Tag Archives | groups

FAQ – Groups

Groups on the Commons

How can groups use the Commons?

Please see this blog post on the Help blog: How groups can use the Commons. You can also check out the “Uses” and “Tools” tabs on Help & Support for more suggestions abut how to use the Commons.

How do I create and maintain a group?

After you’ve logged in, click on the “Groups” tab then select the “Create a Group” button next to the Group Directory (Create a Group Screenshot).  Or, you can hover over your avatart in the upper right hand corner of the screen, click on “My Groups” and then click on “Create a Group.”

To get a better understanding of how to create and maintain your group, please check out this blog post from the Help & Support.

Tweaking Your Group

Introduction

Groups on the Commons come in many flavors, and members join them for a variety of reasons, including to stay informed, get help, collaborate with peers, bounce around ideas, share links, publicize events, manage committees, plan initiatives, and manage graduate classes. Groups can be public, private, or hidden. For more information about how groups can use the Commons, follow this link.

Initial Setup – for Group Admins

Admins are the primary organizers of a group, and are responsible for setting it up and getting members to join. Listed below are some suggestions that might help you get your group up and running.

  • Join the Group for Group Admins, a meta-group for group administrators and moderators to meet and discuss group management, share tips on different tools, and stay up to date with the Commons team on current and future changes on the site.
  • Find an avatar for your group.
  • Write a succint statement of purpose.
  • Decide whether your group will be public, private or hidden. Click here to understand the implications.
  • Swamped? Delegate… Add additional admins to your group.  Or add some group moderators.  Admins will have the same permissions as you.  Group moderators will be able to do a subset of the things you are allowed to do, including the ability to send announcements to the rest of the group.  Click here for more information about group permission levels.
  • Understand your tool options. Groups automatically come with forums, files, and announcements, but admins can optionally turn on BP Docs and create a Group Blog to provide additional ways for members to interact.
  • If you decide to have a group blog, determine its visibility.  For example, a private group could have a public blog. Click here for more information on how to adjust blog privacy levels.
  • If you decide to have a group blog, determine what permission members should have.  If they are assigned to be contributors, they can write posts, but these posts will only be published upon your approval. If they assigned editors or authors, your approval is not needed.  Consider including some explanation on the blog, so members understand what they can do.  You might want to invite members to post on certain topics.  Click here for more information on adding new users to a blog.
  • If appropriate, consider creating a Twitter account for your group. If you have a group blog, consider using a plugin such as Twitter Tools to automatically tweet group blog posts.
  • Think about ways to attract members.  Do you want to invite people to join? You might want to check out who belongs to a related group, or who is on the same campus, etc.

Using Groups on the Commons

What can you do to make a group work for you? The following list provides some ideas about how you use available tools to communicate with other members of the group, and how you can customize your groups to mesh with your work style.

Collaborative Tools

  • Group Forums – probably the most used and easiest to understand.  Any member can start a forum thread.  On public groups, non-group members may comment on a thread.  Files and images may be attached to either the thread, or the comment.
  • Files – a convenient way to upload files so that the rest of the group can access them. Uploading Files
  • Announcements – a group’s admins and moderators can use the functionality to publish announcements to the group, and optionally, notify members via email.
  • Invite others – know someone who would be interested in your group and is a member of the Commons?  It’s easy to invite that person to join.
  • BP Docs (if activated) – Think of Docs at your group’s private wiki.
  • Group Blog (if activated) –

Managing Notifications

Getting your voice heard

So with all the tools available, there’s probably no one “best way” to get your point across, but here are some things to consider when you stack related functionality up against each other in search of the magic bullet.

  • Forum posts vs. Group Blog posts.  Forum posts are perhaps better at soliciting member feedback.  Posts on blogs have more embedded functionality, and you can style and revise them better.
  • Upload Files vs. BP Docs.  Files are static.  BP Docs are collaborative, living documents that change.  Both are extremely useful, but their functionality doesn’t really overlap.
  • Announcements vs. Forum Post.  If you are a moderator or admin of a group, announcements are a great way to contact your group.  You decide how your message should reach members.  Forum posts are based on a user’s notification settings, and you are not ensured that your message will immediately reach your membership.
  • Submit an idea for a “hero” slide – Want to promote your group on the Commons Home page?  The CUNY Academic Commons team would be happy to give your group front page placement in our rotating header slides. Please contact community facilitators Sarah Morgano, or Scott Voth with proposals and submissions.

