How to set up a group structure (not BuddyPress groups)

We're coming from a CMS which is built around a group hierarchy which determine's security, roles, membership, and where users sit in their organisation's structure.

So if a sub site is a school then groups are set up for classes, each having a teacher as group admin.

Is there an equivalent in Wordpress Multisite that could assign people to groups or classes in schools/teams? The groups may have their own shared assets (e.g. docs) and the teacher would be able to see lists of class members.

And I guess not confusing with BuddyPress's groups as they're only available from the single BP site on the network. [Though I have seen the BP Multi Network stuff but looks to be incompatible with most of the WPMUdev stuff like Pro Sites]

Any ideas, have I overlooked something really obvious here?

Cheers, Tom.

  • mort3n

    Hi xootom,

    BuddyPress does seem like it offers a lot of what you need (now and later). I use it myself in an intranet setting. However, BP can be somewhat of a burden at times. Multisite will only add to that.

    An alternative that may be worth pursuing is to use some / all of the community related plugins here at WPMU DEV.

    https://premium.wpmudev.org/projects/tag/community/

    In particular the Communities plugin gives you a group functionality

    https://premium.wpmudev.org/project/communities/

    Hope this helps :slight_smile:

    Cheers
    Mort3n

  • Techtomic

    Hi all, thanks for your responses!

    The Courseware plugin does look very interesting, I'll having a play around with it. It does seem like it'd be a good starting point for what I'm after.

    @mort3n, I've been trying to weigh up the pros and cons of the BuddyPress vs WPMU social plugins since joining this site, and I'm still struggling to see how either of these can create mini communities for different organizations. The WPMU seems to be geared at a network of blogs where each user has their own blog, where the blog essentially becomes their extended profile. A lot of the functionality (messages, friends management, Communities) requires the user to be an 'admin' and use the 'admin dashboard' rather than the front end. I guess this works when they all own their own blog.

    I guess I'm trying to build a network of separate communities, sharing a single sign on (user database) with abilities to network between communities (i.e. join different sites to access new communities). But end users wouldn't normally have their own site, rather they'd join their organization's site.

    With BuddyPress, the front end's smart responsive interface looks good, with lots of good social functionality, friends, profiles etc. But it's limited to a single site within the network (without hacking e.g. BP Multi Network which would prevent Pro Sites and lots of other plugins). So each organization's website wouldn't contain their own community, beyond say a forum. And the BuddyPress functions of the Howdy menu breaks them out to the separate BP site.

    Would be so good if BuddyPress could just live within each subsite on a multisite install!

  • mort3n

    @xootom,

    Thanks for elaborating on your requirements. Interesting :slight_smile:

    So, to pin it out, your structure is
    - top-level // municipality or district or similar
    - has a number of schools
    - each school has a number of pupils, teachers, classes, teams.

    I wonder if you really need to run the whole structure on one code base and one database?

    Is tight integration between the schools necessary? Do they share teachers and pupils, classes and teams?

    An alternative, that could be relevant for you is to have one WP single install for each school. Then you can use BP on each of those installs allowing you to leverage all of the features of BP.

    If you do need integration across schools, then one way could be User Synchronization

    https://premium.wpmudev.org/project/wordpress-user-synchronization/

    If you need teachers / staff to have a common collaboration site, then you could set up an install, just for that and just synchronize the relevant users.

    Maintaining multiple installs adds some overhead, but there are a number of free as well as paid solutions for this. Please see the WP repository and search the web.

    Furthermore, there is the security aspect. By using separate installs, there is less risk of all schools being affected by a security breach.

    I agree that the BP Multi Network, although it looks very promising and is backed by core developers, is not mature enough for your needs.

    Looking forward to hearing what you decide :slight_smile:

    Cheers
    Mort3n

  • Techtomic

    @brettlewis,

    Been trying out Courseware but I'm struggling with it, it won't let me add an assignment, it just says "Please fill in all the fields" even though I have. It doesn't seem to save the course title either, and it was creating new items in the site navigation for each course I created. Not sure if it's not fully multisite compatible or something?

    @mort3n,

    Thanks for your response, lots to think about!

    Yes the structure you describe is the sort of thing I'm working with though some clients may be just single school departments, or after school clubs, or external clubs too.

