Coventry Domains is fantastic for creating something special… a domain of one’s own. However, we live in a highly interconnected and collaborative world and sometimes, it’s good to collaborate.
Here’s a guide you can use as a group of students or as an educator to set up a group project using Coventry Domains.
- Step 0: Have a clear goal in mind
- Step 1: Choose a group admin
- Step 2: Create a WordPress install and add users
- Step 3: Create the content
- Step 4: Assessment
Have a clear goal in mind
Before you set out to build a blog, portfolio, magazine style site or anything else, you should have a clear idea of what it is you’d like to achieve.
The lecturer/educator should provide a detailed brief of what sort of site each group will be working to build, what’s expected of each person, and how the site will be assessed.
A good example of a group project brief for a business related course would be something like:
Work in groups of 4 or 5 to create a blog exploring the topic of personal finance. The blog should feature 20 or more well-written posts of at least 500 words each in three or four categories related to the topic.
You will be assessed on the quality of the posts, accessibility of the site, comments left on your group members’ posts and a 1000 word written overview explaining your experiences and contributions during the project
Deadline: 8 weeks
The students should meet together to divide up the responsibilities for making the site, set a timeline, and be clear about what channel of communication they intend to use (group meetings, messaging system, email, etc).
Choose a group admin
Because the entire group will be working on a single project website, you’ll only need one person with a Coventry Domains account to get started.
The way Coventry Domains works is that each eligible student is given access to their own space on a server and a cPanel account. The student can then use this space to install a Content Management System like WordPress (or Drupal, Joomla, Grav, MediaWiki, etc). Therefore, the group or the lecturer will need to nominate one person to set up the site.
Keep in mind that everyone setting up a Coventry Domains account will need to agree to our Terms and Conditions, which means the group admin must take personal responsibility to ensure standards of copyright, privacy and legality are observed.
Once a new site is set up, this admin will be able to give the other group members to the site by adding them as users (more on that in a moment).
Install WordPress and add users
If the group admin hasn’t already done so, they should read through our articles on Making Your First WordPress Site to get started.
Once the WordPress site is up and running, they’ll be able to add new users to the group project site.
Head to Users from the WordPress dashboard and select Add New. Here you can add the username, university email address and create a password.
A note on passwords
Creating a new user in this way means that user must remember their password. WordPress will send a confirmation email to them when their account is created and allow them to change this password at any time.
The admin, on the other hand, will be able to log into this WordPress site via the Coventry Domains dashboard using their university single sign on details.
User roles in WordPress
WordPress has various roles available for new users when being added to a site, each with varying levels of access:
- Subscriber – Lowest level of access: can only read site content
- Contributor – Can create but not publish posts
- Author – Can create and publish posts
- Editor – Can create, publish, approve and delete posts
- Admin – Full site control over posts, pages, themes, plugins and settings
By default, new users are given the role of Subscriber, but this isn’t ideal.
If the group members are being assessed equally on the content, presentation and functionality of the site, they should all be given the role of Admin. Otherwise, Editor or Author would be good choices.
For example, on some projects, it might be appropriate to have a single Admin working as a site designer/webmaster, another person curating, proofreading, sourcing images and editing posts as the Editor and all other group members creating content as Authors or even Contributors.
Create the content
Here’s the fun part. Once you’ve got your brief, chosen an admin and given the team access to the site, you can start creating posts, pages, blog content, portfolio pieces, embed music and video and whatever else you’d like to do.
During the content creation phase, it’s imperative that group members communicate well with one another and stick to deadlines. A group web project is meant to be ambitious, but it’s not something that can be done by a single person working close to the final deadline.
Creating content for the web
There are some key difference in writing for audiences on the web and writing an academic text like an essay or dissertation. Depending on your project, you may find it useful to read through some guidance on how to format your text and keep your content user-friendly at Usability.gov.
There are also some good resources available on the Coventry.Domains knowledge base about designing your site according to some basic accessibility principals.
Keeping the group on track
General principals for working in groups apply to web projects as well. Here are some basic group working tips to get you started:
- Designate a leader – This can be the admin, an editor or anyone else in the group. Everyone in the group should contribute to design and content decisions, but at some point, a nominated person will have to make decisions
- Assign clear roles – Everyone will work more effectively if they know what’s expected of them.
- Be honest and open – Keep up clear communication and when you’re struggling to meet a deadline, be open about it so others can help you meet your goals. It also helps to share your triumphs, frustrations and breakthroughs with other members of your group.
- Separate individual and collaborative work – Sometimes you need to meet together in a collaborative space, like the DMLL in the Lanchester Building for assigning roles, troubleshooting or contributing to big decisions. Other times, you’ll achieve more through deep, focused, creative working sessions in individual spaces.
Assessing group projects can be a little more complicated than individual ones, but by setting up clear expectations for each group member and documenting individual contributions, it’s a rewarding way to enhance teaching and learning in the modern university.
Tips for assessing projects
At the end of the group projects, there are a few ways of establishing how much work was done by each person.
By default, every post on WordPress displays an author name, so you’ll be able to tell be looking through the site’s posts (not pages) who was responsible for creating it.
Some WordPress themes don’t display an author name, so it’s also worth asking students to summarise and reflect on their contributions and experiences in a document accompanying the completed site, which is normal for this type of assignment.
Another element that might be assessed is how the students reflected on each other’s work. In WordPress, posts have commenting enabled by default, so you could look through the site’s posts and see what comments and replies are being made and how thoughtful or informed they are.
By establishing clear expectations of what the site should contain, how each part of it will be assessed, and what additional material will need to be produced (a written reflection by each student is highly recommended) students will have a good foundation for getting the most out of Coventry Domains.