From UBC Wiki


Discussions may occur anywhere in an open course, but there may be times when you want to bring the course community together around some shared ideas, challenges, themes or topics for discussion - in which case you will want that to occur on the course site.

  • Comments: this is the simplest version of discussion and easy to implement with WP basic platform (no plug-ins needed). Comments can be a low barrier way of focusing a discussion. There are a few number of useful aspects to using comments: Comments can be added to any page or post; this allows you to add a discussion to a content item; Comments and replies can be threaded; You can link to comments so that you can refer; Using an <href> tag students can add hyperlinks to comments to share with the group. An example of using comments is the Flexible ISW at UBC that has used comments as the main discussions. The reason this program adopted comments rather than a plugin, a form or posts is to connect content with the particular page and to make it lightweight and simple for the facilitators to set-up.
  • Disqus: (pronounced "discuss") Disqus is a third-party commenting system that has more features than the WP comments system, such as favouriting and upvoting. Many Tumblr sites use Disqus for commenting (because there are no native comments in Tumblr), such as this great site by a DS106 participant--you can see an example of Disqus comments at the end of this post: Here is a tutorial on how to install Disqus on a self-hosted WordPress site (requires a plugin, so you can't do it on
  • bbpress: a way to add discussion forums to a WordPress site; see bbPress website here. This blog post gives "A new user's experience installing and using bbPress," which is both a kind of tutorial and commentary.
  • Pulse-Press (Theme): Pulsepress turns WordPress into a private, social media style environment for instructors classes as a backchannel. Pulsepress utilizes written responses and comments rather than multiple choice questions. PulsePress also is used as a course blog tool to facilitate discussion. PulsePress eliminates the need for students to go to the blog dashboard to contribute and this can make it easier to contribute and the threaded discussion functionality allows students to easily view each other's comments. PulsePress also has tagging and @mentions that can be leveraged to drive interaction. Link to PulsePress theme download
  • Gravity Forms Gravity Forms is a WordPress plugin that creates and adds forms to WordPress sites. Gravity Forms are able to output into post fields and this can be used in teaching and learning. Posts can then be categorized and shared onto a course blog/site. We have used this approach for the TWP site Activity Bank. Gravity forms can be used for discussion by posing a question or an setting up an activity for the course, workshop or class and then having other students respond to the posts that are created. Gravity Forms (Plugin)




  • gravity forms. If you are designing self assessment quiz-type activities, gravity forms allows for feedback according to choice/selection on a quiz item. LearnDash (the WP LMS plug-in) has much more limited functionality when it comes to feedback - but better functionality when it comes to grading/weighting, etc.)
  • Peer assessment: Any ideas how to do peer assessment in WordPress? Please submit to our Resource Collection!
  • Portfolio assessment: WordPress is been used as a tool for learning portfolios in used in different contexts in higher ed. At UBC there are at least 10 programs and courses that use WordPress learning portfolios to assess student learning. Examples at UBC include, teacher education, Dental Hygiene, Pharmacy, Dentistry and the Masters of Educational Technology, example of an MET Portfolio. In each of these programs students create artifacts that provide evidence that they have met programme goals or competencies. Portfolio assessment, can allow students to show evidence of their learning in a more creative, and flexible way than traditional course assessments. Instructors often use comments and/or meet with students to provide formative and summative feedback on their learning portfolios. The portfolio provides a critical opportunity for purposeful, mentored reflections and analysis of evidence for both improvement and assessment of students’ learning. Such a process is a rich, convincing, and adaptable method of recording intellectual growth and involving students in a critically reflective, collaborative process that augments learning as a community endeavour. Read more about Portfolio assessment.


Contributions to an open online course are usually created by participants and hosted on a blog, wiki, image or video hosting space and brought into the course via feed or embed code.

Wiki embeds

This approach is essentially separating the content layer (hosted elsewhere) from the presentation layer (WordPress). This strategy works well for us at UBC in our use of the UBCwiki (Mediawiki) and WordPress together to manage content. Authoring in the UBCwiki is easier and requires less user management so (provided you set up a flexible structure for authoring content) you can have many users creating content and assemble it in the way that makes sense for your course or project. Examples include:


The FeedWP plug in allows you to bring in the content of participants from their own sites or hosts. This plug-in is sort of the linchpin of open courses in that it allows for the creation of a hub - where activity/learning can be shared, commented on and made visible as a collective.

  • FeedWP (the plug in)
  • FeedWP 101 Alan Levine has an excellent series of posts on his blog describing the process of using feeds and FeedWP - the plug-in. This is the first in the series, and links to the others can be found at the bottom of this one.
  • Alan has also done a nice screencast on using FeedWordPress.


Another way to bring in participant contributions is through the use of gravity forms - which are very flexible and can handle input of content/ contributions as well as assessments/quizzes. We are using gravity forms on TWP15 for the sign up form, work-in-progress and the assignment bank. Alan Levine (again) has taken this concept up a notch to build a custom WordPress theme that doesn't use gravity forms (which can be costly) yet offers a way to create an assignment bank. His documentation is below.

  • gravity forms.
  • ds106 assignment bank - WordPress theme:
  • If you want a free and easy alternative, you can use Google Forms, though this just enters the data from the form onto a spreadsheet. Still, you can embed the spreadsheet results if this is something that would be useful, such as was done for the scoreboard for the #TvsZ open online game, here: Note that those who are filling out the Google Form do not have to have a Google account to do so. They can also enter data anonymously; you will just see the time and date stamp. What data Google captures from those who enter information into the forms, though, is not obvious.

Add Users

If you have a reasonably small/manageable number of participants you may want to add them as editors (or in some cases) administrators on a course.


These plug-ins are mainly about improving the learning experience by making it easier to find things and building additional learning supports into the reading experience. I find these plug-ins particularly interesting - hopefully implementation is on the horizon at my university.

  • Simple Tooltips is a plug -in that highlights text and (when hovered over) opens a text bubble which could be used to support definition building, examples, extended references, or design notes - as used in the Online Learning Experience (OLE) offered through Virginia Commonwealth University.
  • Creating a Series of Posts: If you have ever wanted to group posts into a series so that your participants could follow a tutorial (or short course sequence), storyline or sequence of posts - there are 3 good options for this: Organize Series, Post Series and Simple Course Creator. This tutorial post by DesignWall - will help you understand the differences and similarities between them so you can make the choice that best suits your needs.

Support Resources

If you have a great WordPress support resource in mind (or you've created one yourself), please share and add it to our list of Resources for TWP15.

  • Using WordPress for Open Courses - a blog post and embedded video discussions with Alan Levine, Martin Hawksey (I think?) and others. A little technical but excellent info about plugins (many mentioned here).

UBC Resources

  • Resource Management Framework: Oldie but goodie - a rational for using the small pieces, thoughtfully joined approach to using Mediawiki (UBCWiki) as the content respository to WordPress' presentation layer.
  • UBC Blogs - mainly for student and personal blogging right now - though some course sites are here as well.
  • UBC CMS - for teaching and learning and departmental websites at UBC.