DIY Open Content

wordpressopencontentWhen I first read Brian Lamb’s post on easy and inexpensive course hosting, I missed the link he made to a presentation by Jim Groom and D’Arcy Norman at the Open Education 2007 Conference.

But I just followed the link and I am impressed by the way they went about presenting the idea of building your own courses in Wordpress (and hosting them at They don’t just talk about it, they do it and share the experience, including the limitations with anyone who is interested.

They give five reasons for using to build open content. It is free, has a large community of users, it is easy to use, has lots of services and its portable (if you out grow it, you can take your stuff with you). If you want to extend it, add to the code, you can set up Wordpress on your own server.

That is what we do at the UNU Media Studio. We also benefit from accessing the large number of plug-ins available. We build on these plug-ins and share back with the community.

They are right – developing and sharing open content should not be rocket science – anyone should be able to do it.

by Brendan Barrett on February 18, 2008 - Comments (00)  

Wordpress as a publishing tool for OpenCourseWare

It is really exciting to see that David Wiley has been experimenting with Wordpress to re-publish his course on “blogs, wikis and new media.” Here at the UNU we have been building courses in Wordpress for some time now and we have published three so far. In fact most of our websites at the UNU Media Studio are built in Wordpress. So it is good to see others exploring this impressive tool!

Oh yes, we have been customizing existing plug-ins like polyglot (for multi-lingual blogs) and building new ones to handling quizzes and slideshows. We are going to post them soon as a contribution back to the Wordpress community. We have also made it possible for people to download the entire course, upload it to their own Wordpress site or just run it locally. This allows them to totally customize the course.

I like the related comment regarding the use of Wordpress for course development from
Brian Lamb in his posting “Ridiculously easy and inexpensive course hosting will never fly.” He writes “This approach is fatally flawed in a number of respects and it will never catch on. For one thing, it is far too cheap, and can never justify escalating technology infrastructure budgets. Worse, instructors and students could adopt this technology with minimal assistance or oversight from instructional technology specialists. In this profoundly unserious framework, there is nothing to prevent students from previewing courses before they take them, or reviewing courses later on. Indeed, some “learner” might benefit from this content without being an enrolled student at all!.”

All very good reasons to continue with this approach to course development.

by Brendan Barrett on February 17, 2008 - Comments (00)  

The Joys of Wordpress

pachyderm-services-newHere at the UNU Media Studio, we have been using Wordpress for almost all our projects since 2006. As such, it was really interesting to see a post from Alan Levine entitled Wordpress Dissected. Alan describes the delights of Wordpress, where you can simply blog or you can “get way down into the guts of the engine.” In his post, Alan explains how he customized the template and tweaked some plug-ins.

This is exactly the methodology that we follow at the UNU Media Studio through the teamwork of Sean Wood and David Jimenez on the template design, and with Oleg Butuzov doing the coding.

I really like the way that Alan put together the Pachyderm Services website and I can see that we have a lot to learn from him. Great work!

by Brendan Barrett on February 15, 2008 - Comments (00)  

From Dynamic to Static

MovementWhen we set out to create a static version of our WordPress based online courses we thought that with a little bit of clever programming we could make the conversion in no time. The process turned out to be a lot harder than we had envisaged but we worked out a basic methodology for getting the job done and we would like to share that with you below.
The first step was to download and use Teleport Pro software which crawls through a web site and downloads each page, graphic, etc. and rewrites the links to make the site locally referenced. Paying attention to unnecessary links such as comments and rss feeds while setting up a Teleport project will save you a lot of time later on.
Once the whole site was downloaded we started the tedious process of going through every page and doing a search and replace of multiple lines of html. After trying to do this manually, we realised the best way to proceed was to write a batch script to do the same thing to every html file and this saved a lot of time.
Other issues appeared when we discovered that Teleport Pro does not replace some of the javascript lines included by some of the plug-ins we are using our Wordpress site. This required more manual updating of pages. Also, the “SWF plug-in” we were using caused some minor problems when it created a new version of the player for each instance of a flash video appearing on a page. Our general approach was to keep testing the pages, checking outstanding issues and repeating until each page was working 100%.
The last outstanding issue and one of the largest challenges was to replicate the Wordpress search function by adding a Javascript search function to each page for locally based search. Well, all that sounds simpler than it actually was, but in the end it has been possible to convert three course modules so far from dynamic to static sites. This means that people who want to download the entire course modules can do so and can run them locally or on CD-ROM. This is very important in the parts of the world that are only occasionally connected to the Internet.

by sean on November 20, 2007 - Comments (03)  

A clean and professional Wordpress theme for your courses or blog

wordpress_theme.pngAs a small contribution to the Wordpress community, the UNU Media Studio is delighted to release a Wordpress theme based on the design of our EIA and SEA courses.

The theme has been tested on WordPress 2.1.3 with Firefox and Safari, and complies with with IE6/7 too.

Download the “UNU_free” theme here and Please do NOT link to the file directly!

by david on February 7, 2008 - Comments (08)  

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