When student blog feeds don’t syndicate …

If you’re a faculty member using the FeedWordPress plugin to syndicate (aggregate) your student blogs into a courseblog, you may occasionally experience errors with regard to blog and category feeds, or encounter situations where a blogger’s content is simply not showing up on the motherblog at all. Here’s a very common error you might see in the FeedWordPress admin page while attempting to add a blog feed:

This particular error often means that the blog you are attempting to syndicate has privacy settings enabled. Unfortunately, the breed of motherblog that relies on remote syndication of content will not work if the sites it is attempting to syndicate are not fully open to the web. In any case, if you experience this error–or others like it–visit with your students to 1). ask whether they have privacy controls enabled or 2). whether they’ve just categorized something incorrectly (in order for category feed URLs to sync properly, the remote bloggers must be categorizing their posts properly).

If your students are electing to blog privately, please see our recommendations for managing privacy in courseblogs. There are ways to have a fully open courseblog and still let individual students contribute private posts that are only visible to the blog admin.

 

Managing Privacy in Courseblogs

Scenario: You’re an instructor using the FeedWordPress plugin to aggregate your student blogs into your courseblog. You enjoy the convenience of being able to read all your students’ posts on one site, as opposed to having to visit each of their sites individually to make sure they’re on task. But what if one or more students insists on having private blogs? Sure, they could add you to their site and give you permission to read their content, but that requires you, the instructor, to keep up with more than one site. And what if that student wants to delete their content from the blog after the class is over?

The main problem is that blogs that are restricted from public view will not have usable feed URLs, which means private blog feeds can’t be aggregated into a courseblog. However, there is an easy solution for maintaining a courseblog with a mixture of private and public posts that allows the instructor to see all the content on one site. In addition, this alternative approach to courseblogging gives students full control over their content once the course is over–once added to a courseblog as an author, a student can write public or private posts and then, at the end of the course, remove those posts or export them elsewhere.

Here’s how it works: All students who want private blog posts should be added to the courseblog as Authors (learn more about roles in WordPress). To add these users to the site, click Users > Add New and fill out the Add Existing User field with the username/email of your choice, making sure to give that user the correct role.

add new user screen

In this case, the Author role is a good choice since it will allow that student to control the visibility of their posts on the courseblog.

Once the students have been added to the blog, they’ll have to visit the courseblog’s dashboard and write posts on that site. Getting to another site’s dashboard is easy if you’ve been given privileges to access it. Simply click Dashboard > My Sites to see the links to all the sites you have access to. From there, the students can write their own posts and set their posts’ visibility to Private in the Publish box on the edit post screen:

Once these posts are marked private, only the administrators of the courseblog (presumably, this is only going to be the instructor of the course) will be able to see those posts. The only other requirement is that the blog admin must be logged into Edublogs to see the private posts.