Departments and Committees

5406340912_233e1d5663_zA growing number of departments and committees find the Commons a great platform to manage business, distribute files, discuss issues and plan initiatives. Group “built-in” tools include:

  • forums – where members can start new topics, or participate in discussion threads;
  • docs – where members can collaborate on a private wiki;
  • file uploads – where members can add to file repositories that everyone can access;
  • group announcements – where admins and moderators post timely announcements for the whole group to read

Groups may want to break down into smaller working groups, to interact, share resources, conduct administrative duties, and communicate with members in private. Everyone can be notified via email (depending on personal email notification settings), and the Commons provides a convenient “Reply by Email” functionality – you don’t need to log in to the Commons – you can reply from the comfort of your inbox.

Departments or committees may also want to link their group to a WordPress site and make it either public or private – this provides another way to handle various tasks, announce policies, and solicit opinions.

  • Campus “Commons” sites. An example of this is The Lehman Teaching & Learning Commons – “a space for Lehman’s faculty, staff, and graduate students to join in conversations and activities about their Lehman experience.”

lehman-commons

 

Our Tools

mindmap_3122892780_8288951fd3_zAvailable to every member, our set of collaborative tools include:

  • Groups – you can join or start any number of groups and take advantage of the following functionality: (1) group forums – where members can start new topics, or participate in discussion threads; (2) group docs – a ways to collaborate on documents with group members – kind of like a private wiki; (3) file uploads – create repositories of data for members of your group to access; (4) group announcements – admins and moderators of groups post timely announcements for the whole group to read; and (5) group blogs, which extend group functionality and provide a way to publicize group work, either privately or publicly.
  • WordPress Sites – the Commons members can create an unlimited number of WP sites (aka “blogs” or websites). We have over 800 themes and 200 plugins that will help you create a unique websites. Our new Hosting Partner Handbook outlines the various non-standard customizations available, and includes procedures and guidelines for domain mapping requests, customized themes, new plugins, and site migrations.
  • My Commons – a personal homepage that highlights the network of friends, groups, and sites you develop on the Commons. Explore content relevant to you and stay current with your connections by establishing friendships, joining groups, and following WordPress sites that you find interesting.
  • Profile/Portfolio/CV – use the Commons to establish an online presence. We provide a sophisticated system to maintain member profiles, with easy-to-use widgets to list publications, education, positions, academic interests, RSS feeds, etc.
  • Notification settings – handle how you want to receive email notifications – right away, once a day, once a week, not at all… We have granular settings that help tailor the way you stay in touch with Commons groups and friends.
  • Reply by Email – When you receive an email notification from the Commons, you don’t have to log on to the Commons to reply. You can reply from the comfort of your email in-box.
  • Messaging – Write and receive private messages to and from any member of the Commons
  • Personal Announcements – let our community know what’s happening. The Commons provides a space for everyone to post latest news.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Events Calendar

cal_5374200948_539b10fb1c_m Events Calendar is a site-wide plugin that supports individual, group, and global calendars. Designed to publicize events to the friends you’ve developed on the Commons and to the groups you belong to (and which you choose to notify), the plugin delivers email notifications about events with vital information, including:

  • Event title
  • A rich description, that allows for links, images, etc.
  • Start and end times
  • Venue (including a map)
  • Whether or not this is a recurring event
  • Commons groups who have been invited

The information is also conveniently aggregated with other Commons events and displayed on individual, group, and global calendars. You can browse through your individual calendar, or look through your groups’ calendars to find events, and click to see details.

  • As an individual, you can check out your personal calendar to see all events targeted for the groups to which you belong, and the events that have been entered by your friends.
  • As a group member, you can access your group’s calendar to find events specifically targeted to your group.
  • As a member of the Commons, you can (soon) access the global calendar and see what events are happening in public groups.

my events

Accessing Your Individual Calendar

There are several ways to access your individual calendar once you are logged into the Commons.

