Session Idea – Class and Professional Websites

There are so many things I’m curious about, but the one that comes to mind immediately is the use of specialized websites…

I’ve used Moodle and Chalk/Blackboard to some good ends and find them very helpful, although I never feel that I’m in any way deploying them optimally. I’d like to learn more about using an alternative class-specific website for links, resources, forums, maybe collaboration on papers – but especially to disseminate materials in a dynamic/interesting way that encourages students to engage the materials and course focus more creatively and independently.

I also would like to explore establishing and maintaining my own website in a way that would dovetail with teaching – maybe to help students see how my general (or particular) interests relate to a specific course that we share.

Categories: Panels |

12 Responses to Session Idea – Class and Professional Websites

  1. B”H

    I do this with WordPress. It’s free and incredibly easy (See my class blog at

    I would love to have an open session on WordPress blogs. I could share what I know, and others could share what they know.

    • Sally Stamper says:

      This looks very much like the kind of site I’m imagining. I’d like to have a single place where I can post changes in plans, assignments, a template for students to monitor their grades (or a grade calculator), activities, and resources. I love the idea of sending an email that says “check the site for new info” rather than distributing handouts that some miss because they’re absent, others lose, etc.

      I couldn’t contribute in terms of how to do this – but I’m glad to provide the questions!

      • Ryan Cordell says:

        If you’re interested in WordPress, Sally, make sure that you attend Quinn Dombrowski’s Bootcamp session. She’ll be teaching folks how to set up a WordPress site (and she’s from the University of Chicago!).

        • Anyone who is chartered with bringing technology to the humanities types at the UofC is someone whose bootcamp I’ll be attending, despite the chagrin I feel about how badly (read: little) I incorporated it into my Hum Core classes there…

  2. B”H

    It has worked great for me. I use Engrade for their grades–which is a lot easier than anything else I have found. Also, my students have their own websites too (set on private for FERPA reasons) that serve as e-Portfolios for our whole program (a cross-curricular program with History, Speech, Sociology, and English). Using WordPress as an e-portfolio makes a lot more sense than using any course management software, which usually restricts the portfolio to that class alone and can’t be used for a longer time across multiple classes (As it should be! After all, “portfolio” means “portable folio”! If it isn’t portable, it isn’t a portfolio, it is just a folio!!). I try to impress upon my students that their portfolio should be something they add work to throughout their academic careers so that they can use it for a job seeking or Graduate Program entry piece. I don’t know if they all will do this, but I am hoping that some of them will get the idea!

    Meanwhile, it has already paid off for one of my students who, in addition to her regular portfolio, put up a blogsite in honor of her favorite rap group then tweeted the existence of the blog everywhere she could. The next week, the rap group’s manager contacted her, and now she is their director of new media–managing their blog and tweeting on behalf of the group while she finishes her degree in journalism!

    • Sally Stamper says:

      This sounds better and better, Michelle! I’m hoping to become more comfortable with the skills involved with this kind of site (modest though they may seem to the more experienced!) and also to use some of my THATCamp time to think further about the philosophy that drives these methods, to which I’m very committed.

      Looking forward to playing with these tools!

  3. I use WordPress too and have used blogging as a writing assignment – though it usually feels like a bit of an afterthought for the students. Still, having the whole course online and asking students to write for a public audience is something I have found full of potential (though care and feeding of a blog can be daunting for students).

    • Barbara, I think you’re raising a key concern: how to incorporate these assignments and resources in a way that feels central or foundational, rather than an afterthought or (worse!) an attempt to be current or hip. I’ve found that my confidence in giving the assignments (which builds as I repeat them in subsequent semesters) has more of an effect than I’d imagined it would, but expanding into broader use of digital/online strategies is going to be daunting to me – and I think it’s important to push through the reluctance, as even my efforts to date have paid off.

  4. Dave Carroll says:

    Sally, this seems to me to be a fundamental session concept for ThatCAMPLac. Because there is a frightening variety of tools out there, teachers run the risk of creating software exhaustion in students who are tired of having to learn a new framework/system for each class they take. This challenge is likely to get worse before it gets better.

    Another thought: it is far better to train students to consume your course information on their own volition (proactive) than to rely on them paying attention (reactive) to an email you send them. Could this mean familiarizing them with an RSS newsreader? Signing them up for a texting mailing list? I’m not sure but I’d love to continue the conversation.

    • I hadn’t thought of this concern in quite these terms, Dave – but I agree. Students already worry over other variations from class to class or teacher to teacher in terms of writing expectations and models, etc; the online platform will be another arena of difference among us.

      I’m very interested in your comments about cultivating proactive engagement of information or materials – and I confess that I’m skeptical. Looking forward to hearing more of your thoughts on these possibilities.

  5. B”H

    Great comment, Dave! the concept of “software fatigue” is there, even in one class, if you are using a lot of programs. What happens is that the student gets frustrated because they aren’t comfortable with one platform, then they throw up their hands and decide everything is overwhelming. I’ve had it happen a few times, and you either have to talk the student down or they jump from the class before you can catch them!

  6. marlowjm says:

    I want to echo Dave’s (and now Michelle’s) concerns about “software fatigue,” which also relates to confusions that arise (for students) over having academic/undergraduate coursework information in disparate locations. I have long used WordPress in place of a standard CMS, and as more faculty make this move, I have started to see students becoming less organized and more lost when it comes to due dates, assignments, course announcements, etc. – particularly at institutions that use a standard CMS (like Blackboard) in addition to individual blogs for certain classes. Students tire of having to travel to numerous sites to stay on top of their courses that are moving more content into these online spaces.

    A solution to this that some schools are experimenting with is using WordPress Multi-User to create an institutional WordPress platform. This work is being done at University of Mary Washington. This kind of project is something I’d be interested in discussing if we have an open session on WordPress blogs.

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