Yisong Chen and Monica Fernandes

 

 


Introduction
Communication

First Time Meeting: Creating a Profile
Contacting Professors During Development
The role of GSIs

Motivation: How to make professor realize the potentials and limits of information technology in enhancing learning environment?

Design and Implementation: Considering professors' future maintenance


Introduction

This paper is a discussion of potential problems a course web site developer may meet in dealing with web site's owners (professors). The paper provides some guidelines and some practical tools web designer can use in course website developing process.

A course website provides powerful and interactive resources to improve students' learning and facilitate professor's delivering of information (like lecture notes, assignments, etc.). It is also an instrument to expand students' experience and knowledge (like newsgroup, useful links, etc). Students are main users of a course website, and their requirements should be the first consideration when a developer designs a course web site. At the same time, however, professors will be charge of maintaining the website (either by themselves or by GSIs) after the websites are handed over. By then how much students can benefit from the web site will mainly depend on professors' capabilities to manage the web site.

A good course web site should be used effectively not only when web designer is in charge of the development, but also after the site is handed over to its owner. This consideration will have great influences on the design and implementation of a course web site, as well as communication between developers and professors. In this paper, we are going to present some ideas about how to improve communication between web developers and professors, how to motivate professors to apply information technology to class teaching, and how to integrate the consideration of professors' future maintenance into web site design and implementation.

Communication
In this section we are going to present three aspects on the communication between the web designers and the client - the professor - in order to facilitate the development of efficient course web site:

First Time Meeting: Creating a Profile
Our objective is to provide a tool that can be used by web developers in order to create a course information profile. This profile might be used as a reminder of a list of topics that should be discussed with the professor and as a documentation of the basic requirements, needs, and expectations of the client. See the Form: Creating a Profile (also available in Word).

Contacting Professors During Development
If a course website is not updated frequently, it can't keep its visitors and the course website can't achieve its full potential in assisting class teaching. Professors are the providers of most website content. How to contact professors and get them actively involved in the development and maintenance is very important. However, the fact that many professors are very busy sometimes can turn this issue into a great challenge for a web designer. In the following we will discuss how to deal with this issue in two different situations.

The first case is that the professor seldom gives any feedback about the web site. This is actually not a rare case. Different professors have different expectation for the course website. For example, some professors only want to have assignments or readings available online. They don't feel it necessary to contact with web designer frequently. In fact, a course website can achieve much more than providing electronic version of paper works. For example, we can set up newsgroup on the course website where students and professors can exchange ideas.

Therefore to motivate professors to have more expectation for course website is the first step to get professors actively involved in the design process and make a better course website. Since this is an important issue, we discuss it later in a separate section. Web designers should adopt those measures from the right beginning of contacting professors and keep on doing it. If necessary, web designers sometimes need to take some pro-active measures to contact professors. For example, visiting faculty during office hours is a good way to "catch" professors and has proved effective.

The second case is that the professors are enthusiastic and the course web sites are updated frequently. For example, some professors put a lot of lecture notes, images, and slides online. We also have some suggestions that can help web designers keep a good relationship with professors.

  1. Set up a calendar of updating websites in the beginning. This calendar should be based on students' schedule, professors', class schedule, probably GSIs' schedule, as well as the availability of facilities like scanners.

  2. Follow up the calendar. If in some case web designer can't finish planned updating because of some unexpected situation, inform the professor as soon as possible and also let students know by posting some announcement on course website.

  3. Coordinate with another designer if there are two web designers for one course website.

The role of GSIs
GSIs have different degree of involvement in the development of course web sites. Since GSIs can contact with students directly and get their feedback about course website, they are good candidates to contact with whenever web designer want to know students' preferences.
For those courses with frequent updates, web designers usually have to contact not only professor but also GSIs.

    • When setting up the updating calendar, be sure to include GSIs schedules.

    • When web designers are not sure what students' preference are, GSIs can be very helpful. For example, what forms should lecture notes be? GIF or PDF?

     

Motivation: How to make professor realize the potentials and limits of information technology in enhancing learning environment?
In order to motivate the professor to apply information technology, the web developer should be able to provide examples of resources (see Resources, or Word file) applied to courses web site and discuss their advantages and restrictions according to the course subject matter. Some of the benefits of applying information technology to enhance the learning environment:

  • The Course Web Page provides an interactive environment: Students can interact with other students, professors, and the online resources that will enrich their learning experience.

  • Time independent: students are able to find information about the course and lectures at any time.

  • Communication: professor is able to communicate any changes in the course schedule, readings, or lectures, to all students or group of students at any time, by the course web site directly or by using mailing lists.

  • Extending the boundaries: a course web site can take advantage of articles, tools, authors, institutions, libraries, etc available in the Internet and provide a new perspective for the subject topic, before and/or after lectures class.

  • Update facilities: any information in the course web site can be easily updated and become available at any time.

