Workflow for creating interactive course Web sites

August 2002

By Greg R. Notess

Applies to
Microsoft FrontPage® 2002

Learn how you can create a simple class Web site in just a few minutes by using FrontPage 2002. And how you can make the site interactive so that it can be a central communication point between students and teacher.

Bring interactivity to a class Web site with these FrontPage features

Creating a basic Web site for a course is easy. With the Microsoft FrontPage Web site creation and management tool, you can create a simple site that includes a syllabus, a reading list, lecture notes, and a course outline in just a few minutes. And FrontPage offers many other opportunities to make the course site interactive so that it can be a central communication point between students and teacher.

An interactive course Web site helps students who miss a class catch up more quickly. It can be used to submit assignments, further class discussion, enable shy students to participate more fully, and provide easier access to the instructor. But building an interactive Web site takes time and energy, so planning the workflow is crucial to successfully implementing interactivity.

Site building decisions

Take some time to plan the site evolution and which interactive features will be most useful for your class. What are some of the options?

  • Online discussion forums
  • Opinion polls
  • Practice quizzes
  • E-mail links
  • Uploadable assignments
  • Other Web forms

An online forum gives students an opportunity to discuss ideas with each other and with the teacher. A Web form lets students send questions, submit assignments, and take part in opinion polls. Each class has its own structure, and some of these options work better in one class and would not work at all in another.

The first step in building an interactive class site is to choose the interactive options to use and prioritize the development process. If the entire site can't be built before the class starts, just pick one or two interactive elements. One of the easiest to start with is a simple Web form. It can be used to gauge the students’ comfort level with online interaction and negotiating the Web site.

Interactivity

Once the first few interactive features are added, the challenge is to get the whole class involved. The first assignment could be an extremely simple one that collects students' e-mail addresses as well as tests their ability to use Web forms.

Assignments form

To use the FrontPage Form Wizard

  1. On the File menu, point to New, and click Page or Web.
  2. Under New from Template, click Page Templates.
  3. Double-click Form Page Wizard.

Have the form output e-mailed to you to gauge the students' initial capabilities. The ease of this simple form should be enough incentive to start the students on interacting with the site. For more details on how to build a simple form for a class, see the article Creating Interactive Learning Activities Online with Forms.

On any class site, there should be a list of assignments. Once you make the site interactive, the students can use the site to submit homework, upload papers, and even take makeup tests. It takes only three clicks to add an upload feature like this to a form.

Browse

To add an upload feature

  1. On the menu bar, click Insert.
  2. Click Form.
  3. Click File Upload.

The forms can be set up to e-mail the results to the teacher, to save them in a database, or to give a response directly to the student.

The easiest approach to submitting assignments is with e-mail. Create a page with instructions on what to submit, and then either use a form to e-mail submissions or just create an e-mail link.

To create an e-mail link

  1. On the menu bar, click Insert.
  2. Click Hyperlink.
  3. In the Link to section, click E-mail Address.
  4. Fill in the requested information.

Watch the flow

An interactive class Web site holds endless possibilities. But the more features added, the more crucial it is to handle the workflow carefully. After deciding which interactive features are appropriate for the class and which need to be done first, use the FrontPage tasking ability to manage the workflow.

The Tasks view is available from the Views bar on the left. However, it is not the best place to add new tasks. Instead, add a new task from the Page view by clicking Edit, pointing to Tasks, and then clicking Add Task. This will associate the new task with the file being worked on in the Page view.

Tasks

The following graphic shows how the Tasks view can help manage several interactive tasks. The Tasks view can even include non-Web tasks like grading papers or meeting other deadlines.

The Tasks view

In a large, active class, the amount of submissions and e-mail can become overwhelming. Using forums to encourage the students to discuss and help one another can relieve some of the teacher's responsibility and provide even quicker responses to some questions. For more details on setting up a forum in FrontPage, see Educational Community Building with Forums.

Conclusion

Controlling the workflow on a busy interactive class Web site is crucial in freeing up time for other class planning and grading. Careful decision making at the beginning, judicious use of interactive features, and using the Tasks view to manage the site will make the process run smoothly.

For more information, see the Microsoft FrontPage tutorial Creating a Course Web Site.


Greg R. Notess, founder of SearchEngineShowdown.com, writer, speaker, and Webmaster