OpenLearn Wordpress Plugins

Just before the summer break, I managed to Patrick McAndrew to use some of his OpenLearn cash to get a WordPress-MU plugin built that would allow anyone to republish OpenLearn materials across a set of WordPress Multi-User blogs. A second WordPress plugin was commissioned that would allow any learners happening by the blogs would subscribe to those courses using “Daily feeds”, that would deliver course material to them on a daily basis.

The plugins were coded by Greg Gaughan at Isotoma, and tested by Jim and D’Arcy, among others… (I haven’t acted on your feedback yet – sorry, guys…:-( For all manner of reasons, I didn’t post the plugins (partly because I wanted to do another pass on usability/pick up on feedback, but mainly because I wanted set up a demo site first… but I still haven’t done that… so here’s a link to the plugins anyway in case anyone fancies having a play over the next few weeks: OpenLearn WordPress Plugins.

I’ll keep coming back to this post – and the download page – to add in documentation and some of the thoughts and discussions we had about how to evolve the WPMU plugin workflow/UI etc, as well as the daily feeds widget functionality.

In the meantime, here’s the minimal info I gave the original testers:

The story is:
– one ‘openlearn republisher’ plugin, that will take the URL of an RSS feed describing OpenLearn courses (e.g. on the Modern Languages page, the RSS: Modern Languages feed)) , and suck those courses into WPMU, one WPMU blog per course, via the full content RSS feed for each course.

– one “daily feeds” widget; this can be added to any WP blog and should provide a ‘daily’ feed of the content from that blog, that sends e.g. one item per day to the subscriber from the day they subscribe. The idea here is if a WP blog is used as a content publishing sys for ‘static’, unchanging content (e.g. a course, or a book, where each chapter is a post, or a fixed length podcast series), users can still get it delivered in a paced/one-per-day fashion. This widget should work okay…

Here’s another link the page where you can find the downloads: OpenLearn WordPress Plugins. Enjoy – all comments welcome. Please post a link back here if you set up any blogs using either of these two plugins.

WP_LE

And so it came to pass that the campus was divided.

The LMS had given way to the VLE and some little control was given over to the instructors that they might upload some of their own content to the VLE, yet woe betide any who tried to add their own embed codes or script tags, for verily it is evil and the devil’s own work…

And in the dark recesses of the campus, the student masses were mocked with paltry trifles thrown to them in the form of a simple blogging engine, that they might chat amongst each other and feel as if their voice was being heard…

But over time, the blogging engine did grow in stature until such a day that it was revealed in its fullest glory, and verily did the VLE cower beneath the great majesty of that which came to be known as the WP_LE…

…or something like that…

Three posts, from three players, who just cobbled together something that could well work at institutional scale…

  1. New digs for UMW Blogs, or the anatomy of a redesign: an “anatomy of the redesign of UMW Blogs” (WordPress MU), describing sitewide aggregation, tagclounds and all sorts of groovy stuff on the homepage, along with courses, support and contact pages;
  2. Reuse, resources, re-whatever…: showing how Mediawiki can now be used in all sort of ways to feed wiki content into WordPress… (just think about it: this is the bliki concept working for real on two best-of-breed, open source plaforms…);
  3. Batch adding users to a WordPress site: “import users into a site. All you need to provide is a username and email address for each student and it will create the account, generate a password, assign the specified user Role, and send an email to the student so they can login”…

So what do we have here? WordPress MU and Mediawiki working together to provide a sitewide, integrated publish platform. The multi-user import “doesn’t create blogs for each student” but I think that’s something that could be fixed easily enough, if required…

Thus far, we’ve been pretty quiet here at the OU on the WordPress and Mediawiki front, although both platfroms are used internally… but just before the summer, as one of the final OpenLearn projects, we got the folks over at Isotoma to put together a couple of WordPress and WordPress MU widgets.

Hopefully we’ll be making them available soon, along with some demo sites, but for now, here’s a tease of what we’ve pulled together.

Now you may or may not remember the the Reverend’s edupunkery that resulted in Proud Spammer of Open University Courses, a demo of how to import an OpenLearn unit content RSS feed into a WordPress blog…?

Well we’ve run with that idea – and generalised it a little – so that you can take any of the OpenLearn topic/subject area feeds (that list a set of units in a particular topic) and set up each of the courses itemised in the list with its own WordPress MU blog. Automatically. At the click of a button. What this means is that if you want to create collection of course unit blogs using OpenLearn units, you can do it in one go…

Now there are a few issues with some of the links that are pulled into the blogs from the OpenLearn feeds, and there’s some dodgy bits of script that need thinking about, but at the very least we now have a bulk spamming of OpenLearn courses tool… And if we can get a fix going with the imported, internal unit blog links, and maybe some automated blog tagging and categorising done at import time, then there is plenty of scope for emergent uncourse link mapping across and between OpenLearn WP MU course units…

Using separate WordPress MU blogs to publish unchanging “static” courses is one thing of course – the blog environment makes it easy to comment and publicly annotate each separate unit page. But compare these fixed, unchanging blog courses with how you might consume a blogged (un)course the first time it was presented… Assuming that pages were posted as they were written over the life of the course, you get each new section as new post in your feed reader every day or two…

So step in an old favourite of mine – daily feeds. (Anyone remember the OpenLearn_daily experiment that would deliver an OpenLearn unit via a feed over several days, relative to the day you first subscribed to it?) Our second offerin is a daily feeds widget for WordPress. Subscribe to a daily feed, and you’ll get one item a day from a static course unit blog in your feed reader, starting with the first item in the course unit on the first day.

Taking the two widgets together, we can effectively create a version of OpenLearn in which each OpenLearn unit will be delivered via its own WP MU blog, and each unit capable of being consumed via a daily feed…

A couple of people have been trying out the widgets already, and if anyone else would like a “private release” copy of the code to play with before we post it openly, please get in touch….