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New Search Features To Make Finding Content On Your Campus Site EASIER!

We’ve just rolled out some great new features onto Edublogs Campus – which will make it considerably easier for your community to find content on your site!

Displaying these features on your homepage is as simple as:

1. Go to Pages > Edit in your main blog’s dashboard

2.  You should see three new pages – Blogs, Site Search and Tags

New pages created in Pages > Edit

3.  Now check out your Campus homepage and presto! The pages should now be displaying on your homepage.

Blogs, Site Search and Tags displayed on Campus homepage

4.  And, on the off chance the pages don’t auto created all you need to do is quickly open up the Blogs page in Edit Page mode and click Update Page

Updating Blogs page to autocreate the pages

Here’s a quick overview of each.

Blogs Directory

One of the things we’ve been asked a lot for of late has been a simple, attractive way of locating blogs on your site!

Well, you asked, and we answered – introducing the Blogs Directory.

The Blogs Directory displays all the blogs on your entire Campus site alphabetically and in a paginated form on its own Blogs page on your homepage.

Now your community can quickly locate a specific blog and then click on the link to check out that blog!

Alternatively you can search for a blog URL using the search option!

Check it out in action on Edublogs @ Caroline Chisholm Catholic College!

Example of Blogs Directory in Action

Please note:

  • To display avatars your blog users will need to upload their blog avatar via Settings > Blog Avatar.

Global Site Search

So you want a tool that that allows anyone to search across your site – without the need to Google etc?

Here it is!

On your Site Search page, you simply need to whack in your search terms and you’ll get a beautiful paginated listing of latest posts containing that term… with avatars attached!

Check it out in action on Literacy 44!

Example of Global Site Search

Please note:

  • This feature only searches posts on public blogs — any posts on private blogs (only visible to logged in users) isn’t searchable.
  • To display avatars your users will need to upload their avatar via Users  > Your Avatar.

Global Site Tags

And the best for last — Global Site Tags!

This powerful and elegant tool allows you to do three things.

First up it provides you with a global tags widget so that you can simply show a beautiful tag cloud on your homepage or your users can add it to their blog!

Just go to Appearance > Widgets and add Global Site Tags widget to your blog sidebar.

Global Site Tags widget

And it auto creates a page called “Tags” on your Campus homepage which gives you a full size page view of them too.

Check it out in action on Literacy 44!

Example of Global Site Tag page in action

Please note:

  • Tags on private posts display on the Global Site tags page but if you click on the link and no posts are listed this means they are all posts on private blogs (only visible to logged in users).
  • To display avatars your users will need to upload their avatar via Users  > Your Avatar.

Other Info That’s Good To Know

To get the most out of these features you need to either:

  1. Use a blog theme on your Campus homepage that includes navigation links at the top of the blog to pages
  2. Or add the Pages widget to the sidebar of your Campus homepage via Appearance > Widgets

Here’s our Top 3 Tips For Designing Your Homepage to help you get the most out of your Homepage!

And on the off chance you don’t want to use one or more of these features on your homepage — just go to Pages > Edit and un-publish the page you want to remove.

For WordPress MU users you can download these features from WPMU DEV Premium:

  1. Blogs Directory
  2. Global Site Search
  3. Global Site Tags

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Check Out The Cool New Features Under The Bonnet Of Edublogs Campus!

We’ve got some big plans for Edublogs.org for 2010 — including cool new features.

The best news is we’ve already installed some of the new features onto Edublogs Campus– so I thought you might like a quick overview of them.

P.S We haven’t forgotten everyone else.  We’re planning to upload these new features to:

  1. Edublog.org within the next few weeks
  2. WPMU DEV Premium for WordPress MU users

Users menu structureAdd New Users

This is a nice simple feature, but very powerful tool for creating and adding new users to your blog in batches of up to 15 users.

This is the fastest way to add students quickly to your class blog — if they don’t have a username.

Add New User page

Off course this means there’s now four tools that create usernames slightly differently so here’s a quick summary of their differences.

Summary of difference between tools

Limiting who see comments in dashboard

You told us you didn’t want students who are contributors or authors seeing unapproved or spam comments — to prevent younger students from seeing inappropriate comments.

So we’ve:

  1. Removed the Recent Comments module from the dashboard of contributors and authors
  2. Made it so they can only see approved comments on their comments page

Now they can’t see any comment until you’ve approved it!

Giving Contributors ability to upload media

You want to moderate all student posts by making them a contributor but that’s been annoying you because contributors can’t upload media such as images, videos….

Add media icons

Problem solved!

We’ve adjusted the role of contributors so they can now upload their own media and you can review their posts before publishing them!

My Blogs

Sick of the endless searching for your students dashboard on your My Blogs page?

We heard your pain….and transformed your one column into four!

