BuddyPress: An Easier Way to Set Up a Forum

BuddyPress has the potential to be just as comprehensive as Moodle, but requires much less work to initialize and maintain.

BuddyPress comes from the same folks behind WordPress.  Both are completely free and open source.  Unlike hosted services, BuddyPress allows you to stay in control of your site and create a totally customized, unique experience.

Although they promote it as “social networking in a box,” you may also use it to do something as simple as starting and maintaining a forum devoted to your subject area and classes.

Lots of free plug-ins are available to extend the power of BuddyPress.  One of those is called ScholarPress Courseware.  This allows you to design an entire online course if you choose to do so.  It includes a class dashboard, a handbook/tree style for organizing lectures, and a section for assignments.

You can utilize the quiz and test form builder with automatic grading and response evaluation.  Additionally it includes a grade book, a class calendar, and a provision for making notifications by e-mail.

I have NO direct experience with BuddyPress.  However, I DO have experience with WordPress.  As matter of fact, I’m developing THIS blog in the WordPress environment.

For those of you may not be familiar with WordPress, it is a very popular platform for developing blogs and full-blown websites.

Based on the assumption that the startup time required to configure BuddyPress is about the same as WordPress, I would recommend tackling it during a seasonal break of some kind.  It’s not difficult to do, but if you’re new to the WordPress platform it can be a little confusing at first.  However it is well-documented and tutorials are readily available.

Set up primarily hinges on what the developers call “widgets”.  You choose which widgets you want to use and then you drag them into the location where you want them to appear.  Then, you choose the individual settings for each widget by checking boxes or selecting drop-down menus.

Once you’re set up, you’re pretty well good to go.

Something as simple as setting up a functioning forum to be used with your students could be effectively set up in a matter of a few days.  Once it’s set up, of course, you can require your students to participate in whatever ways you wish.

Have any of you have any experience using BuddyPress? We would love to hear from you.

Coming Tuesday:  I’m temporarily leaving the technology category to start a series of posts on a topic that concerns us all.