The fundamental requirement of a university website is to organize and manage content for its various departments and streams. Now, as each department has its own individual courses and content, it can be very difficult to manage them simultaneously.
Course creation for a university website requires a strong LMS platform which can handle different types of content, manage a large number of students, support all the peripherals like quizzes, assignments, multiple question types, provide various hierarchical course structures, control end-user access, enable drip-feed content, and provide for discussion forums for the students enrolled in the course.
Given this long list, it is no wonder that very few learning management systems can be considered here. Of these, LearnDash offers some of the best features one could ask for, for easily creating and managing courses.
LearnDash as the LMS Platform of Choice
LearnDash offers the needed functionality to setup any e-learning website. Out-of-the-box you’ve got:
- Course Creation: LearnDash allows you to create create hierarchical course content, wherein you can divide courses into lessons and topics. To segregate courses of various departments, you have course categories and tags. With support for multimedia content, you can create varied courses
- Content Scheduling: With support for drip-feeding content, a course start date and more, you can schedule course access for students
- Gamification: LearnDash has an in-built quiz module which allows you to test and grade students based on their work. You also have an assignment upload option, and a certificate option upon course or quiz completion
After the LMS has been chosen, we move on to addressing the issue of the actual management of courses. LearnDash lets you, as the site admin, create all kinds of courses and conduct them. However, none of the other, in-built user roles have a similar capability, which effectively implies that you yourself must be the one creating and marketing these courses.
This may not always be practically possible, especially considering the sheer number of courses you would have to work on, given that this is a university website, for the various departments, streams, and subjects offered.
Hence, as the admin for the website, there are two ways in which you can handle this situation without letting it get way out of hand,
- You offload some of your work by creating other admins who can create and conduct courses on their own.
- You create and assign multiple Instructor roles to professors who are to create and conduct their own courses, using the Instructor Role plugin for LearnDash.
Let us discuss both the methods in detail.
In the first method, you are essentially giving equal power to all the other people, to whom you have assigned the ‘Admin’ user role, to make changes to your website. While this can be beneficial from the point of view of dividing the work, there are some serious disadvantages. Have you spotted them yet?
Firstly, you are opening up your core website to dozens of people. Anybody of these can change the layout, add or remove plugins, edit pages, posts, even the other authors’ courses; in other words, they are free to wreak havoc as they see fit. It can result into a classic case of too many cooks, as each will have their own idea as to how the website should ideally look and be structured.
Secondly, giving access to the heart of your website to a large number of people cannot be healthy from a security point of view. Even taking into consideration the fact that you implicitly trust all of your fellow admins, there remains a strong possibility of your site being hacked or attacked by malicious users. Besides, this limits the creation of your courses, as it necessitates the development of trust between you and your author, before you can grant him access to your site.
Thirdly, the addition of multiple admins opens up all your commercial transactions on the website for everyone’s perusal. Needless to say, this can be disastrous at the very least.
Creating Multiple Instructors
To avoid this minefield, it is a better idea to opt for the latter option, i.e., the one where you simply create and assign ‘Instructor’ capabilities to all your course authors, instead of making them administrators, by using the Instructor Role plugin for LearnDash.
The plugin adds an additional user role, i.e the ‘Instructor’ user role to your roster, which can be assigned like the other roles to your professors and teachers who are to be conducting their own courses.
The biggest advantage here is that assigning the Instructor user role significantly limits the author’s capabilities towards interfering with your website. As an instructor, the author can create and manage their courses completely, including quiz creation, assignment management, gamification integration, etc., but they cannot meddle with any other part of the website, without being granted the requisite permission.
This makes redundant all the latter concerns of content and commercial security, as you are not relinquishing the core functionalities of your website to anybody else. More, it gives you the freedom of adding any number of Instructors, as well as guest authors, without having to run them through a screening test!
Another advantage is that the overall control still remains in your hands, as the website administrator, and all your Instructors are answerable for their content, unless you decide otherwise.
Version 3.5.0 onward, WISDM Instructor Role includes a professional and customizable Instructor Profile page that can be used to share all the necessary information about instructors on your site. Instructors can use this space to add details such as their photo, bio, expertise, qualification, courses created, ratings, and so on.
Profile pages give instructors credibility and help them showcase their personality. The profile page can also be used to share contact information.
The Instructor Role plugin for LearnDash allows the course author to retain his/her creative freedom, without reducing your control over the university website. In addition, you can set up a percentage commission to be drawn from guest Instructors, who wish to conduct their courses on your website.
Instructor Role and LearnDash work hand-in-hand with each other to help you create beautiful courses for your university website. As LearnDash is compatible with WordPress multisite too, this functionality can be successfully extended to create courses on multiple websites for all your departments!