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The Chemistry Book

  • LPH2005


    Site URL:
    Site creation date: April 7, 2007
    Software installed: WordPress 3.0. , BP 1.2.5, MediaWiki 1.15.1, Moodle 1.9.9+ would not be possible without BuddyPress and all of the wonderful help on this site.

    TheChemBook started as a MediaWiki installation in April 2007. Each year students provide feedback for what they need or want on the site. During the Winter break of 2008-2009, a forum plugin for MediaWiki was installed (removed with BP installation). At the end of the 2009 school year, students suggested a better news area and so WordPress was installed on the front end. During the fall 2009, students asked for better uploading of files (and calendar) and so Moodle was installed. Approximately two weeks ago I asked the students why they were not interacting and discussing the wiki articles.

    BuddyPress was installed about two weeks ago with a strong negative response. Many students complained about poor navigation, confusion for purpose of certain areas, and a strong dislike for the registration as well as login process. In response, a child theme was created to modify the navigation tabs, a landing page was created for explaining several areas of the site, and many plugins were installed to enhance the site.

    Currently sixteen (16) plugins are installed. These include

    Announce Group
    Profile Field Setup
    BuddyPress Like
    BP CubePoints
    BP Album+
    Welcome Pack
    Forum Extras
    Forums-Move Topic
    Invite Anyone
    Live Chat (Ajax)
    Restrict Group Creation
    BuddyPress sitewide activity widget
    oEmbed for BP
    User Name Availability

    What helped the most?
    Critical to the success was learning how to use a child-theme and adding an image to the header, helping students understand the site was just like the “old” one….

    The first plugin to help the site really grab students’ attention was the CubePoints integration. For some students, interaction occurred (occur) because they wanted extra credit assigned by the CubePoints.

    The second plugin was the Profile Fields because it became necessary during registration to distinguish between my students and students in several other teachers’ classes.

    Third, integration of login for MediaWiki and WP helped students who still rely on searching the wiki but wanted to interact on the front BP side.

    Fourth, groups expanded as several kids realized that they could use the site to discuss their projects. I shut this off after a few kids abused the groups and were just joining everything – as well as creating dozens of groups (for no reason).

    Some students are still struggling with navigation, however, many students have now stated the changes in tabs and addition of the sidebar sub-navigation helps tremendously. The big problem I see is that the MediaWiki installation doesn’t have the same exact navigation. I’m not good with CSS and cannot seem to change the drop down on MediaWiki to look like the BP navigation.

    Removal of groups and the about page limited unnecessary pages but I think the CD avatar bubble (when it works with WP 3.0 and BP 1.2.4) will be a good add-on to find other members.

    Some students do not understand the activity stream – and so I’ve added hints to the top of the tutoring page as well as the activity stream.

    On Friday, several students explained that they use their iPhone to navigate the site. I haven’t checked the theme for mobility.

    How can you help?
    What would you suggest is changed so that more students become comfortable with the website? For example, students stated the site was “not inviting” because “there are too many words.” I’m not an artist – so maybe you have a suggestion on how to make the landing page “more inviting.”

    Also, the site expansion to BP also got me to think chemistry students from other schools might take interest (don’t know if this is real) – and so a few groups were added for them too (including a college group). Maybe you have some ideas there …

    Maybe you see a huge glitch – maybe something is terribly out of place and is leading to student confusion.

    Thank you all for your positive (and negative) feedback. I look forward to enhancing the site even more!

Viewing 11 replies - 1 through 11 (of 11 total)

  • Jamie Marsland


    Hi ,

    I really like the site, very clean and well explained. I have a quick question. How did you change the Group Forums Directory menu name to Tutoring? Is there an easy way/place to do this? I have tried making a translation file but that didn’t work.

    Thanks for any advise



    Hi James,

    Thank you for looking at the site. In the wp-config.php file add

    define( ‘BP_FORUMS_SLUG’, ‘tutoring’ );

    That should do the trick.

    Update: You could also add the same statement to a bp-custom.php file that you create and place in the /plugins/ directory. I just tried it and it worked, too.

    Jamie Marsland


    Hi , Tks for the reply



    I’ve been making more modifications today and previous to today. The sidebar-me, posting css, and sidebar widths are now unique. Thanks to others on here – I’ve even changed the posting behind the teachers so that their answers are more clear. The goal is to make this as easy as possible for students to ask questions and get reliable answers.



