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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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?
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:
Course Web Page provides an interactive environment:
Students can interact with other students, professors,
and the online resources that will enrich their learning
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
Update facilities: any information in the course
web site can be easily updated and become available at
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
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.
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.
for registered students, gives direction and focus, and for
visitors or students, who are applying, gives an overview
of the course and its objectives.
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.
facilitate contact, by providing information about Professor's
name, e-mail, web page, office hours, office address.
could be integrated in the Front Page or in the Contact
facilitate contact, by providing information about GSI's
name, e-mail, web page, office hours, office address.
could be integrated in the Front Page or in the Contact
give students direction and focus.
could be integrated in the Course Description.
facilitated learning and provides uniform information.
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.
assignments can be published and complemented with cross-link
it is recommended having a specific page for the assignments
and with links to their answers
its is important for providing feedback and improve learning.
students answers can be publish as good examples and/or
helps students to have access at anywhere/anytime and be prepared
to take their exams.
organize the information according to the main topics and
provides a layout that facilitate student understanding of
to inform any changes in the schedule, reading list, other
updates or new references in the course site.
our suggestion is to present the current and last information
on the front page, and archive the historic announcements
at a specific page.
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,
use Chicago Manual of Style or any other bibliographical resource
to uniform information.
Readings (links and/or files)
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
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
a specific page related to the projects.
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
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.
some professor have already available their PowerPoint files,
that could be available in the course web page.
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.
images could enhance the course web page, or provide complementary
be aware of copyright issues related to reproduction.
could be used to complement lectures, to provide external
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 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.
see procedures to create a mailing list.
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
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.
%7Eaas27ac/online resources page
applied to Internet
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,
it should be considered that students usually print the exercises
pages. All cross-link should be updated.
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.
can be PDF files, HTML, Word file etc.
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.
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.
to provide exercises with multiple choices and immediate correction
in the Internet.
this system is available by WebCT. It would be necessary
to develop a program in order to offer by Socrates account.
differ from mailing list by its thread conversation. It has
not been used in many of the courses web site
see procedures to create a newsgroup.
provide grades information about assignments and projects
at any time.
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.
table is also available in Word.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.