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A Roadmap for WordPress as LMS

This talk was presented at the KOTESOL National Conference in Seoul on May 30, 2015. With this presentation, I tried to reduce the amount of theory (from my last LMS talk) and increase the amount of practical application steps that teachers could use to begin creating their own LMS websites with WordPress. This slideshow is accompanied by my own "WordPress as LMS Roadmap" paper that gives step-by-step advice and instructions for building a (basic) WordPress LMS. Although in the talk, I highlighted the major selling points for using WordPress as an LMS, I'll refer you to my previous LMS talk titled "WordPress as LMS (Learning Management System)" for more information on WHY you might choose WordPress over the other available options. For the remainder of this post, however, I'll focus on the practical steps involved in building your own class website in WordPress.

The Roadmap

Review: The 6 Things an LMS Needs to Do

6-aspects
  1. Communicate Objects (Courses, Lessons, Modules)
  2. Show Learning Timelines (Syllabus)
  3. Deliver Content (Dripped content = content that is only accessible at specified times)
  4. Assess & Track Student Progress (Quizzes, Tests, Attendance, Participation, Gradebook)
  5. Communicate with Students (Comments, Forums, Wikis, Chat)
  6. Provide Ongoing Resources (in some sort of library or collection)

Step 0: Get a website

You basically have 2 options: FREE or PAID and both have their upsides and downsides:
  1. FREE Advantages and Disadvantages
    1. (+) It's FREE
    2. (-) Themes, plugins, and design options are limited. Plus, your URL will be either yourclass.wordpress.com or yourclass.edublogs.org - you won't own your own .com
  2. PAID Advantages and Disadvantages
    1. (+) You can choose what to pay for and how much you're willing to spend. You can buy your own yourclass.com URL, and can basically make any theme, plugin, and design choices you want
    2. (-) You pay for it. Some highly specialized themes, plugins, or features are sold separately
If you want a completely FREE site, you can still build a very functional classroom website in WordPress. I used a totally FREE installation of WordPress for the first 2 years of my LMS. The remainder of this post will focus on creating a FREE WordPress LMS, although I will highlight some of the paid options you may wish to consider.

FREE Hosting Options

  1. Go to http://www.wordpress.com and sign up for a FREE account (you can upgrade later)
  2. Go to http://www.edublogs.org and sign up for a FREE account (you can upgrade later)

PAID Hosting Options

I've used Dreamhost.com since 2009 and have hosted dozens of personal and client websites there. You can manage every aspect of web hosting from there including:
  1. Setup Step 1: Buying your URL Domain name
  2. Setup Step 2: Installing WordPress with a One-Click Installer
  3. Setup Step 3: Setting up email inboxes @yourclass.com
  4. Support: Dreamhost also has a large Wiki for support for its services and
  5. Support: They have a very helpful support staff and are active on Twitter
If you want to go with Dreamhost, I can offer 2 months of FREE hosting on a year plan if you sign up with this link AND enter the code WPMUJJ as a discount code when you sign up.

Step 1: Communicate Objects (Posts)

After getting setup with a WordPress website and logging into the backend, you have the option to customize your Theme (design), add Plugins (extra functionality), or play with any of your other Settings. It's probably a good idea to at least familiarize yourself with the WordPress backend menu. Additionally, you should get to know "The First FIVE Components of WordPress to Understand When You’re Just Starting Out" (click link to view the full description of each). In brief, they are: 5-key-concepts
  1. Pages
  2. Posts
  3. Categories
  4. Tags
  5. Media
In your LMS class site, you can use each like this:
  1. Pages = semester-long use (static) - use for Class homepages, Syllabus pages, About pages, Resource pages
  2. Posts = daily use (chronological) - use for Class lessons, Homework assignments, or Reviews
  3. Categories = folders - assign each Class a separate folder to store all Class materials within it
  4. Tags = keywords - tag Posts with grammar points, topics, or subject content to allow easy searching and linking of related Posts later
  5. Media = upload your PPTs, PDFs, DOCs, Images, Videos, or other content here - and don't forget that WordPress also does a GREAT job of supporting native embeds from sites like Twitter and YouTube. Click this link for a complete list of all the filetypes and embeds WordPress supports

