Ingesting Open Content into a Course Blogsite

One of the use-cases for is for a class to integrate external resources such as OpenLearn courses, or potentially anything that has an RSS feed, to be ingested into the class blogsite. Currently, there are 2 scenarios possible for doing this, each with their own specific benefits, but neither quite matching what I think would make for a more powerful way to contextualize these external resources within the activities of a course.

With the VERY sweet OpenLearn Republisher plugin, you can set up a set of Sources (courses on OpenLearn, etc…) to be pulled into an installation of WordPress Multiuser. The OpenLearn plugin creates a new blog for each Source, and sucks down all items in the provided RSS feed into that blog, and creates blog Posts for each item.

OpenLearn Course Importing Plugin Workflow
OpenLearn Course Importing Plugin Workflow

The benefit of this is a set of centralized blog sites for each course, which could be shared across multiple courses. But that’s also the big downside of this model – what if you want to contextualize the content differently for each course that’s using it? If you didn’t want to do that, why not just use the online OpenLearn hosted version of the course?

With FeedWordPress (or wp-o-matic) you can pull RSS feeds into a single course blogsite, and all items will be published as blog Posts within that site. Categories can be set up and inherited to help organize the imported content.

FeedWordPress RSS Importing Workflow
FeedWordPress RSS Importing Workflow

But, if the activity of the course takes place as blog Posts, it becomes mixed in with any content imported from the external resources. Conversation and content become merged.

Ideally, a course blogsite would use the Pages feature to manage “content” – the stuff the conversations refer to – and use the blog Posts for the activity and conversation of the course. As such, I think it would be more effective to have the content from external resources be ingested into a blogsite as Pages, created within the hierarchy of pages (select a parent page, and a full table of contents structure is generated as needed).

Ideal open content ingestor workflow
Ideal open content ingestor workflow

I’m not sure if that’s possible now with the available tools, but I think we’re getting REALLY close to a powerful open content contextualization platform – ingesting prepared resources for use within the spatial and temporal contexts of a course.

Ideally, the power and features of OpenLearn Republisher, with the ability to designate the “host” blog for the ingested content (or have it create new blogsites as needed), and to create Pages rather than Posts. It’s VERY close, and it’s got the potential to change how people interact with (open) content.

8 thoughts on “Ingesting Open Content into a Course Blogsite”

  1. Can you link to some live course sites? It would be cool to sample some of these first hand to get a sense of how things work. Seeing as how I’m trying to implement the same.

  2. D’Arcy,

    I have thought about the pages and posts issue a bit, and one of the things I like about the course elements being posts is that people can syndicate the bits they want from some central resource on a blogging platform like UCalgary Blogs into their own space. Moreover, you have plugins that can then convert pages to post and posts to pages, and even plugins that will give pages an RSS feed. Pluigns here. So, post for import and conversion along the wa? I’m not sure, but importing pages doesn’t seem to be a possibility with FeedWordPress and WP-o-Matic.

  3. “what if you want to contextualize the content differently for each course that’s using it? If you didn’t want to do that, why not just use the online OpenLearn hosted version of the course?”

    The rationale behind the openlearn2wpmu extension, which lets you recast individual openlearn moodle course units as individual wp blogs was simply to provide a tool for allowing bulk republishing of openlearn course units into a wp installation so that userss could gain ready access to the openlearn content in a wp environment. (Note that this environment has many advantages over a default moodle envt, such as page level commenting and arguably a more user friendly editing environment for content revision).

    A supplementary wp extension we produced also allows the wordpress fees to deliver content at a rate of 1 item per day to users relative to the date they subscribe to the course feed. My feeling is that pacing (and paced revelation of content) is one of the important missing ingredients in many open course offerings – pacing makes consumption easier and guarantees engagement and commitment over a period of time from the user.

    Both the extensions will be made available in a week or two – details will be posted on

  4. @Rob I haven’t jumped ship. I’m ship-neutral. I pick the best tool(s) for the job(s)…

    @Tony – I get the rationale, and it’s good. Anything that gets people doing stuff however they are most comfortable is a very good thing. Anything that gets content out of rigid (or even less-rigid) LMS is a very good thing.

    I’m definitely planning on playing with the timed release plugin for pacing. One of the downsides of having a whole bunch of content available as resources for a course is that it gets confusing and noisy for students. Being able to serialize a set of resources will definitely help there! Great stuff!

  5. Getting to this very late in my post conference catch up.

    I agree that what makes sense to me in a course is to have the static content be pages and the more course-specific content be posts. That’s half intuition, but I think there’s a design underpinning there that I really like — the instance of the course, the discussion, the teacher supplementation, perhaps the lectures on the lectures — this is the time-based stuff, the course as *event*. The static stuff is the frame, the curated exhibit we all stumble into together and start talking about.

    So in an ideal world, you set up the exhibit (pages) then open the doors and let the museum goers wander around, mark stuff up, argue, give lectures on lectures, etc.

    Then at the end of the course you take that understanding and say — is there anything I learned from that which makes me reconsider how I organize this exhibit?

    And you make your changes and open the door for the next set of students.

    That’s a simplistic model, and it doesn’t hit on the more iterative courses, or project-based learning / authentic learning courses necessarily. But it’s a model that would make a great first step — so I guess I’m saying i agree, and let’s start writing this thing….

  6. and let me add — i still want Tony’s timed release — but unless that timed release is evolving in response to the class, I’d still like to see the timed release in the pages architecture.

    And while we’re blueskying, I’d love to see a meetup model for content like this, where you can set a threshold — say 9 students, and when nine students sign up, it triggers the class start and you move through as a group.

  7. Over the weekend I wrote a python script that will take an RSS and make it into a WP-import package for WordPress — and convert RSS entries to pages not posts.

    It is a little flaky on OU RSS, works great on other RSS feeds. If you want to try running it or improving it it’s here:

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