I’ve taken up a language learning course. It’s online, so a lot of content is in the form of images and videos. Which is great. But what I miss about traditional classrooms is the possibility to talk to other students. Okay, so it’s an added advantage for a language learning course. Communication does help improve the learning process. But even for, say a geometry or history course, discussing with fellow students would help.
Discussions help students to collaboratively solve problems. With e-learning you can miss out on questions other students might have, or issues you probably weren’t aware of. Studies have shown, that student-student interactions can have a great impact on the learning process.
So why do certain e-learning platforms not offer discussion forums? Seems like a mystery to me.
Case in point: Sensei, the e-learning platform on WordPress.
No doubt Sensei is a good e-learning plugin. But it’s missing that certain something that would make it a great e-learning plugin on WordPress.
Here’s a question I’m hoping Sensei users would answer….
Should Forums be added to Sensei?
As a student, I understand the value of discussion forums. Discussion forums can help students like me:
- Raise a question, which can probably be addressed by the teacher or a student
- Create a knowledge base specific to a particular course or lesson
- Identify fellow students who have similar issues and together solve a problem
- Provide collective feedback about course content
Personally, I’ve bookmarked stackexchange. It’s my go to place for problems I face. Seems logical that a discussion forum could be resourceful for those new to a particular subject.
These discussion forums, can provide great feedback to course teachers, to help them improve course content, and to solve common student problems globally rather than addressing each student individually.
Okay, so maybe this debate seems one sided. Because I’ve pointed out advantages. So maybe those of you, who wouldn’t want forums in your Sensei e-learning website, can help identify the drawbacks of discussion forums.
I’m sure the developers of the Sensei plugin, might have a good reason for not having forums in the plugin. Or maybe they are planning on providing this feature. Who knows?
What I’d like to see is….
bbPress Forums for Sensei
It’s simple. You have a light-weight forums plugin for WordPress- bbPress. Hence, you needn’t build the entire forums functionality, just integrate bbPress with Sensei.
Wait hold on. Let’s step back for a while. It’s not that simple. You have to evaluate the possibility of integrating bbPress and Sensei, before claiming it to be an ideal solution.
To begin with let’s evaluate bbPress. Is bbPress the plugin we need? The major advantage bbPress provides you is that it is light-weight, simple to use, and provides a familiar interface. It provides a basic forum, where students can discuss. And since WooThemes isn’t planning on building its own forums plugin, bbPress is good enough for us.
How to Integrate bbPress and Sensei
Now, you can install and activate bbPress and Sensei plugins together. They do not have any incompatibility issues. You can create forums in bbPress, for courses you add in Sensei. But the question of course is how to limit forum access to students enrolled for a particular course.
Ideally, for every course you create, there would have to be an option to link the course to a forum. This option can be added as a metabox for the custom post type course.
But assigning a forum to a course does not guarantee that the access to the forum will be limited to course students. You will have to do additional customization. You will have to hook on to a student course enrollment action, and allow the user the permission to access a particular forum. This can be quite messy if not implemented correctly, but could be a solution you could think about.
Alternatively an option you could consider, is to integrate BuddyPress and Sensei, and forum access will be controlled by course specific groups you create in BuddyPress.
This has been my view, of why I feel Sensei and bbPress need to work together, to improve student learning experience on your e-learning website. I’d like to hear your views. Do you think integrating forums specifically bbPress with Sensei is a good idea? Or do you think Sensei could provide its own forums for students. Do let me know your thoughts and questions in the comment section below.
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