  • Multimedia resources: a course web page can provide video, photos, images, sounds and animation that will enrich and give context to the lectures.

  • Best practices: professor can take advantage of the course web site and disseminate study guidelines, educational advices, good writing practices or other pedagogical issues as well as by publishing good examples of students works.

Resources

Resources

Purpose and Recomendations Examples
Schedule

Purpose: the course schedule usually is one of the most popular pages of a course web site, especially if it is continuously updated. The purpose is to provide information about date, class activities, readings, assignments due, and exams.

Recommendations: it should provide cross-links to other parts of the course site.The organization of information should be clear to students, and have a good resolution on print.

Schedule in

http://socrates.berkeley.edu/~hist8a/

Course Description

Purpose: for registered students, gives direction and focus, and for visitors or students, who are applying, gives an overview of the course and its objectives.

Recommendations: the information should be published in the first page until the beginning of the course, but it could be a separate page after two weeks course.

http://www.sims.berkeley.edu/
courses/is202/f99/
Professor Information

Purpose: facilitate contact, by providing information about Professor's name, e-mail, web page, office hours, office address.

Recommendations: could be integrated in the Front Page or in the Contact Information page.

http://socrates.berkeley.edu/~hist8a/
GSI Information

Purpose: facilitate contact, by providing information about GSI's name, e-mail, web page, office hours, office address.

Recommendations: could be integrated in the Front Page or in the Contact Information page.

http://socrates.berkeley.edu/~hist8a/
Learning Objectives

Purpose: give students direction and focus.

Recommendations: could be integrated in the Course Description.

 
Lectures Notes

Purpose: facilitated learning and provides uniform information.

Recommendations: it depends on professor's practices. Can be PowerPoint presentation, Word file, PDF file etc. The notes can be published before classes or after classes. If the notes are published before class it gives the student to print the material and expand the notes with their comments during the lectures.

http://www.sims.berkeley.edu
/courses/is202/f99/Lectures.html
Assignments

Purpose: assignments can be published and complemented with cross-link information

Recommendations: it is recommended having a specific page for the assignments and with links to their answers

http://socrates.berkeley.edu/
~econ136/

problem sets page

Assignments Results

Purpose: its is important for providing feedback and improve learning.

Recommendations: students answers can be publish as good examples and/or professor's answer.

 
Exams Study Guide

Purpose: helps students to have access at anywhere/anytime and be prepared to take their exams.

Recommendations: organize the information according to the main topics and provides a layout that facilitate student understanding of the questions.

http://www.CNR.Berkeley.EDU/
departments/espm/env-hist/
espm161/studyguide.html
Announcements

Purpose: to inform any changes in the schedule, reading list, other updates or new references in the course site.

Recommendations: our suggestion is to present the current and last information on the front page, and archive the historic announcements at a specific page.

http://socrates.berkeley.edu/
~ec121/bboard/index.htm
Readings (list)

Purpose: as part of the syllabus, reading list is important information to registered students as well as to students who intend to take the course. Use cross-links with author's home page, etc

Recommendations: use Chicago Manual of Style or any other bibliographical resource to uniform information.

http://www.sims.berkeley.edu/courses/
is204/f99/204syllabus_p2.htm

Resources Readings (links and/or files)

Purpose: to provide the recommended and optional articles with access direct to links or files. In this case should have password protection to limit the use by the students.

Recommendations: complete source reference should be given

 
Projects

Purpose: depending on the course, projects are developed by students. In this page should provide information about the projects purposes, milestone, group names, links to projects web site etc

Recommendations: a specific page related to the projects.

http://socrates.berkeley.edu/
~ec121/paper/index.htm
Slides

Purpose: some professors use slides in their lectures. Those slides could be available in the course web page to provide student access any time after class. Scan the slides

Recommendations: be aware of copyright issues related to the use of books or any other source available in the Internet. Password protection should be provided to restrict its uses to registered students. It is also important to present for each slide the title, author, date, source of information, and description, if available. Thumbnails could be used to give the whole idea of the topic or facilitate comparisons.

 
PowerPoint Presentation

Purpose: some professor have already available their PowerPoint files, that could be available in the course web page.

Recommendations: professor should be aware that anyone in the Internet might access the slides. If rights should be preserved, password protection to control access should be required.It is important to verify if the slides could be printed in an economical way to students. The ideal is to have 4 to 6 slides printed in each page.

 
Graphics / Images

Purpose: images could enhance the course web page, or provide complementary information.

Recommendations: be aware of copyright issues related to reproduction.

 

Video

Purpose: could be used to complement lectures, to provide external information, etc

Recommendations: the video could be integrated in the page or create a link to its origin. Links can be created to videos provided by some newspaper, for example New York Times.

