Here at Western websites have replaced paper and telephone as the first stop for information for our customers - students, faculty and staff, prospective students, and parents. But do all departments and programs have access to the tools, training and support they need for a professional web presence to become a reality?
Historical stages of web development
During the past fifteen years of departmental web development we've moved from goals such as "just get a page up" to much more sophisticated goals for our web presence, thanks to trendsetters such as Amazon, Yahoo, Google, and Wikipedia, who have invented new ways to access and display information and to complete transactions.
Perhaps you can relate to these five stages of web development goals:
Stage One: We need a web page! A student is hired, basic information is provided online, yet no design standard is in place.
Stage Two: Our web page is out of date! A different student, or a staff member redesigns the page, in fact, makes it a site. We know some consistency is needed, but we simply hurry to get it updated.
Stage Three: Our website needs to represent our group as we see it. A committee is formed to organize content. Students or staff members redesign the site based on committee direction. Perhaps a new appearance is created.
Stage Four: Our website needs to represent how our department can meet the needs of our patrons. A design template is established and responsibilities are staffed and funded so consistency and quality will endure.
Stage Five: Our website needs to provide accuracy and productive results for our patrons. Integration with administrative and departmental databases is needed in order to achieve interactive real-time processes such as course listings, registration, online application forms, reservations, and meaningful contact information.
After we achieve Stage Five, we have a dynamic website: our website continuously and dynamically supports and becomes an integrated part of our strategic academic mission
Where are we ~ and where do we go from here?
Across campus, groups and departments probably identify with one or more of the five stages noted, and ATUS has made it easier to achieve Stages Three and Four with the WWU web template, as described in our Fall 2006 Academic Technology News, ATUS Provides New Web Template.
Stage Five is not yet supported campus-wide, though some departments provide aspects of this for themselves. Our goal in ATUS for 2007-2008 is to provide substantially more useful tools for Stage Five development of high quality interactive departmental web sites.
The first step toward achieving this goal is to obtain information that will help us to define needs and requirements for each departmental site. Some of the most frequently mentioned needs include a) the ability of a department to have their courses for that term listed (on-line cataloging tool), b) a method to automatically keep faculty lists and contact information up to date, and c) the ability to tap into the campus events and news feeds.
ATUS and Administrative Computing Services will work closely to assure data is accessed without compromise to the safety and security of the required data.
Once the goals and objectives are clear, based on departmental input, we will review appropriate technologies to achieve these goals, including Content Management Systems and Dynamic Web Applications.
Content Management System
A web content management system (CMS) is a software product that provides a no-muss no-fuss way of frequently updating your department's website information without doing any programming.
When a CMS is used no one designs or codes a particular page; the template is pre-designed and the content is held in the system's database. When a user goes to the web page, it is instantly compiled from content you have previously provided within the CMS, and produced on the departmental template. ATUS utilizes a CMS to manage our departmental website.
A CMS system would, for example, enable all departments to have a similar template for a course-listing page so the course listings would have the same look and feel across disciplines, while the data would, of course, be different for each. Students seeking such information would benefit from the consistency of the pages, and each department could list time-sensitive information quickly and easily.
A CMS is useful when one or more of the following are true:
- the website contains rapidly changing content
- the page views contain data that may be shared by other pages or other sites
- a specified work-flow is desired for publishing new content
- a consistent look-and-feel is required across many sub-sites
- multiple individuals are responsible for keeping content up-to-date
Dynamic Web Application
A web page written in html displays static information. A dynamic web application, written in a programming language, creates pages dynamically to display information that changes frequently. Dynamic web pages are web pages that create an interactive experience, usually by pulling information from a database and writing the html for that page automatically when the page is requested. At WWU, Class Finder provides dynamic web pages. In our personal lives, we use dynamic web pages to provide us with current information affected by our own interactions and transactions with the data, such as financial accounts, travel reservations, or online purchases.
ATUS Web Services' goal is to provide web applications that allow each department to have a dynamic website that reads data from administrative system databases - a significant enhancement of the CMS described above. This would mean the History Department, for example, could list the courses on their site for each term, and the program would keep the information current by accessing the Course Registration databases, and next term the course listing would automatically change.
Each new web application ATUS creates with improved dynamic web tools can be utilized campus-wide, and there will be no need to invent, recreate or program unique applications for each department.
Your input is needed
If you are actively contributing to or responsible for a departmental or program web site, Web Services needs to hear from you.
- Do you have web update or maintenance tasks as part of your permanent, acknowledged duties?
- What help, support and training are you getting and what else do you need?
- What products are you familiar with, what would you like to learn?
- What would be the best way to get additional information you may need?
- Meeting with others with similar challenges (brown bag)
- Training courses
- On-line resources, links, books
Please send your views on these topics to firstname.lastname@example.org or contact Marie Raney, at 360-650-6355.
While Front Page software has been discontinued at Microsoft, ATUS is still able to support current users.
If you use FrontPage as a web editor, Web Services recommends you obtain Macromedia DreamWeaver or Contribute. Please review the Academic Technology News article, Fall 2006, Recommended Software Products for Editing Web Pages.
For those departments planning dynamic web development efforts, ATUS plans to have new environments in place within the next six months. We are reviewing open source and proprietary CMS systems as well as PHP/MySQL.
Each year the University purchases about 1,000 new computers. ATUS works with the Purchasing Department to specify the standard computer configuration from each vendor and then uses that configuration to negotiate the best price for all WWU purchases.
To obtain additional discounts, we take advantage of quantity purchases wherever possible, bundling purchases for computer labs, classrooms, academic departments and work groups at every opportunity.
ATUS and Purchasing work together on an ongoing basis with the vendors to address any hardware problem areas that arise during the life of the computer and work with the vendors' technical staff to resolve issues in a proactive manner.
Purchasing website updated
Western's Purchasing Department recently updated their Computer purchasing web pages to reflect changes in computer hardware such as the faster Dell and Gateway processors.
At the site you will find links that allow you to take advantage of prices negotiated between WWU and the vendors for departmental purchases of Apple, Dell and Gateway computers.
You will also find important guidelines for acquisition of computers and software and a convenient list of specifications for the standard desktop computer hardware and standard laptop computer hardware. The standard configurations are designed for the majority of uses at WWU but still allow you to upgrade memory, hard drives, monitors, and video cards to support the unique needs of your work. There is also a link for printer and scanner pricing information.
Another benefit to be found at the Purchasing Computers web page is the link for Personal Computer Purchases. Faculty, staff and students can take advantage of special discounts for personal use computers and related equipment, for purchase with your own funds.
Have a look at the options and opportunities at Purchasing Computer Supplies and Accessories. Click on Products & Pricing, then Computers, Supplies & Accessories.
If you have any questions about new hardware or would like some assistance in configuring a new PC, please call me, Fred Robson, 360-650-7737, email Fred.Robson@wwu.edu in ATUS Computer Maintenance or Susan Banton, 360-650-2430, Susan.Banton@wwu.edu in the Purchasing Department.
Technical Evaluation Ongoing
An issue on many minds is the migration to the new Vista operating system. We are currently evaluating the OS in our network environment, identifying problems and hardware issues and experimenting with different configurations. Many hardware manufacturers are scrambling to come out with updates to drivers and applications so they can be listed as "Vista Compliant." This will take time. We want to make sure that the transition will be a smooth one.
by Susan Brown
With Apple's introduction of Macintosh computers with the Intel chip, the conversations/debates about Mac -vs- Windows have changed. Now, Mac computers with the Intel chip can run not only software written for the Macintosh operating system, but with the addition of specialized software, they can also run Windows applications.
Parallels Desktop for Mac enables the installation of a Windows operating system plus Windows software on a Macintosh with an Intel chip, enabling users to "switch" between running Macintosh or Windows programs on one machine.
This greater flexibility also generates some expense. There is a cost associated with licensing Parallels Desktop for Mac, and a license is needed for the Windows operating system. More cost is associated with licensing each of the software packages you may wish to run in a Windows environment. For example, if you have Adobe Acrobat 7 Pro for Macintosh installed, you would still need to purchase Adobe Acrobat 7 Pro for Windows to install it in the Windows environment on the same computer.
Software vendors have differing licensing requirements for running on a dual platform. There are a few products, such as Adobe Contribute, which have the same media format for both Macintosh and Windows, which do not require the additional license.
Some confusion also exists in the software development arena and in today's market, because not every software package works well in the dual platform environment.
This is a very new area of technology, still being evaluated by ATUS technicians. To learn more about technical functionality, please contact Fred Robson, ATUS Computer Maintenance at 360-650-7737, email Fred.Robson@wwu.edu.
For questions about acquiring or licensing software, please contact ATUS Software Services at 360-650-3159, email Software.Services@wwu.edu or in HH 124, and we'll explore the answers.
If you plan to use the PRS clickers for the classroom response system during fall quarter 2007, please contact ATUS as soon as possible to reserve a specific number of clickers. We are able to supply a total of 1000 clickers next year, and anticipate requests for more than that. Let's work together to be sure you have the materials you need.
Additionally, we will want to be sure your classroom has an installed PRS receiver, and assist you in obtaining the most current version of PRS software at your desktop. Call Nancy Grayum, 360-650-3572 to make arrangements.