Step-by-Step

  1. Gather your teaching materials and content
  2. Create a NEW Post for every Lesson
  3. Type (or copy-paste) your Lesson into the Editor and give it a Title
  4. Upload class materials and media
  5. Assign a Category using the Name of the Class (Freshmen Conversation 1B, for example)
  6. Add Tags based on the subject matter (be verb, introductions, conjugation rules, etc)
  7. Schedule the Post (if you want it to be available later, not immediately)
  8. Publish the Post

Plugins that may be helpful

1-commobjs
  1. Easy Classes
  2. WP Teacher
  3. WP Course Manager (like a course catalog)
  4. EduHack (creates a course catalog showing relationships between courses and prerequisites)
  5. Educator (LMS)
  6. CoursePress (LMS)

Step 2: Learning Timelines (Pages)

After publishing a handful of Posts/Lessons (or possibly before), you may want to create a Class PAGE specifically for containing the Syllabus, Lesson Plans, and Links to those Lessons. The best way to do this is to create a WordPress Page. Pages are unique in WordPress in that they DO NOT have Categories nor Tags. However, they are hierarchical, so you could create a Freshmen Conversation Page that has multiple "children" like the list below indicates:
  1. Freshmen Conversation
    1. Freshmen Conversation 1A
    2. Freshmen Conversation 1B
    3. Freshmen Tues/Thurs
    4. Freshmen Student Center Class
If you use "Pretty Permalinks" (go to Settings -> Permalinks in the WordPress sidebar menu) URLs of each Page will follow after their "parent" Page like so:
  1. myclass.com/freshmen-conversation/
    1. myclass.com/freshmen-conversation/freshmen-conversation-1a/
    2. myclass.com/freshmen-conversation/freshmen-conversation-1b/
    3. myclass.com/freshmen-conversation/freshmen-tues-thurs/
    4. myclass.com/freshmen-conversation/freshmen-student-center-class/
Therefore, you could simplify your Class Page names under the "parent" Page to only include the section number, date, or location of the class if you want (of course, you could also modify the URL by changing the "slug" under the Title of any Page as well).

Step-by-Step

  1. Create a Page for each Class
  2. Optionally create one "Category" main Page and Sub-Pages for each Class under that
  3. Copy-paste in your syllabus OR type it up in an unordered list OR table (using a plugin)
  4. Link each Post/Lesson from your Class Category to its syllabus item
  5. OR simply link the entire Class Category to the top of the Page (when students click the main link, it'll take them to the Category Page which will show a chronological listing of each Post in their Class from most recent to latest)

Plugins that may be helpful

2-timelines
  1. Easy Table (can be used directly in the Post/Page Editor with the syntax required)
  2. TablePress (has its own interface, slightly more complicated and versatile)
  3. Websimon Tables (similar to TablePress with its own interface)
  4. The Events Calendar
  5. Weekly Class Schedule
  6. My Calendar
  7. Booking Calendar (allow students to schedule a meeting with you through your site)
  8. Online Lesson Booking (schedule a 1:1 lesson or meeting)

Step 3: Deliver Content (Scheduled Posts)

"Drip Content" is a term that means "sequential delivery of content." This basically means that students don't (or should not) have access to later Lessons before they complete (or are taught) previous Lessons. This is very useful in fully automated online Learning Management Systems where a course creator simply sets up the system that unlocks later Lessons as users progress through and complete the Lessons in order. There are a number of good plugins to help you accomplish this. However, for a simpler system - and one in which the teacher is a more active participant as the course progresses, the simplest method for "dripped content" is simply creating and Scheduling each Lesson/Post for the date that Lesson is to be taught or made accessible (this is akin to simply writing a new Lesson and Publishing it every Monday, for example).

