Ideal Faculty Home Page

I am in the process of updating my homepage. I am curious what types of information students would like to find when going to a professor's website and in what format would they like it presented.  This thread is to discuss an ideal situation; not what I am currently able to do with the skills I possess.

3 comments

Steven,

  I saw Cathy's tweet about your question and just wanted to share a bit about how I approach this. I've typically used whatever blog software has been the supported platform for the campus (e.g., Movable Type, WordPress), but I've also tinkered with third-party hosting from Blogger and WordPress. For me, I like the flexibility to post general announcements (e.g., about upcoming papers/presentations, general reflections, etc.) as well as having an architecture of pages for various groups who might be looking for me on the Web. For example, I set up my "official" university webspace -- http://www.people.vcu.edu/~pmedwards/ -- to redirect to wherever I'm blogging at the moment -- http://wp.vcu.edu/pmedwards/ -- and within the blog, I have a page specifically for clients/partners/students. I also have a page for general contact information, including social networking tools that I use. I've found that any of the contemporary blogging platforms is able to support this kind of design, and the learning curve is fairly shallow for each, maybe taking an intense afternoon to get something up and running rather than weeks of effort.

  One general caveat that affects me (and maybe you or others) is the inability for some blogging platforms to support scripting and embedding of various types of external content. For example, when I was using Blogger, it was easy to copy and paste the code for my public Google Calendar right into a page on my site, something I liked to have there when I was trying to set up appointments with colleagues and students. In WordPress on my campus, the ability to embed this kind of content is prohibited -- citing security concerns, with which I can empathize -- but it is helpful to think about what kinds of content or interactions you'd want your students to see/have on you site and compare that with what a particular blogging platform can offer. (Another embed fail for WordPress: no Meebo widget for my blog.) And, given that the campus installation of a blogging platform is maintained centrally, it's kind of difficult to squeeze a great deal of customizability out of the platform beyond what IT has permitted; on the other hand, all maintenance and backup issues are managed locally rather than by a distant third-party.

  Anyway, I've been very happy with most of the blogging platforms out there for my personal website. Depending on what kinds of things others contribute to this thread, you might get a sense of other options that have "worked". I'd be happy to talk more about this here or via email, too. Good luck!

Phil

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In a class I taught on Monday, I had a very interesting conversation about what students want. It was interesting to me the types of responses I received; not at all what I expected.  In part, they wanted information that is available--but not easily found--on our college's web site.  They also wanted forums and other ways to interact with their course colleagues.

Today's discussion also ventured off into incorporating social networking into classes and the types of videos they would like to see available.

Unfortunately, I left my notes on my desk at work so cannot type them up to share tonight, but I will do it soon.

Phil, your experiences with blogs are very helpful in considering this social networking aspect in which students expressed a desire.  Although not directly relevant to this discussion, Alan Flashman's midterm update posted two days ago about student blogs is also useful.  However, I am still digesting it.

 

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A couple of weeks ago, I asked students in one of my classes what types of information they would like to have on a professor’s home page.  Following are some highlights of the discussion—in no particular order.

  • Merging “personal” and “professional” information would be a good idea.
     
  • Some students felt that that if I wanted a student centered course that I should have relevant images of students on my home page instead of a picture of myself.  Others said it was important to have my photograph.  Various compromises were discussed.
     
  • The page should include ways for students to easily contact other students.  This could include a chat function, forums, e-mail addresses.
     
  • A search option
     
  • Links to Facebook and other social networking in which I participate.
     
  • A sign-in to protect confidential or private information
     
  • A description and goals of the class as well as a schedule of day-to-day activities
     
  • A focus on my teaching style which is rather different than what they get in most classes
     
  • Examples of work from previous students
     
  • General information about the college and college events
     
  • As the discussion continued, some students began to express concern that this would be too much work for me to handle.  Someone then suggested—with support from colleagues—that the website could be run by students.

There is one issue that students left out which I discovered when I began to use the smart phone I purchased less than two weeks ago.  The website should be maximized for mobile devices.  This might mean that there are actually two versions of the website.

I have been considering the student ideas as well as my own desires for a web site that will meet student as well as some of my other needs.

I plan to continue consulting students as I redesign my website to make it as useful for them as possible.  I will report back on my progress and will continue to look for ideas and suggestions from both students and colleagues.

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