New My Blog Page

Clicking That Pesky File URL

Been caught out by remembering to click on File URL before Insert into Post when you’ve been uploading audio, video etc files to your posts?

Yes it’s driven us crazy too so we’ve done a quick patch to solve the problem….now you don’t need to remember as it does it for you!

P.S. Heaps of schools, districts and Universities are taking advantage of our 30 Day free trial of Edublogs Campus, get in touch with us any time to start yours!

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Try Edublogs Campus for Free

Get a $100 Amazon voucher for yourself and another for your school!

As an aside from normal programming we thought we should let you know about a promotion that we’re running for Edublogs Campus.

It’s pretty simple, we’re offering anyone who refers us a new Edublogs Campus client a US$100 Amazon voucher for themselves, and another US$100 for their school!

It’s pretty easy to claim too, just contact us directly regarding the Campus site and let us know either that you’d like us to set up a site for them, or that you referred them.

And it couldn’t be any easier to get going, just take advantage of our 30 day free trial.

giftvoucher

At the end of the day we want our approach to sales and marketing to engage you guys, our users – and give you and your institutions the opportunity to benefot from letting people know about Campus!

So contact us today with your referral and claim your vouchers :)

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Getting More From Your Homepage with WPMU-Nelo

On a WordPress MU site you have the main blog and all the other blogs are created as sub-directories (like example.com/blog1) or sub-domains (like blog1.example.com).   This main blog, also called your homepage, is the hub of your site; it’s the first page people see when they visit your site.

Your homepage is really important; used well it supports and encourages blogging within your organisation.

Unfortunately I find it’s often neglected so I decided to do a series of posts on getting more out of your homepage.  Each post will showcase a different site and then explain how they’ve achieve the look!

So to kick off the series I’ve decided to start with National University of Singapore’s homepage because it’s an excellent example of a clever use of providing all the required information, in an easy to understand format while grabbing your attention.

Image of National University of Singapore's Homepage

They’ve used WPMU-Nelo which is a popular theme because it’s one of the most customisable WPMU themes and provides a stylish, clean, professional looking site for minimum fuss.

It’s included in all Edublogs Campus sites and can be downloaded from WPMU DEV Premium.

It originally looked like the screenshot below:

Image of WPMU-nelo

Here’s how they’ve created the look:

With WPMU-Nelo you have the choice of a custom homepage (static front page) or a post page.  They’ve used the custom homepage.

In Theme options they have changed the background, link, navigation and footer colors–

1) Background color in Blog Layout Setting to blue
Image of changing background color

2) Link color under Blogs Font Settings to blue

3) Navigation and footer colour under Navigation & Footer Cooler settings to orange

Image of changing colors

Most of the homepage look was created by uploading images using Appearance > Custom Homepage.

Image of custom homepage

To achieve best results upload using the sizes indicated in the screenshot.

Images of images on the homepage

The Homepage intro and text at bottom of page was added using HMTL code in Appearance > Custom Homepage and links to the following pages:

  1. Their sign up page – so users can create their own blogs  or usernames
  2. A directory – so their community to check out examples of different blogs on the site
  3. A FAQ – to answers commonly asked questions and provide support for their users

Here is where they added their intro text:

Image of intro text

Here is where they added their bottom text.

Please note with Nelo:

  • You have to upload images to each bottom box
  • You can upload almost any HTML embed code to these homepage boxes (for example, YouTube Videos)

Image of adding text

The log In & Admin and Disclaimers on the right hand side of their homepage was created using a Meta Widget and a Text widget with HTML in Appearance > Widgets

Please note on Nelo:

  • For a custom homepage you add widgets to the Home Top Right
  • For the pages you add widgets to the Sidebar

Images of sidebars

For more information on working with your homepage refer to:

  1. Your blog theme options
  2. Changing themes site wide
  3. Changing themes on a per blog basis
  4. Changing your homepage appearance

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Organizational blogging + WordPress MU = Success

While there are numerous blogging options available not all of these are ideal for organisational blogging. In my honest opinion WordPress MU, either by hosting your own site or using a hosted WordPress MU solution like Edublogs Campus, is the best option.

As most people don’t appreciate the difference between WordPress MU and blogging using Edublogs, WordPress.com, Blogger and TypePad that probably the best place to start!

Intro To WordPress MU

When you sign up for a blog on Edublogs, WordPress.com, Blogger and TypePad these companies host your blog which means you can get on with the job of writing your posts and blog design. The highest level of access you have is as an administrator and because it is a hosted solution features like adding extra plugins or uploading themes aren’t possible.

When you want to hosts lots of WordPress blogs on the same domain then you need to use WordPress MU (WordPress Multiuser and also known as WPMU). Both Edublogs or WordPress.com use WordPress MU but Edublogs has been highly customised to include features that specifically assist educators with using the blogs with students.