Step-by-Step

  1. Write a Post (Lesson) for you Class
  2. Assign it a Category (Class folder) and add Tags (topics / keywords)
  3. Change the "Publish On" date in the Publish Meta Box
  4. "Schedule" your Post

Plugins that may be helpful

3-delivery
  1. Show/Hide Content at Set Time
  2. Timed Content
  3. Table of Contents Plus
  4. Simple Course Creator
  5. Simple Course Creator - Updates (shows updated course content in a timeline)
  6. WP-Members
  7. Search the Plugin Directory for "Drip Content" or "Show Hide Content"

Step 4: Assess & Track Students (Comments / Authors)

There are numerous ways you can track and assess student work in WordPress. Two of the easiest you can set up with no additional plugins are:
  1. WordPress Comments on Class Posts
  2. Giving students a username and login as an "Author" on your Class site where they can write their own Posts (as essays) which you then edit and approve before they go "Live" on the site

Step-by-Step

Add Authors

  1. Register new Users on your site by going to the Users -> Add New menu item
  2. Assign student roles as "Author" and register them
    1. In recent versions of WordPress, self-registration seems to be disabled, although there are some plugins available that will allow students to register themselves (see below)
  3. Allow students to login and write essays (Posts) in their Class Category - under a Sub-Category of your choice
  4. Edit their work and Publish it - you can write comments in the Post itself or in a Comment below it
    1. Optionally, don't Edit the Post yourself, but just leave Comments and assign the student the work of coming back in and fixing their mistakes

Take Comments

  1. Go in to the Settings -> Discussion menu to adjust Comment settings appropriately
    1. "Allow people to post comments on new articles"
    2. "Comment author must fill out name and email"
    3. "Comment author must have a previously approved comment"
  2.  Assign students the homework of reading a Class Post and Commenting on it
    1. Additionally, when I was in grad school, I was assigned not only my original Comment about the article, but 3 "Reply" Comments to other students in the class. This is a good way to get a Discussion going.

Grading Student Work

Personally, without installing any additional plugins into WordPress, I have previously just kept records of student work in Excel spreadsheets or Google Sheets (they're better for calculating numbers on the fly). However, there are a number of plugins available for grading, quizzes, and other things that you may want to try (see below).

Plugins that may be helpful

4-assessntrack
  1. Add Multiple Users
  2. AN_Gradebook
  3. Grading System Daxxip (VERY simple - just assign a grade and make it visible on a Post)
  4. Watu Quiz Tool
  5. Quiz Tool Lite
  6. Easy Quiz Player
  7. Exam Matrix
  8. BadgeOS (Give badges for achievements)

Step 5: Communicate with Students (Comments / Plugins)

One thing that WordPress makes exceptionally easy is communication between people. Whether this is using a Commenting system (as discussed above) or Plugins that add extra Social Networking style features, WordPress is has many powerful tools available to customize communication.

Step-by-Step

  1. Enable Comments on your site (discussed above)
  2. Add Plugins that enhance both your Comments and other forms of communication
    1. Enhance your Comments
    2. Add a Contact form
    3. Add Polls or Surveys
    4. Add Forums, Wikis, or Chats
    5. Add a Social Network plugin

Plugins that may be helpful

5-commwstds
  1. Akismet (the #1 spam comment blocking plugin in the world)
  2. Disqus (enhanced Comments)
  3. Contact Form 7 (one of the most popular contact form plugins in the world)
  4. PollDaddy (available on WordPress.com already)
  5. Polls by OpinionStage
  6. WP Survey and Quiz Tool
  7. Survey by POWr
  8. Wiki by WPMU Dev
  9. Chat by WPMU Dev
  10. Pure Chat - Free Live Chat Plugin
  11. iFlyChat - WordPress Chat (allow users to discuss in public and private chat rooms)
  12. bbPress (Official WordPress forum plugin)
  13. BuddyPress (Official WordPress Social Network building plugin)
  14. BuddyPress Docs (add collaborative work spaces to BuddyPress)
  15. BadgeOS Community Add-on (add badges to bbPress and BuddyPress)
  16. BadgeOS Invite Codes Add-on (allow users on BuddyPress to join specified groups with an Invite code)

Step 6: Ongoing Resources

Finally, it is important to keep an organized space for resources and references for your classes. The easiest way to do this is to create a dedicated Resources Page that you continually update as new resources are found or added. Your WordPress Media Library houses everything you upload to your site (in chronological order) so it can get rather messy after a while. However, there are a few ways you can help yourself keep things organized in the Media Library:
  1. Be sure to NAME your resources appropriately so that they are easy to Search for in the Search box
  2. Install a plugin to help with organization (see below)
Another option for creating a list of Resources that are simply links to various other locations online is to create a Blogroll (list of other blogs) on a page or in a Sidebar Widget.

