For websites in a partially controlled environment we would always recommend using MyPad, which we support. Groups can edit a site together and there are a number of levels of privacy which can be applied, in addition to being a publicly available web site.
However, although it is possible to export the site content when a student (or staff member) leaves the university it will be moderately disruptive. And there are some features or widgets that are never going to be possible to include as we can’t control the WordPress plug-ins.
If an external web site is required, Weebly is one of the better offerings. Sign up by email is needed (or linking to a Google account) but the free service offered is free of onerous restrictions (no eCommerce and a small amount of branding). Updates can be posted directly to your Facebook and/or Twitter account. There is a limit on the quantity of media you can upload to the site, but it is generous and re-sizing files to 800 pixels or less in width will still allow hundreds to be included. If that isn’t enough, images hosted elsewhere can be linked to, which is how Weebly manages videos.
Contact forms, maps, RSS feeds, polls, linked documents, slideshows, gallerys, video, audio are ridiculously easy to include – drag the widget where you want it and fill in the basic information it asks for. There is even a widget to link to Bookfresh appointment/booking management – that does cost $20 per month though, but this is a further demonstration of how a Weebly site will scale easily into a business site, which could be very attractive.
The focus is very much on content rather than the technology so most users should find it very easy to use. For submission as an assignment, Weebly offers an archive file or it will print (page by page) to PDF for submission via Turnitin. A popular alternative that many students use – Wix – is very difficult to print out in this way due to ‘watermarks’ that obscure content. Students should be discouraged from using that if a print out is required.
It’s a tool I use personally for my scooter restoration blog – the last thing I want to do after a day fighting with engines is hacking HTML – and after a year of use and very positive comments from site visitors I can recommend it. It’s suitable for both blogs and static page sites.
There are Android and IOS apps available, but these are largely restricted to posting blog entries with simple text and images. However these are re-broadcast to Facebook and Twitter if required so these may well be useful applications. In summary, probably not a good option for first year undergraduates – who are best sheltered in MyPad – but excellent for more confident students who have content to share and for whom a web site may be integral to their future working life.