    I think single sites is probably not going to work as the set up and maintenance overhead is too high, and so much of the multisite stuff won't work - WHMCS or Pro Sites to provision new sites, pro sites upgrades, and any shared communities for those who do want to connect across sites.

    Ideally it wants to be one big shared platform, with the ability to be scaled up in future, and to be easy to maintain a common feature set of plugins and upgrades that can be bolted on to each site.

    Cheers, Tom.

  • mort3n

    @xootom

    Thanks for your feedback.

    This may not be relevant for you, but if I were to do such a project, I would think about this.

    I have given this a bit more thought, which has led to more questions than answers (sorry :slight_smile: ).

    So far this thread has mostly focused on the technical side of your project. Do you (or will you) work directly with clients / users in developing your solution? The reason I ask is that their expectations and requirements might dictate the solution.

    A couple of examples :

    Should the sites be mostly one-way communication top-down (school->teacher->pupil) where feedback is perhaps done via forums activity streams or similar? Or should there be full-fledged social network type features like what BP offers?

    Is it really relevant in a school context to have all the BP stuff? It may be but it's relevant to consider this. If a full social network style solution is chosen, then this will probably add to the teacher workload as this type of site needs interaction to work. A different aspect is that schools will likely be very focused on their site only being used for appropriate purposes. The more interaction features you give to pupils, the more difficult this will become.

    Another aspect is the type of use.

    Do you want what is essentially a bookkeeping type site, ie. keep track of students, classes, scores, attendance, etc. (along with either top-down or social network)

    OR

    Do you want full e-learing using e.g. SCORM or similar standards? Are your clients prepared to take up the challenge of using this? Do they use it already?

    Cheers
    Mort3n

    Note : I don't have experience with this. You have been warned :slight_smile:

  • Techtomic

    Hi @Mort3n,

    You raise some really good points, which I have to admit haven't been my focus recently while looking for new technical solutions. Are you available for paid consultancy :wink:

    You're absolutely right, any kind of open platform for communication between students is going to be extra work that teachers don't need, which creates an unnecessary overhead and barrier to them taking on a new system. I guess I was thinking it'd be a good idea to use a common platform for schools and other organizations, but I think there has to be the distinction here.

    Where I can see collaborative e-learning being really great in higher education, any product for schools probably does need to be locked down with communications, if any, only filtering down from above, rather than peer to peer.

    In terms of what the actual content would be, there may be some SCORM-type content in future but at first it's more an assessment tool to record scores and feedback. So I guess it's more like a survey system than a learning management system.

    So I'm thinking either we could disable BuddyPress for school sites (not have it network activated and only active on non-school sites) or perhaps even not have students log in at all. I'm thinking they could submit their responses to survey forms without logging in, and as long as we can identify them by say surname + date of birth, we should be able to track their progress and even provide some reporting / certificates through the front end.

    Lots of food for thought!

  • mort3n

    Hi xootom,

    Glad you found my input useful and thought-inspiring :slight_smile:

    You're quite right that in higher education, the BP features potentially can be used to leverage the educational content through interaction. Setting up study groups, perhaps self-organized is just one option.

    In my experience the line between who should and should not have access to social networking features is drawn at about the age where the users are legally adults.

    Your actual clients, the decision-makers in the organizations are probably 'responsibility-adverse', for lack of a better word :slight_smile:. They want the users to be responsible for their own actions online. I've even encountered this obstacle on a school-driven intranet for parents!

    I would advice against allowing anonymous users to submit information to the system. In the case you mention it would open up for anyone to submit answers on behalf of anyone else. Having users log in let's you keep track of them. Abuse can still occur, but then it's against the rules and can result in sanctions.

    As this thread evolves, I find that I'm not clear on where your focus is / should be. Please understand me correctly, I do see a case for this service, but I'm not sure to what degree you want to create your own solutions vs. plugging existing solutions together.

    You mentioned that you're coming from a different CMS, so I take it that you have an operation in place as well as a customer base. Could you involve them in your new system? Those able and willing could get free use or other benefits for being beta-users etc.

    As you implied, this thread is drifting out of the realm of this forum. Please advice whether you would like to continue the conversation by other means.

    Cheers
    Mort3n

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