Step-by-Step

  1. Appropriately name/label every file you upload
  2. Create a Page called "Class Resources"
    1. You might also create Sub-Pages for each Class like "Freshman 1A Resources"
    2. OR if there will be much overlap, simply divide your Main Page with different Headings for each class
  3. Update your "Class Resources" Page as you find/upload new material
  4. Create a Custom Menu called "Blogroll" or "External Resources" or something
    1. Add links to external sites in this Menu
    2. Add the Menu to a Sidebar Widget (or possibly a Page - you might need a plugin)
  5. Add a Plugin to help you manage everything

Plugins that may be helpful

6-resources
  1. Enhanced Media Library (allows you to Tag your Media Library files and categorize them)
  2. Media Library Assistant
  3. Eazy Enable Blogroll (brings back the original WordPress default Blogroll)
  4. Open Link (outputs Blogroll links to a Page or Post using a shortcode)
  5. Encyclopedia / Glossary / Wiki
  6. Wiki by WPMU Dev
  7. Xili-Dictionary (Multilingual dictionary)
  8. Google Drive WP Media
  9. Google Drive Embedder
  10. BackWPup Free - WordPress Backup Plugin (backups are important)

Full Fledged Learning Management Systems

lms-options
  1. LePress (lacking documentation and screenshots)
  2. Educator
  3. Namaste! LMS
  4. CoursePress | PRO Version
  5. LearnDash (Premium)
  6. WooSensei (Premium)
  7. WP Courseware (Premium)
  8. LifterLMS (Premium)

Your Turn

  • Have you ever built a WordPress LMS site? How was your experience? Any more recommendations?
  • For first users, was my walkthrough helpful? Anything unclear?
Leave me a Comment below.

The First FIVE Components of WordPress to Understand When You’re Just Starting Out

The following article is an excerpt from a presentation I gave on WordPress as LMS that I felt deserved its own Post. Enjoy!~ In WordPress, you only need to understand (a minimum of) 5 KEY CONCEPTS to be able to effectively use the software. They are:
  1. Pages
  2. Posts
  3. Categories
  4. Tags
  5. Media

1. Pages

pages Pages are hierarchical, "stand alone" articles on your site. Though they have publication dates (and can be scheduled for automatic future publication), they do not "flow" as a blog would. Pages are not inherently "related" to each other and they ARE NOT categorized by Categories nor Tags (more later). If you want a Page to have some kind of relation to another Page, you must assign it a "Parent" in the Page Attributes widget in the Page editor (red box). Pages will therefore act like individual menu items (they will be automatically added to your main menu if you don't create one manually) - and "Parent" Pages will act as the top-level dropdown menu containing any "Child" Pages beneath them. Pages may also utilize "templates". These will give your Pages a different output on the front of the website and may look like any of the following:
  1. Home page
  2. Landing page
  3. Contact page
  4. Clients page
  5. About page
  6. Full-Width page
  7. And so on

2. Posts

posts Posts are chronological (non-hierarchical) articles that "flow" along the Blog page, Home page, or Archive pages as they are written and published. Posts are grouped together by Categories (that act like "buckets" or Folders), and Tags (keywords that are used to Search the site). Posts may also utilize "Formats" that style certain Post types differently. For example, you may have different styles for:
  1. Regular (Standard) Posts
  2. Aside Posts (without a title visible on the Blog archive Page)
  3. Image Posts
  4. Video Posts
  5. Quotation Posts
  6. Link Posts
  7. Gallery Posts
  8. Status Update Posts
  9. Audio Posts
  10. Chat Posts

3. Categories

categories On the front-end of a site, Categories may be visible as Folder names for Month or Topic, or in the Breadcrumbs (the "You Are Here" collection of links at the top of a Post), or as individual Menu items. (On the front-end, you won't really be able to SEE the difference between Categories and Pages as they appear in the menu unless you click on the link. If it's a Category, there will be a long list of Posts; if it's a Page, there will be only ONE Page.)
With Categories, I usually assign each of my Classes at school (or topics) to a separate Category. That way, when the students click on the Category name, they are taken directly to an ongoing blog list of ONLY Posts for their class.

