for website development in my current role in web communications. I also have experience using Drupal, another open source CMS, for web site development and as an LMS. Most of what I write below applies to Drupal, Joomla (another open source CMS), and Moodle LMS.
WordPress (WP) is:
- Used to build About 24% of the websites around the world, but was initially developed as a blogging tool
- An open source content management system (CMS), free and supported by both Automattic and world-wide developer community which provides free, inexpensive and premium customizations
- Extensible and flexible: easily and highly customizable using modules, widgets and downloadable extensions called plugins; you can create a variety of online learning environments (course, group, personal)
- Interoperable: works with all browsers and mobile
- Accessible: is Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 compliant and improving with each update. This means that it will comply with the likely Information and Communication Standard to be adopted by the Accessibility for Manitobans Act (AMA) in fall 2017.
There are two versions of WordPress:
- WordPress.com is a free, cloud based software hosted and managed by Automatic, the creators of WP. This blog is published on WordPress.com.
- Free hosting and use of WordPress, professional version can be licensed
- Updates and themes managed by Automattic, the creators of WordPress
- Easy to setup and use
- Limited to free themes, additional themes can be purchased
- Use of plugins to expand site functionality requires a fee
- Privacy and security concerns: Content and data are stored on Auttomatic’s servers
- WordPress.org is a free download of WP that you use to create a self hosted website/online environment
- Self hosted: choose your hosting service, create your own domain name (URL)
- Very customizable: modules, widgets, plugins, open source code
- Only basic knowledge of HTML is required
- Site owner is responsible for: implementation and setup, integrations and testing, maintenance, updates and upgrades, data integrity and security, service and support
- A wide range of design and development experience and skills are required to get beyond the basics
Benefits of using WordPress for Teaching and Learning Online
- If your institution has a WP installation, they can provide support, service and maintenance
- Course membership is managed by the site owner, not the institution; you can enroll anyone: other faculty, guests, mentors, etc.
- You can build private collaborative sites for groups or personal learning environments (PLEs) for individual learners; it is highly customizable
- Some themes are built specifically for online teaching and learning or collaboration
- Easy external Web 2.0 tool integrations: YouTube, Twitter, Padlet, etc.
- Highly customizable with integration of themes, modules and plugins
- Learners can also build their own WordPress.org sites to create PLEs to host reflective journals, (blogs) and eportfolios
- Tools for: asynchronous discussions, collaboration (wikis, white board), learner portfolios
- Create an online learning object repository (LOR) tagged with meta data, tags and categories
There are many plugins available for WP that support online teaching. If there is a function or tool you want, there is likely one or more plugin available for free or at a low cost. In fact, the sheer volume of choices can be overwhelming.
Here’s a short list of available tools and functions:
- Content management
- Membership management
- RSS feeds
- LMS integration, such as Sensei
Downsides of using WordPress for Teaching Online
- There is high technical overhead for self hosting WP. If your institution does not have a WP installation, you are responsible for implementation and setup, integrations and testing, customization, maintenance, updates and upgrades, data integrity and security, service and support.
- Security and privacy is a concern, especially on WP’s cloud
- You are responsible for managing course membership, content, tools, learning environments, etc.
- You will require a wide range of skills and have to put in time and find resources to learn these new skills
- You have to provide training and support for learners working in a new environment and with new tool
- There are so many tools to choose from; identifying, researching and testing them takes up considerable time
Torres, J.T., Domínguez-García, S., García-Planas, I. (2105) Using WordPress-Portfolios for Teaching and Learning Mathematics in Engineering Studies. Retrieved from: http://www.eiic.cz/archive/?vid=1&aid=3&kid=20401-452&q=f1
Allen, J.P. (2008) Instant Websites: Using WordPress as a Content Management System. USF Scholarship Repository. Retrieved from: http://repository.usfca.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1026&context=esib
Cook, J.M. (2012) How to Create an Online Repository of Learning Objects using WordPress. Retrieved form: http://jamescookuma.com/maineoslo/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/HowToPublishAnOnlineLearningRepositoryWhitePaper.pdf