Building Online Learning Communities with WordPress

Have we put online education in a box?

Many learning management systems are completely closed so that they shut out the rest of the world from entering our virtual classrooms.  Participants within a single course can interact with other participants to some degree, but anyone outside that specific section of the box is simply locked out.  No experts in the field, no practitioners, no fellow instructors in a program, no past students…no one gets inside the box except the instructor and the students.  Nothing gets out either.

The box seems to hold on to our curricular materials and learning artifacts.  Once the course is over, students no longer have access to the materials that the instructor has developed. No body of knowledge is built between cohorts, and no knowledge is shared with the rest of the world.

Of course, we have to be very, very careful about issues of security, privacy and FERPA regulations, but what if we could find a way to safely think outside the box?

One possible solution would be to safely incorporate external systems like WordPress as an outside component of an online environment.

As a case in point, undergraduate journalism students at UNLV are using contemporary blogging tools to explore digital-age news gathering and broadcasting techniques with the multisite capabilities of WordPress 3 and the community building features of the BuddyPress plugin.

The combination of these technologies allows communication and collaboration through online chat, blog commenting, peer evaluation, group development and threaded discussion.

Learn how you can develop an open, accessible learning environment by integrate a WordPress blogging system with BuddyPress to encourage a community of learning with a variety of useful educational plug-ins including wikis, group photo albums, assignment management, calendars, gradebook, and more.

Perhaps it’s time to consider thinking outside the box.

Slide presentation



  • Collaboration across geographical regions and cultures
  • Peer evaluation
  • Student-to-world/world-to-student
  • Guest speakers/Practitioners
  • Flexibility
  • Openness
  • Learning artifact perseverance
  • Long-term community development
  • 7 things you should know about blogging (Educause)

Features of WordPress Multiuser blogging and BuddyPress

  • Blogs
    • Full range of editing tools
    • Complete media library
      • Image uploading and editing
      • Video
      • Audio
  • Main blog for the course/instructor
    • Announcements
    • Comments or questions from students
  • Individual blogs for students
  • Design templates
  • Posts
  • Pages
  • Tagging
  • Comments
    • Comment moderation
  • Adjustable privacy settings
  • Spam filters
  • Site statistics
  • RSS feeds
  • Open source development community
  • Rapid updates
  • Additional functionality through plugins
  • Group collaboration through wikis
  • Welcome customization
  • Achievements
  • Social Media Widgets
    • Twitter
    • Delicious
    • Flickr
    • YouTube
    • Podcasting
  • BuddyPress plugin
    • Profiles with avatars
    • Activity streams
    • Member lists
    • Who’s Online
    • Photo albums
    • Groups
    • Forums
    • Instant messaging
    • Chat
    • Friending

Presentation resources

Who is using WordPress in Higher Education?


Blog Posts

Slideshare Presentations

Blogging rubrics

WordPress, research, and scholarly publishing

Please feel free to offer your comments on the use of WordPress and the BuddyPress plugin for education below.

Additional resources relevant to these topics are extremely welcome!  🙂


Social Media & Business – A Primer

A presentation for the
Professional Insurance Communicators of America


Social media has transformed the business landscape.  With the advent of Web 2.0 technologies, our society has come to expect interactivity and connectedness, and the world of industry and commerce has recognized the power of this new social trend.

According to a new study by Chadwich Martin Bailey and iModerate Research Technologies, 60% of Facebook fans and 79% percent of Twitter followers are more likely to recommend those brands after becoming a fan or follower.  [link]  

The Flamingo Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas

May 24, 2010
9:45 a.m. – 11:45 a.m.



The Social Media Revolution

Case Study:

Social Media & Business

Why social networks for business?

Social Media Statistics

The Basics:

Social Media Tips for Business

Privacy Issues




Facilitating Learning Through Social Media

A presentation for the Capstone Training Day for Florida State College
Online Professor Certificate Program
Classroom Professor Certificate Program
Faculty Certificate in Hybrid/Blended Course Delivery


Slide Presentation

We are currently in the midst of a cultural revolution. With the advent of Web 2.0 concepts and tools, we are no longer passive recipients of information. Unlike the one-way flow of information via television or radio of the past, the Internet has transformed our culture: we now expect to contribute and participate. For example, when shopping, reading news, or even selecting our political leaders, we have come to expect that we can add our reviews, share our opinions or ask important questions. As a participatory culture, we interact with our base of knowledge and our contributions become as valuable as the information initially presented.

In addition, the Internet has created a world in which teams of skilled individuals can work together regardless of physical distance and location. As a result, employers worldwide are expecting potential employees to enter the job market with the necessary skills for team collaboration.

Education must reflect this change in our culture.

The Advanced Technology Center in downtown Jacksonville

1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.

Staying Connected in a Disconnected World

A presentation to the Washington Association for Language Teaching


A quiet revolution has occurred in our society. As a result of Web 2.0 technologies, we now live in a participatory culture in which we are no longer passive receivers of information. As educators in this culture, it becomes increasingly important that our students learn such skills as communication, organization, and team work. Social media tools such as virtual learning environments, blogs, microblogs, folksonomies, and wikis have revolutionized the educational landscape and helped usher in an era of collaboration and camaraderie among teachers and students.

The Davenport Hotel
10 South Post Street
Spokane, WA

7:45 a.m. – 8:45 a.m. , Saturday, October 10, 2009


Participants will:

  • Develop a common familiarity with different communication/collaboration tools (current and emerging) through hands-on practice;
  • Learn about the use and effectiveness of these tools and see some examples of how these tools are applied;
  • Engage in a discussion about how these tools could be used to encourage collaboration among professional educators;
  • Predict what to expect over the next few years in the area of communication/collaboration tools and education.


Follow-up workshop:

“Harnessing the Power of New Technologies to Increase Community of Learning in Education”

Learn how to use such Web 2.0 technologies as Second Life, Skype, Blogger, Twitter, WetPaint and Delicious in this two-hour hands-on workshop. You’ll set up your own account, explore best practices, and examine how other educators are using these technologies. (Note: this will be the first time WAFLT has included a ³hands-on² technology workshop at a fall conference. Participants will need to bring their own laptop computers with wireless capabilities.)

Social Media in Education

A presentation to the National Education Association Academy

NEA Academy

Marriott Residence Inn Hughes Center
370 Hughes Center Drive

1:30 – 4:00 on Friday, October 2, 2009


Participants will:

  • Develop a common familiarity with different social media tools (current and emerging) through hands-on, practice;
  • Learn about the use and effectiveness of these tools and see some examples of how these tools are applied;
  • Engage in a discussion about how these tools should/could/do interact with online courses;
  • Examine the integration of social media tools in online education and discuss how best to assess the use of these tools;
  • Predict what to expect over the next few years in the area of social media tools and education.


  • Introduction
  • Blogs
  • Microblogs
  • Social Networks
  • Wikis
  • Folksonomies
  • Media Sharing
  • Podcasting
  • The Future
  • Discussion/Questions