  • Hover over your avatar in the upper right hand corner of the screen. Here you will see a new option called “My Events” (pictured at the right).
  • You can also visit your “Commons Profile.” Here you will see a new tab called “My Events.”

When you click on “My Events>>Calendar” you will see events entered by you, your friends, or by members of groups to which you belong. The calendar grid provides a convenient way to plan your schedule.

my cal

If you click on the “Upcoming Events” tab you’ll see a more condensed view, displayed as a list. No matter which view you choose, you can click on each event for its metadata.

upcoming

The “Manage” tab is useful when you have events that are in draft, and that you have not yet published.

Accessing Group Calendars

omekaGroup calendars can be accessed from a new tab in the group menu called “Events” (see image on the right). Group calendars are different from individual calendars in that they display events to which they are specifically targeted.

If you click on “ New Event” from inside your group, the event you enter will be automatically added to your group new groupcalendar.  But don’t stop there.  You can add other groups that you think will be interested in the event you are publicizing.   You can add public, private and hidden groups, provided you belong to them.  And as stated before, the members of these groups will be notified by email, and events will display on their individual and group calendars.

Understanding Privacy

  • Your personal calendar is discrete from everyone else’s and is private to you.
  • Events you enter from your personal calendar are visible to your friends on the Commons. They will be notified by email upon publication.
  • When creating an individual event, you can target the groups you belong to.
  • If the only group your choose is private or hidden, only those members will be notified.
  • If you post from a private or hidden group, no trace of the event will display except on the calendars of those belonging to those private or hidden groups.
  • If you include a public group, those members will be notified, and the event will be added to the group.
  • All “Public” group events will be viewable on the global calendar, but notification emails will not be sent to everyone on the Commons.

Adding Events to your Google, MS Outlook, or similar third party calendars

If you use “Google Calendar,” or MS Outlook, or a similar API, you can automatically add events from your Commons calendars.  Click on the event to add them by clicking the “Download iCal file” hyperlink (highlighted below).  They will be added to your third party calendar.

ical

Site-Wide Calendar

The Commons site-wide calendar is a great way to see what’s happening all over CUNY.  It shows events added to public groups, but will not display events only associated to private or hidden groups. You can access from the Commons home page, on the “Events” tab or at https://commons.gc.cuny.edu/events/

 

Invitations to the Commons, to Groups, and to Group Sites

When you invite colleagues or students to join the Commons, there are a number of options that can save you a bunch of time. Listed below are the basic scenarios, and how you can combine what you want to do into one process.

Inviting Someone to Join the Commons
This is the basic scenario – you want to invite a CUNY colleague to join the Commons. Any member of the Commons can send a customized email invitation, and the recipient can simply click on a hyperlink to begin the registration process.

Hover over your avatar in the top right corner of your browser screen, and scroll down to the “Send Invites” option.

send-invites

When you click on Send Invites, you’ll see a screen like below. Fill in your colleague’s email addresses, one per line, in the box highlighted in red. You can customize the subject line and the text of the invitation.

invite2

 

Inviting Someone to Join the Commons and Your Group(s)
If you want to invite someone to join the Commons, and to join one or more of your groups, follow the same procedure as above, but in the optional section 4, click on one of the checkboxes of the groups you’d like the new member to consider joining. When he or she completes the registration process, an invitation to the group(s) will be waiting for acceptance.

This is particularly effective if you are using the Commons to teach a graduate class. Make sure you create your class group first, and then, when you send out invitations to class members, check your class group’s box. Then your students will receive an invitation to join the Commons, and once they registered, will automatically receive a request to join the class group.

