How to convince my university to use/install Discourse?


(Nino Treyssat-Vincent) #1

Hi all, I’m a student in a french university.
I would really like to convince my department (~100 students) to use Discourse as an organisation and communication tool.

Currently we have not such tool, teachers and contributors only use mails.

One of our teacher use a Google Drive folder, but it does not suit her requirements. It’s also verry hard for us (students) to feel concerned and interact with our teacher via google drive.
She has ask me about web tools to improve project and courses management. I have an opportunity to introduce Discourse to her and the others students.

What could be the best argument for teachers and students ?
(One you can’t know is that we learn Ruby on Rails at 1rst semester)


(Felix Freiberger) #2

One argument might be that it is battle-tested in academic use: We have been using Discourse as a discussion tool for lectures and courses for multiple years now, and our experience has been almost entirely positive. (The only real pain points have been in handling incoming emails from external users, which is a pretty advanced use and a relatively new feature.)

These courses had up to 500 students, and Discourse seems to have been liked by the students. Without having concrete numbers, I’d say that engagement was noticeably higher than with the phpBB-based boards we used before. :slight_smile:

Another argument is extensibility. For one course, we have a web-based tool that students are expected to use. It was pretty easy to develop a small plugin so file sharing links to this web platform integrate nicely into Discourse. It looks like this (but is interactive):

This is especially true if you are working with Ruby on Rails anyways :slight_smile:


Discourse for Academic Use Features (Done and to be Done)
(Jay Pfaffman) #3

It’s hard to convince universities to do anything. I used Discourse to teach my online classes. Two of my clients have done the same.

It’s much easier to ask forgiveness than get permission. If you have one faculty member who is interested, set it up and get started.

If your university does not offer a place to host it (e.g., a desktop in a dorm room), you can get a free $10 credit from digital ocean (you can find a link on my site, for example) which will keep you going for a month.


(Christoph) #4

Have you already tried to convince anyone at your department? If so, what was their response? In order to come up with the right arguments it would be good to know what kind of resistances you’re meeting.

I could imagine that the first response from a teacher might be: what for? And then it is up to you to be able to describe exactly how you imagine it to be used. Ideally, you would point to some deficits in the current way way things work and then present discourse as a solution.

Once you have a clear picture for yourself of how you think discourse could be used, then you will face the real resistances: people don’t really understand the solutions you are presenting, or they think they cause heaps of new problems, some of which will be real (e.g. having to learn a new system) and others will be imagined (“I already get so many emails, with this forum I will get even more”). Once you are at that point, I think you have a lot of friends here, because many of us find themselves in similar situations and many people will be interested in finding solutions.

A final suggestion would be to start by convincing one teacher to use it in their course and work with that teacher to make sure it becomes a success. After that, things may just take off by themselves.


(xiasummer) #5

Great!!! Beautiful and Useful.

Could you please tell me how to install such extensibility in Discourse?

Yours.


(Nino Treyssat-Vincent) #6

@fefrei Thanks for this academic feedback ! I agree with you, extensibility is really important.

You are right, even if mine is quite open to new ideas. Has suggested by @tophee I’ll try to convince only my teacher, who seek a good tool, firstly, and then with her support, our head of the department.
If it’s only used/approved by one teacher I could do the support myself (it would be my first instance).

I haven’t, I just know that she don’t know Discourse. I had a talk with her about tools used for education purpose, it’s helpful because I know few resistances she could have.
I can also target good arguments, for example she don’t like the fact to give student’s private data to Google by using Google Drive.

I should give my point of view of the usage, thanks for this tip.

I think the main one is (if it’s only used by one teacher) : “It’s another website to use, we already have the student Facebook group, an online agenda…”. (the agenda’s data could be easily use for a plugin)
About learning to use a new system, a very short demo of discourse could easily remove this resistance, we have a very ease of use of new technology in this department.

By you quick response you gave me another argument, if we need support, the community is very reactive :slight_smile:.


(Felix Freiberger) #7

Very good point, I forgot to mention that: With no effort on my side, Discourse already began spreading through our department, because some TAs of our course liked it so much that they lobbied for it at a chair they TAed for next semester :slight_smile:

To install plugins, look here:

To get started developing plugins yourself, try following this #howto:


(xiasummer) #8

Oh, no. I know how to install extensions. I want to know how to install the CCS plugin. Do you mean it was still not developed yet?

Actually, I think we sholud have a list of “what academic plugin” sholud there be for discourse, and what extensions have been made already?


(Felix Freiberger) #9

Oh, nice. I didn’t even want to believe that you were interested in this concrete plugin :wink:

The plugin itself is available here:

Feel free to install it as usual :slight_smile:

The plugin only enables oneboxing of pseuCo file sharing links. To use it, create a new CCS file on pseuCo.com, type the CCS code you want to embed and click Share this file. You will be given a link with this form: https://pseuco.com/#/edit/remote/<identifier>
Simply paste this link into a post, in a separate line as usual, and the plugin will make sure that the interactive CCS / LTS view from pseuCo.com is embedded :tada:

Since I assume that CCS is not really on topic here :stuck_out_tongue:, feel free to :incoming_envelope: message me if you have questions that are out of scope here :slight_smile: