Computers and Writing 2013 Workshop: WordPress as LMS

Quinn WarnickWorkshops

I’ll be running a workshop with Tim Lockridge at this year’s Computers and Writing conference, and since the conference program hasn’t been released yet, I thought it might be helpful to post the workshop description here.

Tim and I are planning a practical, interactive session on Thursday morning (June 6) that should be useful to anyone who is interested in using WordPress in their classes. If you have any questions about the workshop before you register for the conference, just let me know.

WordPress as LMS: A Beginner’s Guide to Creating Custom Course Websites

Learning management systems (LMSes) such as Blackboard, Moodle, and Sakai have become a ubiquitous component of higher education. These systems may streamline some typical classroom functions, but they are not designed with composition pedagogies in mind, and in many cases may actually constrain the potential of digital writing curricula. For example, institutional LMSes mimic popular writing technologies such as blogs, wikis, and status updates in a space that downplays the importance of networks, interfaces, and the circulation of texts.

For years, scholars in the Computers & Writing community have attempted to solve these problems by building custom LMSes using open-source content management platforms such as WordPress, Drupal, and MediaWiki. This half-day workshop is intended for instructors who have considered such options but may not know exactly how to get started. By the end of the workshop, participants will have hands-on experience with WordPress, a free, popular alternative to traditional LMSes; a collection of resources for managing a WordPress-powered LMS; and a conceptual blueprint for building a bespoke LMS to support their own classes.

At minimum, the workshop will cover the following topics:

  • Registering a domain name and selecting a hosting company
  • Understanding the difference between commercial and self-hosted versions of WordPress
  • Installing and configuring WordPress
  • Customizing the appearance of class websites with free themes
  • Using plugins to extend WordPress’s standard functions
  • Setting up a multisite WordPress installation to allow for unique websites for each class
  • Adjusting privacy settings to protect students’ personal data
  • Integrating social media streams (e.g., Twitter, Delicious) into class websites
  • Minimizing expenses for web hosting and support
  • Working with university IT personnel to develop policies and support systems for the development of WordPress systems using existing resources

In addition, we will provide ample time for workshop participants to experiment with WordPress, ask questions about their individual circumstances, and share ideas with one another.

Familiarity with WordPress is helpful, but not required. We encourage all participants to bring their own laptops and electronic copies of course materials for one of the classes they regularly teach.