Teaching with a group and a linked site (aka a Group+Site) allows instructors to take advantage of the affordances offered by both groups and sites.
Instructors use linked group-sites in multiple ways. Typical combinations include:
- Site for syllabus, assignment directions, resources, readings; group for sending emails to the class
- Site for course materials and public or semi-public blog posts; group for private online class discussion and emailing class announcements.
- Site for course materials and private posts between instructor and student; group for shared class discussion, emailing the class
- Site for student blogging; group library for course materials, forum for emailing the class
There are various possible combinations but its important to know the different affordances of groups and sites before getting started. Even when linked, groups and sites can have different levels of privacy. For more information on group privacy settings see here.
To create a linked group-site, you will need to register and log into the Commons. One you are logged in, click “Groups” in the main menu along the top of the home page. This will take you to the Creation Portal where you can select to “Create a Group+Site”. More directions for creating groups and sites are here.
As evidenced above, have an email sending feature that is not on sites. The group forum sends all forum posts as emails to group members. If a group and a site are linked, blog posts to the site will also be added to the group “activity feed” and will be emailed to all group members. This allows group+site members to keep up with the group discussion. Members can change their email notification settings in the group menu.
Sometimes an instructors choose to use the group+site but only has students use the site, and reserves the group area as an instructor space to send group (class) emails through the forum.
When an instructor creates a Group+Site, they have to option to “sync roles” on the group and site. This means that if a student is added to the group as a member, they will be automatically added to the site as an author (depending on the roles that were chosen upon set up).
This streamlines adding students to the course on the Commons because they will be added to both spaces (group and site) when they join the group. This only works if students join the group first. If students join the site, they will not be automatically added the group. Once added to both, students will be able to post in the group forum and add posts on the site.
To check if roles are synced and to modify these settings, in your Group, go to Manage > Group Site.
Un-linking a Group and Site
There are instances when an instructor might want to un-link the group and the site. Maybe they were linked a the beginning of the semester in order to “sync roles” and add students to both spaces. Now the professors wants to unlink so that all the blog posts on the site are not emailed to all the students.
To un-link, the instructor can visit the Group and go to Manage > Group Site and choose to “uncouple” the group and site. Nothing will change about either space but since they are no longer linked, site posts will not appear in the group and a link to the site from the group will be removed from the group menu.