4. Tags

tags On the front-end of a site, Tags may be visible in a "Tag Cloud" (a collection of frequently used keywords throughout the site), or in the footer meta (a collection of data at the bottom) of a Post. You can also Search for Tags as these are WordPress's "keywords."
With Tags, I usually add the keywords for a lesson subject - such as a grammar point we're studying or the key concepts to understand.

5. Media

WordPress Media is unique in TWO primary ways:
  1. You can Drag-&-Drop media from your Desktop directly into the Post editor window to upload files. media-dragdrop
  2. You can Copy-Paste URLs from popular websites like YouTube and Twitter to get immediate, automatic embeds of those videos and tweets (among other things). No more copying over embed codes! media-embeds
The WordPress editor also provides you with a view of what your Post will ACTUALLY look like on the front-end even as you type it and before publishing it. This list of FIVE basic components of WordPress does not even begin to scratch the surface of what is possible, but it should give you a clearer understanding of how WordPress works and what kinds of things you can publish with it. In upcoming Posts, I'll delve deeper into both the "PRETTY" and the "POWER" of WordPress with topics on:
  1. Theme Choice
  2. Theme Customizer (pretty)
  3. Top WordPress plugins (power)

Any questions about any of these? Let me know in the Comments below.

WordPress as LMS (Learning Management System)

This is a talk I presented at the Jeonju-Jeonbuk KOTESOL Chapter meeting for March 2015.

*Audience Note

I may have addressed this talk (and presented it) to a slightly wrong audience at the time. The meeting was small and contained people who are primarily ESL teachers - who may be familiar with certain web technologies. However, I designed this talk for an audience who already understand the basic concepts of an LMS (Learning Management System) and want to implement it themselves in their classrooms. Therefore, this talk is primarily an argument for WHY WordPress is the BEST solution for an LMS - as opposed to other possible solutions (including Moodle) - and introduces some basic concepts about how to put WordPress to work for you as an LMS.

WordPress as LMS

define:LMS/ Learning Management System: A digital learning environment to manage all aspects of the learning process.
In this talk, I will present THREE basic ideas about WordPress as LMS:
  1. WHY? (2 parts)
    1. Why an LMS?
    2. Why WordPress?
  2. HOW? (2 parts)
    1. How does an LMS work and how can we use it?
    2. How can we use WordPress to create an LMS?
  3. WHAT?
    1. What are the specific steps we can take to create an LMS in WordPress?

Step 1A: Why an LMS?

Recall again that an LMS is "a digital learning environment to manage all aspects of the learning process." The following is a list of 6 basic aspects in the learning process: 6-aspects
  1. Communicate objects (syllabus, course objectives, handouts, etc)
  2. Learning timelines (class schedule)
  3. Delivery of materials (drip content)
  4. Assessment & Tracking of student data
  5. Communication with students
  6. Ongoing Resources
Traditional classrooms usually involve a great deal of printed paperwork and in-class interaction with the teacher. On the other hand, LMS-assisted classrooms may help reduce (or entirely eliminate) papers and increase student-to-student interaction both in and out of class. Another reason LMS-assisted classrooms are beneficial for teachers:

No more lost USBs.

I personally haven't carried a USB in 3-4 years because I store all my lessons, PPTs, documents, and resources on my classroom website (or in Google Docs which can be used in collaboration with my website). Besides that, simply by relying on a USB stick, you are risking spreading viruses between unprotected PCs or even absentmindedly leaving it behind after class.

Are you smarter than a College Freshman?

