800px-WordPress_logo

What is it?

WordPress is a web-publishing and content management system (CMS)  originally developed to create and host blogs, but has evolved into a full-featured website design platform. WordPress serves a broad range of purposes, from hosting small individual blogs to the creation of enterprise-level institutional websites. It’s popular because at one end of the spectrum you can develop a professional looking website without a lot of technical skill, and at the other end of the spectrum it has the complexity and depth required to support a major institutional web presence.

Numerous institutions use WordPress as their CMS of choice for their institutional, departmental or program level website, as well as using it for its original use as a blog hosting platform. In fact, Carleton is currently in the process of migrating all official Carleton websites to WordPress, and going forward it will be the content management system for the College website

As a teaching and learning tool, WordPress is most commonly used as a blogging tool for instructors and students. It’s easy for an individual faculty member or student to start and publish a new blog at Carleton and start writing and commenting.

Why is this useful?

Faculty at many institutions report good experiences incorporating blog assignments into their courses, as a way for students to practice their writing, as a way for students to publish and promote their work to an audience beyond the class or college, and as the online counterpart to student projects.  Research has suggested that students have a perception of increased learning when they use blogs in class, and gain practice articulating and translating what they learn for a broad audience. 

A quote about blogging

The Vanderbilt Center for Teaching and the University of Michigan Sweetland Center for Writing share blog assignment ideas and information from individual faculty who have used blogs in their courses and suggest that using a blogging platform like WordPress can complement traditional writing assignments in multiple ways:

  • Video, audio and images can be included in student posts, which adds an element of creativity beyond traditional paper writing.
  • The inclusion and curation of different media helps students develop an increased level of digital and information literacy.
  • Blog writing can seem more authentic to students if more people than just the class instructor are going to see it, and this can help students become more invested in what they write.
  • The persistent nature of blogs can help students to see and explore connections between disciplines, and between their personal and academic lives.
  • The persistent nature of blogs can allow students see their writing develop over the semester.
  • Blog writing can create a sense of community as students read and comment on each other’s posts, and encourage asynchronous interaction between students.
  • Blog posts targeted to a broad audience force students to focus on writing clearly, since they can’t assume their readers will have the knowledge of their instructor.

How Do I Use it at Carleton?

You can request a WordPress site by filling out the request form for a new site. Once your site is created, read First Steps with WordPress and New to WordPress for directions about getting started with the system.

Depending on the scope of your project, working with WordPress can be easy, or it can be a lengthy and involved process. The Academic Technology team is available for consultation and support as you begin using WordPress. Submit an IT Help ticket or contact Pilot Irwin for more information or to get your questions answered.

Teaching Tips

  • Communicate clear expectations: students should know the point of the assignment and what they are meant to learn from it.
  • Develop strong assignment prompts: be sure to include information about both the content and the timing of posts.
  • Participate appropriately: find the balance between being encouraging and being inhibiting by being too present.
  • Build community – a shared sense of purpose can help students become invested in their posts.

    (Source: University of Michigan Sweetland Center for Writing)

“After years of trial and error, I now use the same basic blog format for every class… a 250-word post on ideas or readings from the class or a 150-word comment extending those ideas. Each week, two groups of students trade off posting or commenting.”

-Annette Vee, Inside Higher Ed