Inviting Someone to Join the Commons, Your Group, and Your Group Site
The final scenario pertains if you have a group site. If you already have a group site, go to “Send Invites” on the left to search for members to invite:

invite-to-group-site

The invitees will be sent an email with a confirmation link. The invitee will initially join as a Member. If you’d like to remove, ban or promote individual members, go to Manage (on the left) and select the Members tab in the middle. Next to each name are four options:

member-changes

Members are free to leave the Group by navigating to the group Site, then clicking Leave Group:

leave

 

Please let us know if you have any difficulties or questions about this process at the Commons help desk – support@cunycommons.zendesk.com

 

 

 

How to Adjust Discussion Settings

Adjusting WordPress’ Comments Feature

On your dashboard, under Settings>>Discussion you will find the following adjustments for comments:

discussion

Please note that changes to these settings will apply to all future pages and posts.  Content that was written previously will retain original discussion settings.  If you want to turn on or off discussion for these, you will need to do it on the post or page level.  See below.post discussion

Turning Off Comments on Individual Posts and Pages

If you only want to turn off comments for one post or page, you can set commenting off on the page/post level.If you don’t see these options, your screen options may need to be adjusted.  Click on the “Screen Options” button in the upper right hand corner.  Learn more about Screen Options.

Spam

Sadly, if you turn on discussion, you’ll likely get some spam.  Make sure to activate the plugin called Akismet to strains out almost everything.  We have a free license.  Read How to Detect and Avoid Spam.

You Just Joined a Group on the Commons – Now What?

There are hundreds of groups on the Commons, and you’ll probably want to join a bunch.  For public groups,  when you click the join button, membership is immediate. For private groups, you’ll need to ask to join, and the admins of the group will need to approve your membership.  There are also hidden groups on the Commons, and to join these, you’ll need to receive and accept an invitation.

So What Next?

If you are new to the Commons, you might wonder about groups and their purposes.  Some are very very casual, and have sporadic activity.  Other “working” groups are very active, and many members share information and collaborate on projects.  Here are some examples of how groups are used on the Commons:

  • Common interests. For example, the CUNY Open Education Resources (OER) is a public group with a public blog that provides “… a space for CUNY librarians and teaching faculty interested in free and open textbooks and other open education resources…”
  • Department or program administration. For example, The College of Staten Island English Department has a private group with a private blog that facilitates communication between faculty, students, and staff members.
  • Committees.  Groups on the Commons provide fantastic ways to share files, minutes, organize meetings, discuss plans, and collaborate on projects.
  • Conduct graduate classes. Group forums are a great place to bounce around ideas, discuss issues, and post class announcements.  Private group blogs can be used to publish syllabi and post writing assignments and course reflections.  Class members can work collaboratively on projects using Docs feature.  Check out the Digital Praxis Seminar for an example.
  • Projects.   ePortfolios @SPS – a private working group and group blog for the “Connect to Learning at SPS” project)
  • Campus “Commons” sites.  A great example of this is The Lehman Teaching & Learning Commons – “a space for Lehman’s faculty, staff, and graduate students to join in conversations and activities about their Lehman experience.”
  • Conferences/events/seminars.  Plan, organize and advertise upcoming group events.

Group Tools

group optionsThere is a lot more to groups than the group forum.   Here is a quick review of all the tools that are avaialbe to group members:

  • On your group’s Home page, below its summary statement and avatar is the group activity stream, a rich log with links to everything that’s happened in the group – new members, new forum topics, replies to discussion threads, announcements, etc. Browse the group’s Activity Stream to stay current with your groups news. (If your group subscribes to any external RSS feeds, that content will appear here as well.)
  • The Announcements page lists all the announcements posted by the group’s admins and moderators.
  • If your group has a group blog, you can access it via the Blog tab.  Read and post to the Group Blog.  (This option will not appear if your group does not have a blog.)  For more info, see Groups and Groups Blogs.
  • The Files page lets you upload and share files.  Members can upload files to the group site, and make them available to everyone.  By default, group members are notified when a file is uploaded, but you can choose “Silent Upload” and not disturb your colleagues if you are making some small changes to a file or if it is not ready to be reviewed by the whole group.  For more info, see Working with Group Files.
  • Read and contribute to the forum.  As a member, you can start new topics and comment on existing threads.  By default, you are notified by email when other members post to the forum, and you can either reply by email to the thread, or click on the link embedded in the email, and log into the Commons to reply.  These two options make it extremely easy to participate in a discussion.
  • Collaborate with other members using Docs.  You can think of Docs as your group’s private wiki.  It has granular privacy settings which allow subgroups to work together and collaborate confidentially, and keeps a record of changes.  Docs can be tagged and grouped hierarchically.  (Docs can be enabled or disabled by your group admin – if you want this functionality and don’t see it, ask your group admin to enable it.)
  • Find out who is in your group by clicking the Members tab.
  • Send Invites to your colleagues to join your group.    (Invited members need to be members of the Commons.)
  • Configure your email notifications with Email Options page.  tab provides access to your notification settings.  For more see Managing Privacy on the Commons.