WordPress MU and Site Admin Users

Image of user rolesSchools and universities who want the highest level of control and access to all their blogs look at solutions like hosting their own WordPress MU site or Edublogs Campus because site admin provides this.

On a Edublogs, WordPress.com, Blogger and TypePad the highest level of access is as an administrator. But with your own WordPress MU site you can assign key staff to be site admin users.

A site admin user is the next level of access, and responsibility, above an administrator.

In really simple terms, if you have problems with a student, as site admin user, you can immediately log into the dashboard of their blog, without being attached as a user to that blog, then edit/delete a post/comment plus change whether that student can access their blog.

For more information check out The Site Admin User Guide.

Alternatively to experience being a site admin, log into University of Blogs with username: admin password: pass. You can make as many changes as you like because this sandpit site is refreshed to its original form every hour.

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The Key Points To Consider When Choosing A Blogging Platform

So why a blog to focus on using blogs in an educational organisational context?

Well there’s a huge difference between individual students and classes blogging to an entire of organization taking on blogs. Let me explain why and provide key points you should consider when choosing a blogging platform.

Why An Organizational approach?

Definitely individual teachers blogging with their students or class are achieving good outcomes. But unfortunately it’s often limited to a few educators within that organisation.

For greater adoption of 21st Century skills an institution-wide approach that strongly supports the program is required. Teachers working in isolation rarely effect institutional change. Coordinated approaches, done well, leads to amazing achievements and incredible transformations.

What to Consider When Choosing a Blogging Platform

While there are numerous blogging options available not all of these are ideal for organisational blogging. Sure maintaining records of all student usernames and passwords, or being co-admin, for a class is doable (but hard work) try doing that for all blogs in an institution.

Here are key points you should consider for an institution-wide approach:

# 1 Management

Ease of managing all blogs is crucial when you have a large number on a site.

You need software that provides access any blog on the site while enabling you to make changes to users or blog details, and adjust what features are available for all users and on a per user basis.

#2 Control

Ability to control what content is posted and who can see the blogs is an important aspect for most educational organizations. A minimum requirement is the ability to access the backend of any blog to edit comments, posts, pages or change the role of a user.

Take the time to consider how much control you want over your users to ensure these types of features are included. For example, Do you want to make some blog private (only visible to logged in users) and others visible to anyone? Do you want to moderate posts, comments, words to minimize the chances of inappropriate content being published?

# 3 Transferability

Some custom made blogging software can’t export the blogs to standard blogging software – this means, in the worst case scenario, you won’t be able to move the blogs to another platform.

Make sure whatever blogging solution you choose you can easily export content from the platform into any other standard blogging software.

#4 Features

Every type of blogging software varies considerably in terms of features.

Some software is more suitable than others. You need to think about:

  1. Does it include features your users will like?
  2. Can extra features be added, or developed, that help your users OR improve your ability to manage/control the blogs?

# 5 Hosting

It is really important to consider who is going to host your site.

While you can host the site yourself you do need to appreciate as the number of blogs increases the site becomes harder to manage and skills required become very specialised.

There is a considerable difference between looking after your own single install of a blog compared to other users blogs. You will shed a lot more than a few tears if something bad happened to all the blogs on your site.

# 6 Support

For an institution-wide blogging approach to work your users require support. While you might like to think being a blogger and how to use a blog dashboard is obvious, it isn’t. For most new users it’s all incredibly frightening.

You need to consider:

  1. How you will support your users in your organization?
  2. If using a hosting blogging solution – How much support they provide? How quickly is the turn around time for support requests?

# 7 Cost

With costs you need to consider the initial costs and the ongoing cost commitments. These ongoing costs increase as the number of blogs on the site grows due to increased hosting requirements and more specialized technical skills required to manage them.

FINAL THOUGHTS

So what have I missed? Are there any other key points that should be considered? Or should I have expanded on some of the points?

I’m also looking for examples of blogging sites used by educational organizations. Please leave a comment, with a link, if you are happy for me to showcase your site.

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Welcome to The Campus

So… with The Edublogger over a year old, we thought that it was about time to consider not only the individuals out there using blogs in their teaching, research and general educational contexts – but also the innovative, progressive and exciting institutions that are using blogs, and the people who are driving them forward.

So that’s what this blog is going to be about – using blogs in an educational organisational context.

Whether it’s as eporfolios, department websites, journaling, professional development or as the basis of an online learning system itself.

And sure, we’re going to probably be looking a fair bit at Edublogs Campus (our institutional blogging platform) but this is strictly not a blog about that… we’re hoping that it’s going to be useful to any institution using blogs – whether they host their own WordpPress MU blogs, run all their blogs off Blogger or ePals or (shudder) even Sharepoint.

So, if you like the sound of that, grab a subscription to our feed or use the form in the sidebar to subscribe by email.

We’re looking forward to helping blogging in schools, colleges, districts and universities take a giant leap forward.

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