[This post originally appeared at ProfHacker.]

Of the perennial ProfHacker favorites, WordPress is probably neck and neck with Zotero as our most written about topic. From course blogs to department websites to ProfHacker itself, we like WordPress for just about any kind of website that you might run. In fact, other than the barest mention, I don’t think we’ve even acknowledged the existence of WordPress competitors like Blogger, Typepad, and MoveableType. WordPress really is that much better than the competition. (Jason does like About.me for profile pages, and if you’re comfortable on the command line Jekyll or Octopress are great choices.)

But if for academic purposes there isn’t much choice between WordPress and its competitors, you do have a choice between WordPress.org and WordPress.com. With WordPress.org, you host your own installation of WordPress and can install plugins and themes however you wish. With WordPress.com, you use a WordPress as a hosted service, which gives you no control over plugins, but the service comes with some nice features already set up for you, such as stats.

Recently the choice has been made easier with the release of the plugin JetPack. Automattic, the company behind WordPress, has bundled a lot of the extra functionality of WordPress.com into a single plugin for WordPress.org. You install the plugin like any other, then connect your site with your WordPress.com account.

The plugin adds over a dozen features, not all of which are equally useful. Here are the highlights that are relevant for course websites, as mentioned by Brian, Mark, and Jason.

  • Stats. The WordPress stats are clean, simple, and easy to understand. They also don’t require any additional configuration. For almost any purpose these stats should be sufficient. Professional-grade services like Google Analytics are overkill.
  • Shortened URLs. For each page and post Jetpack provides a shortened URL, which can be useful for e-mails and documents. (E.g., from http://lincolnmullen.com/courses/uws/schedule to http://wp.me/P2GPwb-f.)
  • Embed codes. If you need to embed video in posts, Jetpack adds some shortcuts.
  • Math plugin. If you’re in a STEM field, the math plugin will let you create equations with LaTeX.

In short, Jetpack is hardly essential, but if you’ll use some of these features, it’s a nice addition.

What experience do you have with JetPack for course websites? Are there other plugins you find essential?