ATUS also provides training sessions in the use of the classroom response system. Learn more at the Classroom Response System web page.
Email was sent to all departments in early April requesting computer lab reservation requests for the upcoming summer quarter, and for AY 2007 - 2008. Please send your requests to Nancy.Grayum@wwu.edu as soon as possible for the general university computer labs.
There are 21 general university computer labs that are scheduled for classes by ATUS. Be sure to place your reservation with ATUS before posting it on Class Finder, to avoid scheduling conflicts.
by Linc Nesheim
Passwords. Accounts. Logins. Encryption. Viruses. Firewalls. (and even DST.) It sometimes seems like the computer jargon never stops.
ATUS and ITS staff are constantly dealing with the details surrounding the terms listed above; however, we do depend on each and every one of you to manage many of the specifics at your own desktop. In today's increasingly connected environments, it is important to keep a high standard regarding your computing practices and behavior.
There are some very simple, yet important, steps you can take to assure that your computing experience is pleasant and safe.
- Change your passwords frequently - we suggest a few times a year as a minimum.
- Never share your password with anyone.
- Don't use someone else's account - even if it seems convenient.
- Pay attention to internal emails that talk about technology issues.
- Be sure web pages that ask for a username/password start with https (not http)
- Verify that your version of virus protection is current: Right-click the Symantec Antivirus icon on your computer to see that it displays the current date.
- Limit your WWU computing to University-related activities.
- Do not install non-University-provided software on your computer.
If you need guidance with any of the above practices, please contact your departmental technical support or the ATUS Help Desk. The Help Desk can be called at 360-650-3333, email email@example.com or in Haggard Hall 123.
by Nancy Grayum
When the new Academic Instructional Center (AIC) groundbreaking occurred in March of this year, I reminisced about some of our older lecture halls, visiting memories of attending lectures in Fraser Hall 4 as a college freshman in 1965. FR 4 looked about the same in the year 2000 as it did in 1965, as did many of the other classrooms in the older campus buildings. Since 2000, however, we have experienced steadfast support from President Karen Morse and Provost Andrew Bodman to bring our classrooms and other teaching and learning spaces into the 21st century.
The Registrar's office first used the term "Level 4 Classroom" in 2000 to enable departments to request scheduling of the few rooms with computer, projector, document camera, VCR and laser disc player, a rare classroom configuration at the time. ATUS made up for the lack by providing a few portable laptops and LCD projectors for presentations; however the internet wasn't utilized much in class, because in 2000, internet connectivity in the classrooms was clumsy if it was available at all, as network infrastructure in academic buildings was not yet complete.
Number of Level 4 Classrooms on the Rise
Today, 98 of the 132 general university classrooms (GUCs) are Level 4 rooms, and several more are on the horizon for completion by fall quarter 2007 in Phase 2 of the 2005 - 2007 capital project to renovate classrooms.
Construction begins June 20, 2007 to transform Miller Hall 162 and 164 to Level 4 classrooms, and to bring Science Lecture Hall 110, 120 and 150 up to today's standard multimedia installations. Humanities 101 and 107 and Haggard Hall 345 may be added to the project depending upon results of contractor bids.
To find a list of Level 4 classrooms with orientation documents online, check the ATUS Classroom Services web page, Classroom Orientation. Scroll down and click on a room number for a photo and text description of what's in the room and how to operate the presentation equipment. Below the Level 4 chart are the lists of other GUCs. At the main Classroom Services web page, you will also find Classroom Details such as the Classroom Technologies Chart (opens an .xls file) which lists each room and the details of specific installed equipment per room.
Traditional media still supported
It's important to note that in addition to digital multimedia presentation stations, optical projectors such as traditional overhead projectors and 35mm slide projectors are still in demand for effective teaching in many disciplines. All GUC's still have overhead projectors. All five Science Lecture Halls and all five Communications Facility lecture halls on the main floor have permanently installed 35mm slide projectors.
While ATUS can add a single 35 slide projector to any classroom, dual slide projection requires specific room depth and screen size dimensions, and appropriate classroom lighting. Just six lecture halls appropriate for dual slide projection: Miller Hall 163, Science Lecture 150, Communications Facility 110, 115 and 120, and Fraser Hall 3. These halls should be requested specifically via the Registrar's Classroom Scheduling Office if dual slide projection is needed; other lecture halls cannot be adapted to meet the need.
Assure Optimum Classroom Utilization
Academic departments are reminded that requesting Level 4 classrooms is one of many critical factors to assure the appropriate classroom placement for various styles of teaching. If multimedia is needed, be sure to request a Level 4 classroom.