What to put on the Web

The first question to ask yourself is "What am I going to use this for?" Your answer to this question will influence how you organize and create your web pages. Although the possibilities are overwhelming, don't be daunted. As you gain experience you can try new features. Begin with something simple. Suggestions about where to start and how to organize things include:

  1. Syllabus. This is a great starting point. Students can always get a new copy of the syllabus if they loose it; students considering the course can get a better idea of what it is about; and you can get an easy start at making web pages.
  2. Course Schedule. This is even more useful for students. Since you can easily make changes during the semester it is useful for you. As with the syllabus, this could simply be handed out on paper but it takes advantage of some features of the web. It is easy to update and you can include links to resources on the web.
  3. Links to Web Sites. As you start to use the web as a resource you need a way to point students to useful sites. There is an overwhelming amount of material available in any subject and it is difficult for students to sort through all this to find useful information. If you want your students to use the web, it must be easy and convenient for them to find information. Students are pragmatic, remember this. Long lists of web sites are easy to put together, but they will not be much help. Organize things so students can quickly find what is useful for them. Since this will change during the semester you need to find a way to organize things. Including links in the course schedule will organize them so students know when something is useful.
  4. Lecture Notes. This project is considerably more involved. Although your students will find it very useful, realize that it is a lot of work. You will have to judge for yourself if this is worthwhile. For my introductory classes this has been a rewarding effort.
  5. Supplemental material. This may be anything that is useful for your students, including old exams, solutions to problem sets and handouts. Use your imagination. The more useful the course web site is, the more the students will use it. Your site needs to have a "critical mass" so that students take the time to use it as a resource. The more you use it, the more the students will use it. If you want your students to use this resource you have to make it useful to them.
  6. Files. You are not restricted to using HTML (HyperText Markup Language) documents that display as regular web pages. There are many other methods for presenting information. With the web you can also display:
    1. Adobe Acrobat (pdf files). This is a file format for electronic publishing. It is especially useful if you have a computer document that you want to present as is, so that your students see it exactly as you would print it. Your students will need the acrobat reader, which is free, and you will need acrobat, which is not free. Both are available from Adobe.
    2. Video and Audio. These files are very large and do not work well with a modem connection. However, on the local network they are fine. There are several different formats that are widely used. The Spring 2001 CONFCHEM "Lecture Demonstrations in Chemistry on the World Wide Web" shows how this can be useful.
    3. Lots More. There are lots more possibilities. You can use any computer file, including; spreadsheets, wordprocessing documents, Powerpoint presentations, database files, anything that may be useful. If the students computer is properly configured the web browser will open the file in the correct application. There are lots of possibilities, but it may take some time and experimentation to get everything working.
  7. More. For lots more examples of what can be done using the web in class see Using Netscape as a Presentation Manager. Paper presented at: ChemConf '97 Summer On-Line Conference on Chemical Education June 1 to August 1, 1997.


Continue with Section II: Style Comments


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Scott Van Bramer
Department of Chemistry
Widener University
Chester, PA 19013

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Last Updated Tuesday, January 15, 2002 3:15:15 PM