CS Course Instructor Home Pages

Overview: 

Information regarding CS Course Instructor Pages


 

Starting Spring 2011, every CS course offering will have a public home page and directory managed by the instructor of the course.  These directories will persist after the end of the course, and will be located in a central location on our networked file system as described below.  These instructor pages are in addition to the course page that is administered by our Undergraduate Coordinator, which contains a one-paragraph catalog description and information from the registrar.  The instructor's pages should contain (at a minimum) the syllabus for the course and a link (if any) to the Blackboard offering page.

Before the beginning of each semester the staff will create the dated subdirectories and assign group admin rights to the instructor.  This will happen shortly after the course offerings and instructors list has been provided to the staff.

Motivation

The reasons for instituting this system are:

  • Currently, instructor pages are located more or less at random, sometimes in the /www/courses directory, sometimes in a professor's home directory, sometimes in a grad TA's directory, and sometimes only in Blackboard.  This makes it difficult for students to quickly find the instructor pages for their courses.  The CS Undergraduate Council has repeatedly asked us to solve this problem.  Under the new system, we will be able to easily and automatically add links to the instructor pages from our course listings, since they will be at standard locations.
  • Past instructor pages provide valuable information to students who are considering taking a course in the future.  They also act as good advertising for the department, when potential students anywhere in the world search for pages on a topic.  Professors teaching an existing course for the first time will also benefit from being able to easily access material from past course offerings.
  • Pages in Blackboard cannot be accessed outside the university, and do not persist after the end of the semester.  Therefore, although it is fine to use Blackboard for many aspects of a course, we need to have at least some detailed information about the course (more than is in the paragraph course description) public and persistant.  Details on how Blackboard pages can easily link back to public instructor pages and vice versa is provided below.

Location and Naming

The location and naming convention for course offering directories and instructor pages is as follows.  A course NUMBER offered during the SEMESTER of YEAR has its home directory at

/u/www/courses/{NUMBER}/{SEMESTER}{YEAR}/

For example, the Spring 2011 offering of CSC 161 has home directory

/u/www/courses/161/Spring2011/

The root of the instructor pages for the offering is the file

/u/www/courses/161/Spring2011/index.html

Managing Permissions

A Unix group exists for each course.  The name of the group is cs{NUMBER}web.  For example, the group for the course above is cs161web.  The instructor for a course will be automatically added to the group a few weeks before the semester starts.  The instructor can then give TAs or others permission to modify the pages using the Unix group management tool.

The instructor will remain in the group for several weeks after the end of the course.  This gives the instructor the ability to remove any material that the instructor does not wish to persist, for example, particular assignments.

Currently, these instructor pages must be edited using ordinary HTML tools, rather than Drupal.  If there is a demand for it, we will implement the ability to create a Drupal page that shadows the /u/www/courses/{NUMBER}/{SEMESTER}{YEAR}/index.html page.  In the meantime, if you have created a personal Druple page for a course you are teaching, we can manually add a link to that page from our course listings.  To have this done, please mail the request to the Undergraduate Coordinator.

 

Keeping Your Instructor Page in Drupal

If you prefer to manage your instructor page inside Drupal so you don't have to muck with the filesystem you can.  To create a Drupal instructor page do the following:
1. Create Content->Course Instructor Page
2. Remove the index.html file @ /u/www/courses/{NUMBER}/{SEMESTER}{YEAR}/index.html so that the Drupal version can be served.


Linking To and From Blackboard

Instructors may choose to use Blackboard to host some of the material for a course.  Blackboard offers tools for grading, communicating with students, and hosting copyright-protected readings.  If you use Blackboard, you should still create a NFS page that at least contains a syllabus and a link to the Blackboard page.  However, it also possible to make pages stored in /u/www/courses appear inside of Blackboard.  See these instructions for linking to external pages in Blackboard.

Linking your pages in this manner will make it easy for students to find the pages whether they start from Blackboard or start from the CS department course pages.  An effective strategy is to keep confidential material, such as grades and solutions to assignments, only on Blackboard, and to keep public material such as lecture slides on /u/www/courses.