Website Design Q & A

These are some of the guiding questions from the Blue Marble University’s Learning Management System Lab 1 course syllabus. Most of the questions are copied directly from the course syllabus. Many of my answers are further explained on the Website Discussion page.

1. How will courses be delivered to students? Courses will be delivered online via pages in Crystal Fjord University’s WordPress website. Each course will have the Assignments page as its primary page because I am working under the assumption that students will need to access this page more regularly than the other pages. Additional course pages are a basic Information page, pages for each week’s lesson, and a Grade and Answer Key page.

2. How will exams be handled: given, graded, posted, recorded? Crystal Fjord University will give two types of exams: self-evaluations and graded quizzes/exams. All exams will be open-book style because at this point no costly exam sites that eliminate reading outside sources (such as by tracking eye gaze) will be utilized.
Self Assessments: There are a few self-assessment evaluation style questions that can be utilized within WordPress. Shortcode/HTML quizzes are used in English Week One and English Week Two. Polls can be set to allow students to view their results along with the correct answers. Page jumps can be implemented so that clicking on an answer links brings the student to an explanation on that page or on a separate explanation page.
Graded Quizzes and Exams: Exams can be graded by the instructor (i.e. for inclusion in student grades) by utilizing the contact form to submit answers to the instructor (see Precalculus Week One and Precalculus Week Eight). I also experimented with creating quizzes in Schoology (see the Chemistry assignment pages). I demonstrated several of these methods on the assignment pages (see Chemistry Week One and Chemistry Week Two).
Scroll down toward the bottom of each assignment page (Week One/Two) for its quiz discussion.

3. How will student records be handled?
Financial Records: Each student will have a password-protected page with the current amount due, due date, financial aid received, and past payment information. The page will be maintained by the Bursar’s office and each student can access it with his or her Crystal Fjord University identification number.
Assignment Grades: Each course has a Grade and Answer Key page with grades listed by the last five digits of students’ ID numbers.
Permanent Transcript: Each student has a permanent transcript page that can be shared with future employers and other people to whom the student wants to give access. The student (and people with whom he or she shares this page) will access the transcript by using the student’s date of birth as the password.
Degrees: A separate pdf Degree will be created for each student upon successful completion of all graduation criteria. A link to this pdf document will be placed on the student’s transcript page. The student’s date of birth will be needed to open that document as a second layer or security and to help satisfy the security needs of future employers and other people who want access to the official documents.

4. How will communications be handled? There is a Contact page on the university website. There are also separate contact forms for the professors, the bursar’s office, the library, etc. on all of the relevant pages. Many of these forms will go directly to the relevant person’s email so that that person can easily respond to the student; every form requires an email address. More general contact forms, such as on the general Contact page, will go to a central office to be sorted and forwarded to the appropriate person.

5. How will students and teachers interact via a Bulletin Board or other messaging system? Each course’s weekly assignment page has a comment section that nests three levels deep. This will help students to keep in contact with each other and with the professor. More private communications, such as private questions and quiz answers, can be communicated via the contact form at the bottom of each course’s weekly assignment page. I even took this one step further and adapted the student posting requirement that most of my classes at New York Institute of Technology (NYIT) used. NYIT professors often required that students post one idea of their own and commented on two other students’ posts each week. Crystal Fjord University only requires students to provide a comment to one other student. This discussion technique allows students to help each other to assess and learn some of the course material.

6. How will student billing be handled?
Administrative: The bursar’s office is responsible for handling all billing issues for online and on-campus students. That office will maintain each student’s financial page and email students when bills are ready to be paid. The bursar’s office will also maintain the PayPal links and make sure that students who pay online pay the correct amount by the payment due date.
Student: Students may pay by check (payable in U.S. funds); the student becomes responsible for all expenses related to bounced checks. Crystal Fjord University also accepts Paypal and strongly encourages international students to use this service.

7. How will teachers post material to courses? It will take some initial preparation for teachers to post material to courses without being able to post to other Crystal Fjord University pages. I  made professors authors within the larger website and would password protect each page. Professors would only be given the passwords for the course pages that they are using each term. I would hope that the professors would be honest people, only add material to their current courses, and leave courses that they are not currently teaching (but used to teach) alone. This would take some effort during the initial start-up phase of creating the website, but it may even be simpler than creating separate websites for each course. My original idea was to create separate websites for each course then to invite professors to be authors only for their courses. The cost of separate websites became prohibitive.

8. How does a new student register? There is a contact form on the registration page that can be used to register online (local students may visit the registration office in person if they prefer). Students will give the registrar the names of desired courses. Some courses will be pre-registered based on the student’s declared major (if any) and high school transcript. For instance, students will generally be pre-registered for College Composition I for their first semester and College Composition II in their second semester. Once the student declares a major area, additional courses will be preregistered. Each student will be assigned an advisor to help the student choose core requirements, major field requirements, and additional courses that meet his or her educational needs and interests. That advisor will email the student a list of preregistered courses and registration guidelines prior to each semester’s registration cycle. The student will be expected to keep in contact with his or her advisor so that any additional courses are relevant.

9. How will student pages be updated?
New Students: The initial creation of student pages will be handled by information technology (IT) staff working in conjunction with the admissions, bursar’s, and registration offices. WordPress allows page developers to copy pages, so creating templates that can be adapted for each student is advisable. These staff members will have to be trustworthy, as they have access to Getting each student’s pages up will take some effort, but once pages are in place basic maintenance should be quick and easy. I imagine that temporary workers may have to be hired during busy times. The university could have a contract with a trusted temp agency.
Current Students: The pages will be maintained throughout the students’ education by the IT staff, the bursar’s office, and the registrar’s office. For instance, each professor would be required to submit a simple list of student grades at the end of the semester. The IT staff would input those grades onto each student’s official transcript page. This frees up the professors to plan for the courses that they will be teaching the next term. The IT staff would also be responsible for modifying each student’s primary interface page after the registrar’s office provides them with the list of classes that the student is taking. The students’ primary pages could be modified by the registrar’s staff, but I think that it may be easier for the IT staff to make those changes. The financial record page can be maintained by the bursar’s office staff; it may be just as much effort for them to give the information to the IT staff to maintain this page as it would for them to input the information themselves. This arrangement makes sure that the bills get out on time and frees up the IT staff for their other duties.

10. How will professors interact with the website and with students?
Interacting with Website: I made the professors authors so that they can add information to course pages. If the pages are primarily developed by departmental personnel, which is my assumption, then the professor would have input into the page’s content. The professors are given the password for each page that corresponds to the courses that they teach. Professors can add information as needed to clarify points and to assist students.
Interacting with Students: Students will interact with the professors via each course page’s contact form and the discussion forums. The contact form generates an email to the professor. The professor can respond via email, by posting new information to the discussion, or by adding information to the appropriate course page.