I’m an independent learning consultant and strategist specializing in digital learning solutions, so unless I’m working with a solutions provider, or my client has a large budget or programming staff, I generally need to put on my MacGyver hat and find an easy, quick and inexpensive way to demonstrate a proof of concept/strategy, host content, or facilitate on learning related topics (social, blended, collaboration, eLearning..).
My go-to tool for the last few years has been WordPress because there is a plugin for almost any functionality imaginable (CMS, LMS, Online Community, Video/Podcasts). It’s also relatively quick and easy to setup and test what you need and then tinker or try something else if it’s not quite right.
I have an unlimited Linux-based hosting account with several domains and my hosting provider makes installing WordPress as easy as clicking a button (actually, it really is just clicking a button). The cost of having a hosting account with a few domains where you can install WordPress or CMS tools like Drupal is relatively inexpensive (less than $200/year) so it’s a worthwhile investment that can provide a lot of flexibility.
Now I don’t profess to be a WordPress expert or developer, but I’m pretty proficient at searching for templates and plugins until I find what I need. If I need something really complex, I do reach out to my WordPress friend-developers, but generally I’m able to set things up on my own for at least the purposes of demonstrating a proof of concept or a pilot.
I recently used WordPress together with BuddyPress (a plugin that provides you with social functionality that allows you to turn your static WordPress site into a community) to support an introduction to blended learning program I was facilitating.
Because I could not in good conscience facilitate a blended learning session that was not blended, WordPress and BuddyPress really helped anchor the program by providing an asynchronous delivery method that also allowed learners to interact with me and each other. I’ll write about how the program was delivered from a learning perspective in another post.
Installing BuddyPress was not without any challenges, especially in terms of making my site content only visible to registered users. After some trial and error with different templates (not all WordPress templates work equally well with BuddyPress), and some plugins to restrict content < thanks to Jane Hart (@C4LPT) for her recommendations>, I found that Private Community for BP lite gave me what I needed by allowing the home page to be the log in page with all other content restricted. <The three plugins I tried were: Private Community for BP lite, WP-Members, and Page Restrict. >
Once I had access set up, the configuration of the site and social components was relatively straight forward and of course, the content management side is always great with WordPress.
If you’re looking for a quick, easy and inexpensive way to add another dimension to a learning initiative and don’t have the budget, time or technical expertise to invest into a large implementation of a LMS, social collaborative suite, CMS (content management system) or just a way to deliver responsive mobile-enabled content and performance support tools, I’d highly recommend getting started with WordPress.