Additional Resources

Staying in Touch with Your Group

The Commons’ powerful email notification system lets members of a group know when other members post content. Used in conjunction with a group blog, it lets you set up a nice place to share content and get feedback. Since the model presented below involves group blogs, here’s a quick look at what they are.

Group Blogs

When you create a group on the Commons, you can optionally attach a blog to it. This “group blog” can be brand new, or it can be an existing site on the Commons that you have admin rights to. Just as a group can be public, private, or hidden, a group blog’s visibility can be configured to meet the needs of the group. Here are the options (found on your Group’s Admin page, under “Group Blogs”):

Likewise, group admins can control what rights group members should have on the group blog. Should they be allowed to post, edit, and publish articles? Should they be allowed to make changes to the layout of the site? These options can be controlled from the Group Admin screen, Under “Group Blog.” See the snapshot below:

For more information on how to do this, check out the Codex posts “How to Create, Join and Maintain Groups” and “Groups and Group Blogs, and Bringing Content Together.”

Group blogs are not appropriate for every group, but for many, they can provide a platform for members to post ideas, embed media, announce events, and aggregate category and tag based content.

Activity Notifications

Besides the group blog, members of a group have many other tools to use – the Discussion Forum, BP Docs, Files, Announcements (see more about these here). Each time a member does something using any of these tools – write a post, respond to a forum discussion, upload a file, announce an event – that “activity” is recorded in the Group Activity stream, and an email notification is sent out to other group members.

This robust email notification system is configurable for each group. Members control how they want to “read” a group. (Settings are found on the Group Admin Page under “Email Notifications” or on your personal Profile Page – “Settings>>Notification”). See snapshot below:

Additionally, you can select what kind of activity you want to be notified about. On your Profile page, go to Settings>>Notification. (Many settings found here do not specifically apply to groups, but some important ones do. ) Here you can see all your groups listed and change their notifications levels. Also, the following lets you further qualify how you want to be notified:

The Group and Group Blog Model

So here’s how a group admin might use a group blog to make a space where members can create content, and read and comment on each other’s work:

  • The group admin creates a group and attaches group blog
  • When members join the group, they are automatically signed up as authors on the group blog
  • They write and publish posts
  • Each time a post is published, an email notification is sent out to the group
  • Members click on the link, read the post, and can comment

Members of course still use the discussion forum, and each time they post to the forum, a notification is sent out. For these they can reply by email, without even logging into the Commons. (See “Reply by Email.”) Members can use BP Docs to collaborate on projects, and similarly, when a major edit occurs, members are notified by email.

It’s a terrific pedagogical model, and one that is being used on the Commons to teach graduate courses: students join a group with their classmates. The group has a private blog attached to it, and they are automatically added as users to the blog. They do their assignments as blog posts. Whenever a student publishes a post, an excerpt automatically shows up on the group’s activity stream, and each group member is notified by email (depending upon their notification settings), that one of their peers has posted some content. If the content is a blog post, they can click on the link, read the rest of the post, and comment. If the content is a forum post, they can read it in its entirety, and reply by email, from the comfort of their inbox.

How Do We Do It?

The powerful and ultra-configurable email notification system that keeps Commons group members in touch is made possible by a BuddyPress plugin called Group Email Subscription that was developed by shambhalanetwork.org, the CUNY Academic Commons, and bluemandala.com

The Group for Group Admins

With Commons 1.3 we’ve begun to automatically invite all new group administrators and moderators to ‘The Group for Group for Admins.’ While joining the group is optional, we encourage you to come aboard and take part in the discussion. If you decline the invitation and decide at a later date that you would like to join you can always find ‘The Group for Group Admins’ by searching for it under the ‘Groups’ tab or following this link.

For more information about The Group for Group Admins, click here.

