Digital Services support a number of e-learning tools within the University, including the institutional VLE (Moodle), Feedback Studio by Turnitin and Adobe Connect. The underlying pedagogical value that these tools provide to teaching and learning was vital. The team was committed to provide the best possible support to their users and pedagogy was a priority.
Until I joined, they have been supporting staff with pdf guides for which the team didn’t receive very positive feedback. Therefore I had to rethink not only the platform that could be used to host the content, but also rethink the content itself from the ground up.
WordPress is a CMS that Oxford Brookes University was already familiar with. Their staff development department have been running an unofficial WordPress platform which would allow staff and students to host their own blogs and portfolios. Apart from that, WordPress is an open-source business and the tool powers more than 26% of the web, it provides high quality writing experience and it is highly customisable.
The new support site needed to be searchable, with a nice layout and structure that people are familiar with. So, I introduced a knowledge base layout. There are services in the market that already provide that, but these might an overkill and mainly ticketing systems. So, I used a custom theme and custom plugins, which would transform a blogging platform into a knowledge base.
The end result
For the structure I aimed at using pedagogical processes rather than the technological tools themselves, eg. ‘Online assessment and feedback’ instead of just ‘Feedback Studio’ or ‘Teaching with the VLE’ rather than ‘Moodle’.
Rethinking the content
I was responsible for writing and polishing most of the content, though the long-term plan was for a group of learning technologists to contribute their own articles. I was first to introduce to the team the concept of multimodal content, which means that an article does not contain only text and images, but also a variety of multimedia content, such as video, HTML5 animations, H5P activities, quizzes for the readers to check their knowledge.
This project led me to pursue a business case for the University to support WordPress and make it available for students and staff. I was able to persuade senior staff in my directorate by demonstrating how WordPress can be used for students portfolios or research websites and I am now in the process of liaising with colleagues from IT Services to host multiple instances of WordPress in Google Cloud.