    @LPH2005 Cool. What did you use to embed the Practice Tests at and what application did you use to create the tests? I’m liking it a lot. Just answered some questions and managed to guess some correctly :-)

    Probably caught this during your modifications – the link “Chemistry Text” leads to headers not sent page at



    hmm.. ” headers already sent by” is a new error created today after the modifications. I didn’t see it until you pointed it out! Ouch.

    This seems to be a problem in the functions.php that I created. The php functions are now combined and the site wiki appears to load properly now. Thank you!

    The practice tests are created in ExamView and saved as html. These were uploaded via ftp and linked by a page created in BP. I hope that makes sense.



    @LPH2005 good see you’ve fixed the headers already sent error earlier. I just checked out ExamView and and it looks like a great add-on for a school site. Thank you :-)

    EDIT – per your 1st post re suggestions:
    1. Changing too-wide login to horizontal login under header – here’s some HTML and CSS you could try – adjust accordingly or let me know if it needs some tweaking
    2, The right column looks good in home page but takes over content space which is more important imho in the inside pages.



    A few more changes (thanks to the help here):

    The wiki is now better integrated
    1. Changes to a wiki page is reflected into the activity stream
    2. The header and footer of BP are used in the wiki skin
    3. The Wiki Append plugin provides a new feature to the left front page called “element of the day.” This is a transclusion of a wiki page that uses the #switch command.

    @mercime – Agreed. The forums and blog posts were shifted to full width, without a sidebar.

    Again, this isn’t possible without the help of people on here. The site keeps getting better and better.



    I know – you are probably sick of updates – but what’s more fun than creating something from nothing?

    So here goes the latest:

    Number 1:
    Moodle is now operational – the login ID is now tied to the WordPress login. Students no longer need to register twice – but only once. The same login ID and password used at the front of the site is the same as the moodle account.

    Number 2:
    Theme changes to moodle so that the Wiki and WP are available from the top navigation.

    Number 3: (and this one is cool!)

    This is an embedded PDF containing links to the vocabulary students are to memorize. If the student clicks on the link then the vocabulary loads – and provides an opportunity for the kids to play hangman, solve a crossword puzzle, etc.

    Number 4: (boring nerd stuff)
    BuddyPress was updated to the latest stable version – with some additional plugins and edits. Theme changes in Moodle and MediaWiki to accept the navigation. Embed plugin for PDFs and web into the Wiki.

    Bragging stuff:
    Yep, over one-half million page views on this site since it’s launch. Oh – and a friend did a great job showing the site in Texas at the HP conference.

    What could possibly be left? Glad you asked!

    1. The photos album is going to be expanded. I can’t wait for the BP Album + …

    2. Bug fixes: I suspect once kids start using this thing again – they’ll find problems and want things changed.

    3. Embed learning guides so they do not need to be downloaded.

    4. Performance on BuddyPress is really poor. This is due to RackSpace, their MA and lack of being able to use expired headers and gzip. I cannot use minify either. This causes plugin errors to crop up. These problems are supposed to be fixed in W3-Total-Cache next release.

    5. More content! Yes. While there are over 550 articles, so much detail is missing. So lets hope I can convince kids to actually add more content :)



    Now that there are several hundred more students registered, feedback has prompted a few more “tiny” updates to the theme:

    Number 1
    The members area has been simplified. No sidebar shows and the member-header has been widgitized. The simplification helps with the slow performance of the site.

    Number 2
    The tutoring area is now sorted by groups, alphabetically. The latest five posts show and buttons are available for creating a new topic in that particular forum.

    Number 3
    Pagination is now available in the activity stream. Rather than rely on the ajax “load more” – pages are available.

    Number 4
    Registration page changed to a single page, without sidebars. This stops the “cramped” feeling during registration.

    Number 5
    Microsoft Translator added to the footer. EL students are now able to change the page to load in their native language.

    Still waiting for the BP Media to be out of nightly builds so that the latest photos become available site wide.

    I’m still debating about a “faster” loading /start page. While the page provides explanations, too many kids are not reading the information. It’s probably a waste of bandwidth. But the jury is out on that one …

    Site URL:



    great site :)

Viewing 11 replies - 1 through 11 (of 11 total)
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