And another reason to start looking into setting up an LMS is because high-schoolers these days are learning this kind of technology themselves as graduation requirements. In a document (created in 2006) I downloaded from the San Diego Unified School District that outlines High School Technology Compentencies, the following are the THREE level of Web Authoring competencies they seek for their students:
  1. Basic: Understand web authoring terminology, how to use templates, and district policies on copyright, ethics, privacy, and security
  2. Intermediate: Identify, prepare, create, and upload materials to a web publishing platform
  3. Advanced: Understand and be able to use CSS code, Flash video, downloads, forms, and databases
EdTech is transforming K-12 learning with an intensity and at a pace that is disruptive, creative, and unpredictable. Students are no longer content to be passive recipients of information. Few kids can sit behind a desk when they have smart phones or iPads in their possession. The higher education business model is threatened by the need for cheaper delivery of services, content, and learning. Pricing, Access, Connectivity, Competition - It's all about Economics. "EdTech - Revolution in Education" from the Alliance for Science & Technology Research in America
Actually, what we're talking about here is the FUTURE of education. Every other industry in the world has seen a radical technological reformation and evolution. Education is now also beginning a radical change in the way school and learning happens, but where will our place be in this period of transition and change? I think the main reason that more people don't get more involved with EdTech is FEAR. They are afraid of the unknown, afraid of learning (difficult) new things, or afraid of being left behind. But, I want to alleviate your fears a bit and argue that WordPress is a (comparatively) easy solution for beginning to get more of your own classes online.

Step 1B: Why WordPress?

define:WordPress/ The #1 web publishing CMS (Content Management System) in the world - powering 23% of all the world's websites. FREE. unlimited. awesomeness.
But what about some of the other LMS's you may already be familiar with?
  1. Moodle
  2. Edmodo
  3. Blackboard
  4. Desire2Learn (D2L)
  5. Canvas
  6. Schoology
I think there are at least 6 primary considerations to keep in mind when choosing a suitable LMS. Each of the above is excellent in some of these aspects, but only WordPress rocks all of them:
  1. Price
  2. Power
  3. Flexibility
  4. Simplicity
  5. Support
  6. Reliability

1: Price

WordPress is "forever FREE" due to the GNU GPL2 license.

2: Power

There are over:
  1. 3,000 FREE Themes
  2. 4,000 Premium Themes
  3. 35,000 FREE Plugins
available for WordPress. How much more power do you need?

3: Flexibility

Thanks to WordPress Multisite (a nifty optional feature in the WordPress core), the software is infinitely scalable. A couple of good examples of this are:
  1. WordPress.com that serves up over 500 million sites using only ONE code base
  2. Best Buy which uses ONE base installation to power their 1000s of store sites
  3. The New York Times, Forbes, and Reuters blogs which are all Multisite installations

4: Simplicity

WordPress is not "easy" as in "post-on-Facebook-easy" but compared to the many other options out there, it is surprisingly easy. I've even transferred clients to WordPress from Joomla and Moodle after spending significant time with them in the backend trying to fix things how they wanted. The WordPress Post editor closely resembles a Microsoft Word document editor and is just as easy to publish with.
If you can Word, then you can WordPress.
In fact, in a 2014 survey of WordPress users around the world, the company found out that 91% of WordPress sites took less than 4-5 weeks to make. This is comparatively easy! And I have experience putting together basic sites with all the elements in only ONE week or less.

5: Support

WordPress already powers 1 in 5 sites you visit on the web, and it's still growing.
  1. 2014 was the first year that non-English downloads surpassed English downloads
  2. There are 17 posts published EVERY SECOND on WordPress.com
  3. Many of the major corporate, political, and tech brands use WordPress
  4. The WordPress Community is enormous, friendly, and helpful. There are:
    1. WordPress Support forums
    2. WordPress Meetups to provide training and assistance (like our Jeonju Meetup)
    3. WordCamps for networking and education
    4. WordPress.tv that contains filmed WordCamp presentations