How to Create a Group Blog

To connect a blog with a group, go to you group home page and click “Admin” (yes, you need to be an administrator of the group to do this):

Red circle highlights admin button on group interface (available only to group admins). Click for larger view.
Red circle highlights admin button on group interface (available only to group admins). Click for larger view.

Click on group blog link:

Click on the Group Blog link. (click image for larger view)
Click on the Group Blog link. (click image for larger view)

Check the box next to “enable group blog”:

Check "enable group blog". (click image for larger view)
Check “enable group blog”. (click image for larger view)

Decide to start a new blog or connect an existing one to your group. Enable member posting if you want your group members to be authors on the blog. You will also be asked to set WordPress roles for administrators, moderators and members.

A bit about the WPMU member roles:

  • Administrator – Somebody who has access to all the administration features.
  • Editor – Somebody who can publish posts, manage posts as well as manage other people’s posts, etc.
  • Author – Somebody who can publish and manage their own posts.
  • Contributor – Somebody who can write and manage their posts but not publish posts.
  • Subscriber – Somebody who can read comments/comment/receive news letters, etc.
Choose a blog for the group and enable member posting
Choose a blog for the group and enable member posting

Click “Save Changes” and the “Blog” link should now appear on the left navigation area of the group.

Groups and Group Blogs, and Bringing Content Together

A group’s “arsenal” of Tools

The connection between groups and group blogs on the Commons may not be that intuitive. Groups already come with an arsenal of tools, each of which may be configured to generate email notifications when activity occurs, or batched into daily or weekly digests. To review, here’s a summary:

  • Announcements – broadcasts sent by group admins to group members.
  • Files – repositories of uploaded data items (docs, pdfs, spreadsheets, images, etc.), each having a permalink or URL.
  • Forums – discussion threads, where members investigate topics, form opinions, post attachments, and tag content.
  • Docs, a private wiki-like space where members collaborate on documents. Permissions and visibility are configurable.

Group admins can also set up a group blog, but it may not always be clear how that group blog fits into things. The “Visit Blog” option appears in the sidebar once a blog is attached to a group. Admins control the look and feel of the site, and are in charge of setting up a group permissions. In the Admin Tab, under Group Blogs, an admin of a group can determine the role code for their members. Here are the options:

  • Administrator – Somebody who has access to all the administration features.
  • Editor – Somebody who can publish posts, manage posts as well as manage other people’s posts, etc.
  • Author – Somebody who can publish and manage their own posts.
  • Contributor – Somebody who can write and manage their posts but not publish posts.
  • Subscriber – Somebody who can read comments/comment/receive news letters, etc.

Admins can also control site privacy by selecting one of the following:

  • I would like my site to be visible to everyone, including search engines (like Google, Bing, Technorati) and archivers
  • I would like to block search engines, but allow normal visitors
  • I would like my site to be visible only to registered users of CUNY Academic Commons
  • I would like my site to be visible only to members of my group
  • I would like my site to be visible only to Admins.

But group members may not be aware they can create posts on the site, and be unsure of the site’s privacy level.

It may make sense to note these settings in your site’s “About” page.

Using Your Site to Bring Group Content Together

A successful group site often acts as a hub, linking out and annotating content from its forums, BP Docs, Files, and Announcements, as well as soliciting contributions in the form of posts, pages, and comments from its members.

The hub and spoke model – one option

Each group is different, and group admins need to decide how best to control site content.

WordPress now has custom menus, and these can be used to create navigation that links out to the group content. Each discussion thread, each doc, each file, and each announcement has a permalink which may be used in a group blog’s post, page, or sidebar. Custom menus are a great way for admins to bring group content together (see tutorial at the end on this page).

Both admins and members can take advantage of the built-in WP presentation tools, and available plug-ins to embellish content on the site. This can bring a cool dimension to a group site.

Experiment with Google Calendar, Google Map Embed, Contact Form 7, Twitter Tools, and many other plug-ins to see how your group can benefit from a group blog!

And check out Wiki Inc plug-in which lets you include content from the Commons Wiki or any other MediaWiki based site, like Wikipedia.

Custom Menus Tutorial:

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