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#08-Coordinating Out-of-Class Projects With Web-Posted Schedules and Listservs

July 10, 2002

LTA Overview

The ability to work well in group situations is becoming an educational objective of more and more higher educational activities. However, coordinating these activities can often encroach on valuable class time and even then, especially in courses that do not meet frequently, in-class coordination may be inadequate. One way to improve coordination is through a pairing of two low threshold applications, listservs and schedule posting on the Web.

Credits

Robert Gershon
Chair
Castleton State College (VT) / Communication Dept.
robert.gershon@castleton.edu

 

A screen drama production course I recently taught in collaboration with a colleague who taught a concurrent screen acting course met once a week for 3-5 hours, but had a production schedule in which various students had calls as actors and production personnel at all hours. I set up a listserv for them to communication with each other and began posting the production schedule in its various iterations 2-3 times a week by developing the schedule in Excel, exporting as HTML and sending it to a class Web site.

Setting Up Listserv

Listservs are services that send e-mail from one subscriber to all other subscribers. Obviously the TLT-SWG is one. Most college and university Information Technology (IT) departments have the ability to generate a list service for faculty but software to set up your own server is free or inexpensive (though beyond the scope of LTAs), and free services are available from commercial sources such as Yahoo Groups (http://groups.yahoo.com/). Your IT department would likely provide you with an address and a simple subscribe procedure to distribute to your students. A commercial source will guide you through simple set-up procedures.

Clearly one could simulate a listserv by simply sending a single e-mail to the whole class and having students reply to all whenever they have to communicate with the group. Should a student delete the message, though, she would have no ability to respond. Another possibility is a web bulletin board. I chose a listserv because it eliminates the need for the student to check a site periodically, though they obviously must check their e-mail often.

Posting Schedule to Web

For this you will need Microsoft Excel or other spreadsheet with HTML capabilities (e.g. Apple Works), privileges on a web server, and a way to get web pages to the server (e.g. an ftp application or network connection). The week #3 LTA, Creating a Grade Roster in Excel (http://web.pdx.edu/%7Ebowersn/lowthreshold/roster.HTML) provides a much more thorough use of Excel’s real power. We will use it only for its grid template and web export capability.

Across the top line of the spreadsheet list the categories involved in the group activities. Our example sheet will use Scene, Producer, Director, Time (i.e. screen time), Location (screen), Shoot location, Date and Characters.

lta8a.gifPlace your cursor over the lines between cells above the top line, and click and drag to make the cells the appropriate size for your data.

lta8b.gifYou might want to set the time and date columns to format in a way you like.

lta8c.gifThen fill in as much data as is currently available.

lta8d.gifTo export for web use highlight all the cells you wish to post (usually that means just “Select All,”) and pull down the file menu to “save as HTML.” A series of four “wizard” dialogue boxes, all relatively obvious, will appear. The only change you will need to make is on the last box where you need to replace “MyHTML” with an appropriate name for your document. Like all good HTML names, its name should include only alphanumerics and dashes or underlines; spaces and certain punctuation marks make web servers do odd things. Make note of where you have Excel save this document.

lta8e.gifFinally, “fly up” the page to your web site using an ftp application such as Fetch for Mac or CuteFtp for Windows, test that the page works and send the address to the listserv. (For ftp instructions try Cornell University’s upload instruction at http://www.cit.cornell.edu/atc/itsupport/instruct/instructftp.pdf) From time to time (in my latest situation it was 2-3 times/week) as students post activity times on the listserv, you will want to revise your spreadsheet, re-export it, re-post it and send a message to the list to have students check it.

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