6. Reliability

WordPress.com gets roughly the same number of monthly unique visitors that Facebook.com gets so up-time and security are big deals. The WordPress.com development team pushes updated code to the core between 60-80 times PER DAY, so both of those facts should give you a feel for just how reliable this service and software are. If you choose to go self-hosted, however, all that depends primarily on your web host. But the following is a list of some of the top hosts in the world:
  1. Dreamhost (*affiliate) - get 2 months FREE hosting with the code: WPMUJJ
  2. Bluehost
  3. Host Gator
  4. GoDaddy
  5. WPEngine

Step 2A: How does an LMS work and how can we use it?

define:Blended Learning/ Education that integrates online and in-person delivery with some element of student control over the time and place in which they access the course content. Face-to-face interaction + Computer-mediated activities
Consider the following types of classrooms:
  1. Traditional
  2. Flipped (Blended) classrooom
  3. MOOC

What's an MOOC?

define:MOOC/ Massive Online Open Courses: an online course aimed at unlimited participation and open access via the web.
Examples of MOOCs include:
  1. edX
  2. Khan Academy
  3. Udacity
  4. Udemy
  5. Coursera
I'm NOT an advocate for a strictly MOOC-style LMS. These systems conduct courses primarily online with minimal teacher-student interaction except via the forums. Granted, some teachers are very participatory in the forums, but not all are - and online forums still leave something to be desired compared to the traditional model of in-class, face-to-face, teacher-student and student-student interaction. Besides that, MOOCs are COMPLICATED to implement, especially without a dedicated team behind them. I feel that, at least as far as online course websites are concerned:
Simplicity is the Ultimate Sophistication. Leonardo da Vinci
Therefore, when considering the following options for course website preparation, I'd recommend:
  1. Level of Instruction: prepare a SINGLE course (at least a first)
  2. Time (Schedule): allow a modified time schedule for students to access the site
  3. Role of Online Components: enhanced
  4. Teacher role: Teacher supports
  5. Student role: Teacher-guided learning
  6. Student support: School mentoring
  7. Student to Teacher ratio: 2-3x Traditional
But, for simplicity's sake, here are the TWO MOST PRACTICAL ways you can implement an LMS website in your classroom:
  1. Go paperless
  2. Make homework include online interaction

Step 2B: How can we use WordPress to create an LMS?

There are TWO options for using WordPress to create an LMS:
  1. WordPress.com
  2. WordPress.org
WORDPRESS.COM
  1. Is a hosting SERVICE where you can get a FREE site and username at their domain (http://yourname.wordpress.com)
  2. Is limited in freedoms, but provides paid upgrades and is still a viable option for class websites
WORDPRESS.ORG
  1. Hosts the (downloadable) SOFTWARE and all documentation, but you are required to find your own self-hosting solution (http://www.yourname.com)
  2. Is virtually unlimited in customization options
If you go self-hosted, many of the top hosting providers offer a "One-Click Install" from the CPanel (Control Panel) of their site. It's a simple matter of point-click-wait-5-minutes and you'll have the FULL WordPress software up and running on your domain. Here's a list of recommended hosting providers again:
  1. Dreamhost (*affiliate) - get 2 months FREE hosting with the code: WPMUJJ
  2. Bluehost
  3. Host Gator
  4. GoDaddy
  5. WPEngine

Step 3: What are the specific steps we can take to create an LMS in WordPress?

Consider the 6 aspects of the learning process again:
  1. Communicate objects (syllabus, course objectives, handouts, etc)
  2. Learning timelines (class schedule)
  3. Delivery of materials (drip content)
  4. Assessment & Tracking of student data
  5. Communication with students
  6. Ongoing Resources
In WordPress, you will only need to understand (a minimum of) 5 key concepts to be able to effectively communicate the above 6 aspects to your students. They are: 5-key-concepts
  1. Pages
  2. Posts
  3. Categories
  4. Tags
  5. Media

