Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Three Good Options for Building a Course Website

Twice this week I have had readers ask me for recommendations for platforms building course resource pages or full course course websites. Both readers were looking for options that had more flexibility than Google Classroom and systems like it. Everyone's situation requires different features, but there are three options I generally recommend.

Weebly for Education makes it easy for anyone to build a great-looking website. You can choose from a large selection of templates that you can then customize to meet your needs. I've never bumped up against a file storage limit on Weebly for Education. The service supports embedding media and supports hosting files that your visitors can download. The best part of Weebly for Education is that you can create and manage student accounts. You can find a video tutorial on Weebly for Education right here.

And if you're looking to create a website for selling things or you just want to use your own domain, Weebly has some inexpensive options here (affiliate link). Take a look at Tom Richey's website for an example of what can be done with one of Weebly's commercial plans.

Google Sites
Google Sites can be a good choice for teachers who are working in a G Suite for Education domain. For everyone else, I'd go with Weebly or a self-hosted WordPress site (more about that below). Google Sites is good if you already are locked into using the G Suite ecosystem. By that I mean you already have a lot of videos, slides, documents, and other files stored in Google Drive. Google Sites makes it easy to import items into your website from your Google Drive. There are two downsides to Google Sites that I always acknowledge. First, the web addresses that are automatically generated by Google Sites are ridiculously long and hard to remember. Second, while Google has started to allow more media to be embedded from third party sources Google Sites still prevents a lot of embeds.

Self-hosted WordPress Site
Creating a self-hosted WordPress site will give you the ultimate in design, function, and privacy flexibility. WordPress is the open-source software that powers some of the world's leading blogs and is the most popular blog software in the world. You can use WordPress to build a blog, to build a course website, or to do both in one place as I am doing with I'm currently using a WordPress plug-in called Learn Dash to build courses within my Practical Ed Tech blog. Creating a course website in this way is more time-consuming than using either Weebly or Google Sites, but my customization options are limitless.

If you think you're ready to build a course website on a self-hosted WordPress site, I have step-by-step directions for getting started right here.