What do you do for inquisitive parents who want to know what’s going on in their child’s classroom if the class is entirely locked away inside an LMS? (I’m switching to the term vLE, so I’ll start using that now). The options for parents are a little limited. The parent can be set up with an Auditor role and be able to log in and see what’s going on inside, but it’s a little cumbersome to set up and parents most likely won’t love having to remember a login and password. They may have seen other teachers maintain a classroom website that contains information and updates on what’s going on in the classroom and liked having that resource.
So do you maintain both a classroom website (or blog), and your course inside the vLE? Some of this is doubling up on work. If you’re an active blended or eLearning teacher, you’re already writing updates in your course news stream. It would be a hassle to have to do that twice in different tools.
I may have a solution for you. When I was an eLearning teacher, I used an embedded blog right in my D2L course, instead of the D2L news tool. At the time, I used Blogger and it looked like the picture below.
Unfortunately, due to browser changes in the past year, any site that is not considered “secure” (https) is not permitted to be embedded. This means that blogger can’t be embedded anymore. But, WordPress can, and it’s pretty awesome.
It’s not too hard to swing over to WordPress when you want to write something in your blog. (I suggest putting a shortcut link in your bookmarks bar). It’s pretty easy to use. When logged in, you’ll see a “Post” link at the top. #Simple. Anything you write in your WordPress blog can be viewable by any interested person on the internet, while the rest remains secure inside the vLE. This way, there’s no messing around with auditor accounts or suggesting that parents use their student’s login (when parents really shouldn’t be given that kind of digital access to communicate with other students in the class).
The cool part is, it will most likely look a lot better. Many WordPress themes are pretty sweet looking, and a lot of them will naturally reshape themselves to fit the size of the widget it will appear in. Try using the “Featured Image” feature. On many themes, it places an image with the title of the blog post in a variety of different ways. You’ll find that WordPress forces your posts to look great. D2L almost does the opposite. The news tool in D2L is, unfortunately, very limited when it comes to appearance.
You can put your WordPress blog in a widget that takes up 2/3rds of the width of the course, or the full width, depending on what you select in your homepage set up. There’s also the ability to just use the blog as the homepage itself and not embed it into a news widget.
I was just playing around with it and embedded this blog into a test course. You can see the result in the title image of this post.
Notice that WordPress shrinks the title of the blog to fit the widget size, so you’ll have to consider whether or not you want the title of your course to be in D2L, or in WordPress, keeping in mind that some people see only the WordPress blog. You might want to choose a WordPress theme that allows a bigger title.
If you give it a shot, I think you’ll find that it makes it pretty easy to keep your class transparent for both parents and students.