Taking My WordPress Class Online

Because of the pandemic I too have to start teaching online. I’ve been setting everything up and I’m going to track my progress and findings under the teaching online-tag. This post is about my preparations to make this class available online.

The Class

The course students are taking consists of one class every week for (nearly) the entire school year, they get different subjects during this year and my subject, WordPress, is one of the last ones. It is not a straight-up, plain-old, WordPress class. During the year they have worked on a project and made a design for a website or an app, during my class those designs will be turned into actual sites or webapps with WordPress.

The Situation

The class is in Amsterdam at MK24 and I was going to fly back there on March 19 but now I’m staying in New York City. Not a bad deal by any stretch of the imagination but let’s say I’m very glad that my class is an evening class. With the time difference between Amsterdam and New York, it will be 1 or 2pm in New York (depending on whether the clocks have changed in Amsterdam as well) when class starts.

The Tools

All the content for the classes will be on one WordPress website and each student will get their own WordPress site in a folder of the main site.

Since I’m being paid by MK24 to teach this class, I cannot show you all of it. You can look at the public part at digitaldesignyear.nl but most of the information for students, the classes, the video conferencing, is restricted to students.

Students can log into the main site. Their roll, in WordPress terms, is Subscriber. Once logged in, they will never see the admin area of the site or the WordPress toolbar at the top but they will be able to see a lot more content, including the page with the video conferencing embedded and all the classes and resources for the classes.

What I’m using to build this site:

  • GeneratePress – a solid, fast, neutral and versatile theme.
  • BuddyMeet – to embed an instance of jitsi.org. I like the thought of having the video conferencing software be part of the website that contains everything about their class. I provide a link so they can use Jitsi directly if they prefer but they can also log into the site and go to the “Meeting online” page and that will add them to the conference call automatically.
  • Custom Post Type UI – I’ve added the custom post type Classes and the taxonomy Subject. All of my classes are under the subject WordPress, just in case one of the other teachers wants to add their own classes.
  • GP Premium – the premium version of GeneratePress, not because this theme is perfect but because it gives me such a solid foundation to build almost any website on, and because they are so helpful on their forums.
  • Koko Analytics – so I can keep an eye on whether students are actually looking at all the material. It doesn’t collect any identifying information but if none of them ever looks at the Resources page, I know I need to direct them more forcefully.
  • Link Library – to easily add to the Resources page. (For an idea of what I’m putting on that list, you can take a look at my Resources page on my Today I Learned blog.)
  • Login Widget with Shortcode – so I can easily add the login form to the home page of the site.
  • Restrict User Access – this plugin allows me to make the content only accessible to my students. Pretty easy to use and lightweight.
  • WP Show Posts – I’m using the free version of this plugin to have a little more control over the archive page for my custom post type Classes.

I’m using some other plugins as well but nothing that is specific to teaching online.

Thoughts so far

Based on my recommendation the teacher of this week’s class (I start next week) tried out Jitsi and send me a quick email to tell me that though it changed the dynamic of course, it worked well, so that makes me hopeful. He is going to tell me more later this week.

One of the reasons I chose Jitsi is because it is open source and has a good community and because you don’t have to have an account or install any software. It is particular though about the browser you use. I put a list together for my students and I thought I would add it here for you:

Jitsi Supported Browsers

  • Chrome – Optimal experience. Windows, Mac, Linux. [Tested by me]
  • Brave – I had an optimal experience when I used this on the jitsi.org site itself once I allowed autoplay. But if you try the embedded version on this site, it doesn’t work because of Brave’s focus on privacy. If you would prefer to use Brave, please go directly to the Jitsi website. Windows, Mac, Linux. [Tested by me]
  • Opera – It doesn’t support screen sharing, aside from that it works well. Windows, Mac, Linux. [Tested by me]
  • Vivaldi – Should work at least as well as Opera but I haven’t tested it. Windows, Mac, Linux.
  • Chromium – Should be an optimal experience but is best suited for Linux. Find it through the repository.
  • Firefox – You get a warning when you connect, and I had some weird connectivity issues. I had to restart the browser. Chat didn’t work. Windows, Mac, Linux. [Tested by me]
  • Safari – Only sound, no video or screen sharing, but the chat works. Mac. [Tested by me]
  • Edge – Not supported. Windows. [Tested by me]
  • New Edge – Might work because it is based on Chromium/Chrome. Windows, Mac.
  • IE11 – Not supported. Windows. [Tested by me]

If you have any questions, thoughts or suggestions, I would love to hear them!

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