COLA Faculty and Staff Collaborate On WebsitesLAITS manages over 50 websites for departments, centers, programs, and institutes, as well as the Dean's Web site for the College of Liberal Arts. These sites represent the college’s online presence for our many constituencies, including current and potential faculty and students, as well as alumni. They provide tools that allow many more people within the college’s various units to manage their own web content.
In web terminology, “content” is the information presented in the website. It goes beyond the words, sentences, and paragraphs you read on the screen. Content includes:
- Photographic and graphic images, such as on the Department of History home page.
- Recorded voices and sounds, such as the instructional technology site Chinese Take-In.
- Online video, such as the Webcasts of Past Lectures at the Thomas Jefferson Center for Core Texts.
Content is sometimes contrasted with “presentation,” the order, sequence, and style in which content is “presented” to the viewer. In web production, content and presentation are often developed on separate—but parallel—tracks.
The COLA websites are driven by a “Content Management Systems,” or CMS. A CMS is a database program designed to allow people with little or no knowledge of programming to actually create and update web content. Working with a CMS is as simple as going to any website. You can access them anytime through web browsers such as Firefox and Internet Explorer. To learn more, see the COLA Guides online tutorials.
Using the the CMS, departments have the ability to directly update their own Web sites. They can add news and events, manage their faculty and staff lists, post syllabi, and create pages for any number of purposes. Keeping content updated and fresh is one of the best ways to engage users. Our online presence is ultimately intended to support faculty and student recruitment, public relations and outreach, fundraising and development, as well as online business and planning processes.
The effort of dozens of people went into the creation of these new sites, including key representatives of the departments, centers, and programs. Notable contributors include:
- Technology director Geoff Boyd who did most of the back end programming for the system and is primarily responsible for making the system accessible to department staff.
- Art director Suloni Robertson and her team of student artists who designed custom banners and themes for each department.
- College staff from all departments, centers, and programs who entered all the existing content into the new system.
- Web developers Ming Gong, Ran An and Andre Leroux who make the themes and templates work.
Project manager Tim Fackler oversaw the 18-month development process and the sites ongoing maintainence, steering the web development teams to best serve COLA aims and specific needs. “The best part of the project is that it was done on time and in a highly cost effective way,” says Fackler.
A key feature of “content-managed” websites is that they are dynamic, not static or fixed. By their very nature, they are constantly changing. Since LAITS also plans to continue to add features over the coming months, our sites will be much more dynamic than in the past. Working together LAITS and department staff will search for creative new ways to showcase the activities and accomplishments of our faculty and students.
For more technical information about the new COLA websites, visit Departmental Web Services.
by Emily Cicchini