July 21, 2005
Try a blog?
This is to see if a blog might be a useful tool as we revamp the Education web site. This was the original email on this topic:
On Jul 21, 2005, at 12:27 PM, Karen Plass wrote:
Hi. Our current departmental web site has served us well since its creation. Since then, however, web development and browsers have evolved. It's time to embrace the more modern code that powers web sites being used by UMD, CESHP and many others. I plan to start working on a revamp of our web site next week.
Goals include the following:
* Remove old pages that are no longer being used
* Revise the navigation links (categories) to improve usability for students and faculty
* Improve accessibility
* Standardize file names
* Simplify the site's structure (organization)
* Devise a new "look" that will probably be a combination of what we have now (i.e., the blue "Russian dolls") and the CEHSP and/or UMD sites
I want to let you know this is happening, and that I am interested in your suggestions and concerns. If you want to talk about them early on, please let me know! When the new site gets far enough along, it will be online for review and feedback. The public will continue to see the existing site until we are ready to switch.
I'd like to start with feedback from this small group, do some revisions, and then have something for the whole faculty to look at when they come back, the last week in August. I hope to see us using the new site in Sept., but I've been cautioned that this is a big job, and that it's probably not feasible to do it that quickly. If it's not ready for the start of the semester, our next logical transition time would be after the program admission deadline and before advising starts.
This message is going to the program coordinators and several other folks. Feel free to forward this email to any other key people I've missed, and send me their name for future updates. If you know student(s) who should be involved, please feel free to send their name(s) and contact information also.
Posted by kplass at July 21, 2005 12:27 PM
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You are welcome Karen! I agree about how unwieldy a large group can be. I think the Margaret Mead principle is the most effective = a small group of committed people. If we have a student who is committed, it's a great help to us and also very valuable experience for them. Given our learner sensitive theme, I'm very big on having students' voices and involvement as much as possible. But it needs to be someone who is really going to commit.
I think blogging may be the way to go rather than WebX because it's much easier to access and respond to. The only downside is it's not threaded -- it's more geared to responding to the blog owner than to engaging in discussion among respondents, BUT it still works fine for the latter. I'm delighted you are trying it out! I've had students blogging in two of my classes and it worked quite well.
I wondered earlier about a WebX discussion for this process, but I recall that Paul didn't get much response when he hoped we would use WebX for dept. issues. I could try creating a blog focused on the development of our new site.... it would be an easy way for people to give feedback and give us experience with a newer tool.
I have a concern about getting a big group involved as web developers. I have been advised that many hands don't make light work in the web development field, but instead tend to lead to what can quickly become an unmanageable process. I'd prefer to work with a smaller group (like this email group) initially, and then later involve more people, including students. When I think of inviting all our candidates to be involved now, it feels pretty overwhelming to me. The old Monty Python refrain comes to mind: "Run away, run away!" :o
I'd be glad to hear from folks, including sitting down with anybody one-on-one or with a couple of people at a time, to go through our current site, get feedback and suggestions, do some brainstorming, etc. At the same time, I expect to be putting on my hip waders and getting dirty as I get into this process. Or, as they say at UW-Madison, doing "the fearless sifting and winnowing by which alone the truth is known." I think that the hands-on work will be best done by an individual.
A blog?! Here is our "discussion to date" (the two older messages below, and the new one above) in a blog format - let's see if it has any potential as a tool to help with this process! One nice thing is that we would "capture" the written discussion and plan as we go.
Copied from an email to this blog by Karen Plass...
On Jul 22, 2005, at 1:37 PM, Helen Mongan-Rallis wrote:
This is great news Karen! Thanks so much for leading on this. I really like the goals you have set. Here are some ideas in no particular order of priority..
* I think a fundamental principal of design must be accessibility -- you note this as a goal (to improve accessibility) -- I think it is essential (we need to make sure that we are compliant with accessibility standards - for many reasons, first and foremost ethical, second we need to be a model for what we teach our candidates to do, third legal).
* I think it would be great to invite candidates who are interested to offer their suggestions and also to see if there are any who would be interested in volunteering to help with design and creation. Bruce could send out a call-for-volunteers to advisors, who can then pass this along to all candidates (not just tech certificate ones). I wouldn't be surprised if we had a number of candidates would be interested in being part of an ongoing dept web page advisory/working group, which could also be the same group that maintains a dept online newsletter. Related to that, we could let the students have a page by and for students that they design and maintain. They (and we in the dept) could have a dept blog.
* as above: have dept blog or wiki as one of the links
* We need to choose a template design that enables others besides you to update easily (I think the best way would be using Contribute). I think we should be moving to training our office support staff on Contribute and having them share in keeping pages relevant to their area of responsibility up to date (e.g. Linda W could be updating announcements on STEP, Leigh on front desk FAQ and so on).
* if you change file names (and I think standardizing them is a good idea), you need to be sure to leave redirects as we have users who have bookmarked the existing pages.
* have a counter on the home page ( would be interesting to see hits!)
If I think of other things I'll let you know:)