1. Pages

pages Pages are hierarchical, "stand alone" articles on your site. Though they have publication dates (and can be scheduled for automatic future publication), they do not "flow" as a blog would. Pages are not inherently "related" to each other and they ARE NOT categorized by Categories nor Tags (more later). If you want a Page to have some kind of relation to another Page, you must assign it a "Parent" in the Page Attributes widget in the Page editor. Pages will therefore act like individual menu items (they will be automatically added to your main menu if you don't create one manually) - and "Parent" Pages will act as the top-level dropdown menu containing any "Child" Pages beneath them. Pages may also utilize "templates". These will give your Pages a different output on the front of the website and may look like any of the following:
  1. Home page
  2. Landing page
  3. Contact page
  4. Clients page
  5. About page
  6. Full-Width page
  7. And so on

2. Posts

posts Posts are chronological (non-hierarchical) articles that "flow" along the Blog page, Home page, or Archive pages as they are written and published. Posts are grouped together by Categories (that act like "buckets" or Folders), and Tags (keywords that are used to Search the site). Posts may also utilize "Formats" that style certain Post types differently. For example, you may have different styles for:
  1. Regular (Standard) Posts
  2. Aside Posts (without a title visible on the Blog archive Page)
  3. Image Posts
  4. Video Posts
  5. Quotation Posts
  6. Link Posts
  7. Gallery Posts
  8. Status Update Posts
  9. Audio Posts
  10. Chat Posts

3. Categories

categories On the front-end of a site, Categories may be visible as Folder names for Month or Topic, or in the Breadcrumbs (the "You Are Here" collection of links at the top of a Post), or as individual Menu items. (On the front-end, you won't really be able to SEE the difference between Categories and Pages as they appear in the menu unless you click on the link. If it's a Category, there will be a long list of Posts; if it's a Page, there will be only ONE Page.)
With Categories, I usually assign each of my Classes to a separate Category. That way, when the students click on the Category name, they are taken directly to an ongoing blog list of ONLY Posts for their class.

4. Tags

tags On the front-end of a site, Tags may be visible in a "Tag Cloud" (a collection of frequently used keywords throughout the site), or in the footer meta (a collection of data at the bottom) of a Post. You can also Search for Tags as these are WordPress's "keywords."
With Tags, I usually add the keywords for the lesson subject - such as a grammar point we're studying or the key concepts to understand.

5. Media

WordPress Media is unique in TWO primary ways:
  1. You can Drag-&-Drop media from your Desktop directly into the Post editor window to upload files. media-dragdrop
  2. You can Copy-Paste URLs from popular websites like YouTube and Twitter to get immediate, automatic embeds of those videos and tweets (among other things). No more copying over embed codes! media-embeds
The WordPress editor also provides you with a view of what your Post will ACTUALLY look like on the front-end even as you type it and before publishing it.

Step 3B: Plugins add Power

0-plugins The above 5 functions are available both on WordPress.com and with the WordPress.org software. However, if you REALLY want to power-up your LMS, going self-hosted and installing your own plugins is the best way to go. The following lists provide (at least) FOUR plugin options for EACH of the 6 aspects of learning previously discussed:

1. Communicate Objects

1-commobjs
  1. WPMU CoursePress
  2. WP Teacher
  3. Educator
  4. Easy Classes

2. Learning Timelines

2-timelines
  1. The Events Calendar
  2. Weekly Class Schedule
  3. My Calendar
  4. Booking Calendar

3. Delivery (Drip Content)

3-delivery
  1. WP-Members
  2. Simple Course Creator
  3. Table of Contents Plus
  4. Show/Hide Content at Set Time

4. Assess & Track

4-assessntrack
  1. AN_Gradebook
  2. Quiz Tool Lite
  3. Easy Quiz Player
  4. BadgeOS LearnDash Add-on

5. Communicate with Students

5-commwstds
  1. Disqus Comment System
  2. Akismet Spam Comment Blocker
  3. bbPress Forums
  4. BuddyPress Social Network

6. Ongoing Resources

6-resources
  1. Enhanced Media Library
  2. BackWPup
  3. Google Drive WP Media
  4. Google Drive Embedder

Full-fledged LMS systems for WordPress

  1. LearnDash
  2. Woo Sensei
  3. WP Courseware
  4. Lifter LMS
  5. Namaste! LMS (Free)

So, how will YOU use WordPress in your classroom? (or business)?