The website we are making is supposed to be a tool for one particular course at the university. The course is going to learn students how to teach high school students about history. Apparently, I took the name of my blog from here, it is a didactic course. The history departement wanted to make the course modern and so to use new media; to make it more attractive for students and thereby to learn them how to use new media in their own practice. In case the website will be working well and get filled with a meaningful content, then, they would like to share their results with public.
Few instructions only
However, one would expect the departement has prepared scripts and scenarios about their methods. We would likely use these documents as a building stone of the whole project. Unfortunately (for students), there is nothing like this. There are only few specific demands about a funcionality of their website:
- Public and internal course-only version of the website.
- Database of audio-visual and textual documents.
- Direct communication between tutor and students.
Open field for creativity
We know nothing about intentions of tutors about their way of teaching. We can only guess.. So my collegue took this into his scope. He is also student of this departement, thus he knows about standard styles of academic works. We figure out we need to be able to create templates like for annotation, movie, pictures, interview etc.. I’m sure that a student’s outputs limited with these templates will be good for academical needs as well as for graphical needs. We still need to keep it modular as possible in case the tutors will change their mind..
Scenario of the course
The course occurs once per week. There is a homework for students every week. The homework is fulfilled when student writes blog post to the internal part of the website. The final output will get public at the end of the course. It should consist of more parts in contrast to simpler homeworks.
I decided for sub-folder mod of WordPress Multisite because of public/internal need. Originally, I thought every student should have his own blog. Eventually, we figured out there is no need for personal blogs. We decided for class blogs. It is much easier for tutor to handle all of his students and it reduces administration requirements. It is also easier for us to programme. Basically, there is one public blog and additional new internal class blog – one every year.
There are three levels of communication.
- Private communication between tutor and student thanks too Peter’s Post Notes.
- Students vs. students in post’s comments within internal blogs.
- Officials vs. public in post’s comments within public blog.
The third point is still in discussion. Shall we let visitor to comment? Shall we even show internal discussions? How?
When thinking about templates I wondered what are Custom Fields good for. Then I found this awesome plugin – Advanced Custom Fields. Sure, you can hardcode any meta box you desire but this guy did really great job. Simple UI still with lots of options, easy to display your content with the_field function, perfect documentation and support.
The only problem is self-hosted video. WordPress 3.5 video support isn’t good. 3.6 is promising and close to release but you can easily deal with any kind of specific content thanks to combination of ACF + custom taxonomy á la post formats + get_template_part function.
I’ll write more detail informations how I dealed with specific problems when looking for right solutions.