 
Mailing List

Purpose: mailing list is a valuable tool to complement course web site. It is an active tool that might facilitate communication between professor and students. Students also can have an active participation by recommending references, making questions etc It depends on professor. It can be used to inform about updates in the course web site.

Recommendations: see procedures to create a mailing list.

http://socrates.berkeley.edu/
~ec121/counter/listserv.html
Resources (Useful links)

Purpose: the Internet has many resources that can be useful for students and expand their knowledge. Reading author's page, academic articles, newspaper, videos, academic and professional organizations, companies, news articles, etc. Also the organization of those links can help professor in selecting the course content.

Recommendations: discuss with the professor choices of topics and resources according to the course objectives; organize the list by topics, alphabetically. To facilitate the copy of the links by students, the URL should be visible.

http://socrates.berkeley.edu/
%7Eaas27ac/online resources page
Exercises applied to Internet

Purpose: the idea is to create exercises integrated with Internet and use its best information resources. Can be utilized cross-link information, use of news or academic articles in order to answer questions, use of search engines, digital library, etc

Recommendations: it should be considered that students usually print the exercises pages. All cross-link should be updated.

 
Answers to Exercises

Purpose: learning with the best practices. Some professors publish official answers and/or provide additional information by publishing students' best answers. Students have to give permission to publish their own work.

Recommendations: can be PDF files, HTML, Word file etc.

 
Students' Work

Purpose: students should be stimulated to publish their own work in the web, specially group projects or final projects, in order to enhance the learning experience.

Recommendations: it is recommended to have a specific area, where students will be able to publish their works. It should be analyzed if there are any concerns about rights protection or security.

 
Online Exercises

Purpose: to provide exercises with multiple choices and immediate correction in the Internet.

Recommendations: this system is available by WebCT. It would be necessary to develop a program in order to offer by Socrates account.

 
Newsgroup

Purpose: differ from mailing list by its thread conversation. It has not been used in many of the courses web site

Recommendations: see procedures to create a newsgroup.

http://www.sims.berkeley.edu/courses
/web-design/admin/grant-reports
/Jan99/newsreport.html
Grades

Purpose: provide grades information about assignments and projects at any time.

Recommendations: For each student it is recommended to apply a code number, in order to keep his/her privacy. The student number could be communicated individually by e-mail.

http://www.sims.berkeley.edu/courses
/is206/f99/Assignments.html

This table is also available in Word.

Design and Implementation: Considering professors' future maintenance

After a course website is set up and maintained by the designer for a while, the website will usually be handed over to professor who will be responsible for future updating and maintenance. This raises some extra factors a web designer should consider in the design of the website. Former web design report: "Training Issues for Maintenance of web-sites" addressed the issues occurring when a web site is handed over to a professor. Here we will extend the consideration to the whole design process. In fact, the fact that professors will maintain the websites has great influences on web design and implementation from the right beginning to the end.

  1. Discuss the web-publishing experience of the professors and what tools they may use in the future maintenance before you begin to design the web site. If professors have few experiences in web publishing, web designer can make some advices and discuss the availability of different web publishing tools and their cost, time for learning, etc.

  2. Balancing a good website design and professors' capabilities to maintain. As a web designer, s/he certainly wants the website to look as good as possible. For example, HTML doesn't provide much flexibility for arranging text, and many web designers use tables to present the text and make it look better. However, this may raise extra problems for professors' future maintenance because updating text arranged by tables would lead to more troubles. Therefore for those contents like announcements that will be updated in the future, web designer should avoid using too much tables.

  3. There are some advanced web publishing technologies that will certainly make web sites look better, such as timeline, flash, mouseover, etc. What technologies web designers should use and what shouldn't? We think the guideline is: based on the tools professors will use in the future, the technologies used in the web sites should be "invisible" to the professors. "Invisible" here depends on what tools professors will use. For example, if professors are going to update websites by working on HTML file, Mouseover shouldn't be used since Javascript for Mouseover could make HTML codes look much more complex. But if professors will use Netscape Composer or Dreamweaver to maintain the websites, Mouseover should be O.K. since buttons with Mouseover look like common buttons in these software and Mouseover is therefore invisible.

  4. Training professors during the process of developing websites. It is good to give a detailed manual about how to maintain websites when web designers hand over the sites to professors. However, a better way to train professors is to motivate professors to maintain websites during the period when web designers are still in charge of maintenance. In this way web designers can respond to professors' specific questions and solve the problems with professors. If necessary, web designers can show professors how to achieve some tasks face-to-face.

  5. Introduce professors to other on-campus information technology resources for class teaching. There are some information technology resources around campus which support class teaching. For example, classroom technology support at UC Berkeley provides a wide variety of support for class teaching (courses.Berkeley.edu), such as class videotaping, streaming for the Internet, etc. Professors may not fully understand how they can make use of these resources or even, don't know their existence. Web designers should lead professors to realize the availability of these resources and the possibility of using them.