I first started with websites online with portallanguageservices.com which was at first an HTML site I made with Dreamweaver templates. It was great at first and I was adding information for my ESL (English as a Second Language) students to look at and some fun games for practicing vocabulary and tests for reading. At the time, I only knew HTML so I was just limited to what was not dynamic or software online to use as-is. After several months of adding content and seeing my visitors rise, I also saw that manually updating/adding HTML pages was getting quite tedious. I was having trouble getting a consistent look and I found myself spending time on getting the same design on each page often more than in writing my content!
I next went on to try Wordpress (which was much more limited then. It was before tags were added around version 2.3), Joomla, Drupal, etc. I found Joomla to be tedious and Drupal to have a poor interface so I stuck with Wordpress and HTML.
Next I went to see if I could use any software for creating online courses for giving tests to my off-line students to take when they were not in class with me. I tried Atutor but the lack of help was unnerving. It worked and I was able to give tests, but I knew it wasn't anything I could easily modify or improve myself. I finally got rid of Atutor with much regret after trying to set up a new course finding that half of my page content was cut off. It seems they decided that we shouldn't have pages with a lot of text! I couldn't get the Paypal system to work right either since that was just an add-on and the instructions were vague. I could pay, but the system wouldn't update.
I next went on to try Moodle. I admit the community is much larger and people were really friendly. There seems to be several ESL/EFL teachers online willing to help out, but I couldn't figure out how to create a course. I know Moodle is powerful and can do very much what you want, but the interface was not very intuitive and I didn't want to have to take a course or read a book to create a course! I was shocked to discover that almost a year and half have gone by since I joined Moodle. I still have my Moodle install online, but I don't have it linked to my pages so it shouldn't come up for searches. In any case, the courses I was working on are set as unavailable.
Not much after joining Moodle, I started working on integrating affiliate datafeeds to my websites since I really didn't care for paying for Popshops which didn't quite meet my needs and without good sales, who wants to be paying a monthly fee? With many hours of self-study and asking a couple friends in a forum some questions when I got stuck, I learned how to write PHP pages using mysql for databases. Every so often I've added more code of my own or hacked other free scripts getting better. I'm far from an expert, but I am not a newbie in the least.
Anyone can take a quiz which makes it very internet friendly, but only registered and logged in users can see their answers in the gradebook while admins (think teachers) can see the gradebook scores for any test or student. I like this system because they just have to log in to Wordpress and then navigate to the gradebook to see their results.
What more needs to be done? I need to do quite a lot of code clean up and I'd need to make an options page before distributing the code. Most of the settings are hard-coded and I've been using a separate database instead of the wordpress one although that would be easy to switch. Other items on my to do list is to add recording of passing grades from some of the activities that are not necessarily scored, but I'd like to see that a student did the activity. I'm afraid I'd have to learn AJAX so that might be in 2011 or 2012 depending on what information I come across.Finally I'd eventually like to set up PayPal for membership to get certain features yet I'm not eager to learn their API or pay hundreds of dollars a year for a membership plugin.
Is anyone out there going through the same issues, just wishing that Wordpress had a LMS quiz/testing/grading/gradebook system set up?
I would like to have Wordpress (or something as easy to use and expandable) for my LMS base because it is a great tool for communication. Most LMS are very closed system which is fine for an established schools, but not so great for private teachers and online educators. With Wordpress you can add content and the search engines can find it quickly.
I also think Wordpress would make a great LMS base because all of the busy work of registration and notification of new users. Users can log in and edit their profiles right away.
Wordpress has hundreds of PHP based themes and custom page template options. You can easily use a free theme from wordpress.org to use or customize one to your hearts content by changing the CSS and PHP of the templates.
Wordpress only isn't an LMS because of the lack of plugins for managing course content and record keeping. I have seen some slow progress with a plugin for quizzes (but no grade keeping!) and another for a gradebook which is no longer supported (yet you have to mantain a CSV file with scores to use it).
I've given up on hoping someone else will do it for me so I decided yesterday to hack my favorite and previously abandoned PHP quiz script fixing its per-quiz table records to include a gradebook and a script for viewing scores of tests. The missing element was user (student) management. By using current user checks in Wordpress, I was able to show quiz scores based on level. The admin sees scores for tests by all students when logged in. A normal Wordpress user only will see his or her scores when logged in. A guest quiz taker or someone not logged in will see a page reminding them to log in or to register if they need to. If you go to the "reading" option in the menu there and select an article, you will then be able to read then answer comprehension questions. After adding your name and e-mail address, you get your results and an e-mail message with the test name and score for your personal records. A logged in user seeing the quiz will have their name and e-mail filled out using information from their Wordpress profile. Their user ID is also recorded when the grades are saved to the database.
Can you think of a better way of doing this? I'm trying to keep it simple so that if I later switch to a different CMS as my LMS backend, it wouldn't take more than a few days to reintegrate the script. I didn't want to create a separate user registration system since that just complicates it and it would break eventually as Wordpress gets updated.
What are you looking for in an LMS for Wordpress? What should it do or not do? I'm very limited in time since I need to work hard to pay the bills, but if I get help or enough donations, I might be able to fix it up enough for testing by other teachers.
- Need a way to record Pass/fail grades for activities online
- Need a way for a teacher to manually add grades for activities that are offline or cannot be checked by the server.
- Need a way to add more question types. Currently only works for T/F and multiple choice. I'd like to add a drag and drop ordering question for process or timeline questions. I'd also like to add matching and sorting questions.
- Need a way to calculate a running grade for all tests on a site or a grade for a specific group of quizzes as courses by level or topic.
- There is no way to enter a quiz as having more weight than others for when I later add grade calculation.
- Need a script for quickly creating quiz forms and saving those forms to the quiz directory.
- Need a system for giving and receiving written homework although a special contact form would probably cover most circumstances since homework files could be email attachments.
- Need a way to add a calendar of events and assignments for courses with specific start and finish dates. This doesn't matter for open ended courses, but schools would want one. I believe there is a plugin for this (yet no gradebook for recording that information). Wordpress has a calendar widget and posts can be scheduled for different days in the future. You could schedule posts and put them in an assignment category however students can't see new posts until they go live whereas a normal syllabus would let you see every topic that has to be covered. Pages could be used with topics and links, but a huge list of everything to complete might demotivate a student.
Recent developments online make many past needs unnecessary. Twitter and Facebook have effectively replaced the need for a chat. It can be very easy to see updates and answer quick questions.