How to Organise Class Sites for SharePoint Learning Kit – Using a Single Site, Don’t do it

slkIcon The posts in this series on how to organise class sites for SharePoint Learning Kit are:

  1. The Basics
  2. Using a Single Site, Don’t do it (this post)
  3. Use a Site Per Class or Teaching Group
  4. Hierarchy of the Class Sites

In the previous post in this series on organising class sites, I examined the process of assigning a piece of work and the basics of how SLK is provisioned. In this post, I’m going to discuss using a single site for all teachers to assign to, and why it’s a bad idea.

Reasons for using a single site

The main reason for using a single site would be that’s it’s easy to set up. You just need to fit one site into your hierarchy, and only need to set the SLK permissions on that one site. Nice and easy to get started, and actually not a bad idea when getting started and trialling SLK.

Setting up a single site

For a single site to work, every teacher and student will need instructor and learner permissions respectively. However, the students will need grouping otherwise it will be impossible in any practical sense for the teachers to find all their students to assign to.

So, because you can assign to Active Directory groups, you could create AD groups for every class and then give every one of those AD groups SLK Learner permissions on the site. I’m talking about AD groups instead of SharePoint groups as people have more experience creating AD groups than SharePoint groups.

This will theoretically work in that a teacher can assign to that site, pick out the class that they want to assign to and assign the work. Although there is still administrative work creating the AD groups and assigning them permissions on a single site, it is certainly a lot less than creating many sites.

Problems with a single site

There are 2 huge problems with this set up:

Usability is poor. Although the students are grouped into classes, the teacher has to search for their class amongst all the classes in the school, which can easily be more than 1000.

 singlesitelearners

It is slow. In it’s current format SLK doesn’t handle 1000s of user and groups particularly well (something I hope to fix in a later release).

Real World Example

I have actually seen this deployed in a live site which was created by a large Microsoft Gold Partner. It was obvious that they understood how to bulk create AD groups, but didn’t know much more about SLK above installing it and so took the single site approach. When assigning work it literally took several minutes for SharePoint to load the assignment properties page. Unsurprisingly no-one was using it!

When can you use a single site

When you are a small organisation with 10s rather than 100s or thousands of users. In this case the problems are minimised and the administrative benefits may outweigh the disadvantages. However, I would say even in a small organisation, use a single site only if using SLK is not a day to day activity. If using SLK a lot, you want to emphasise usability over administration.

When you only have 1 or a very small number of groups to assign to. If you only have 1 or 2 groups to assign to, then creating a site per groups isn’t going to help usability massively. However, if your groups are large i.e. 1000s of members, you would be better off splitting the groups and having multiple sites due to performance reasons.

Conclusion

Generally using a single site for assignment is a bad idea due to usability and performance issues. In my next post I will discuss using a site per class.

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