Do These Web SitesWORK?

Do These Web SitesWORK?

Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't. Learn what our online expert,Odvard Egil Dyrli, says is r

L'Anse Creuse (Mich.) Public Schools www.lc-ps.org

DESIGN

The site presents an extensive array of useful information, but most of the pages are static text-based resentations that are not inviting, and the muted color backgrounds aregenerally bland and ineffective.

The page design is consistent throughout the site, with a logo that is carried over and a menu in the left-hand margin that links to content pertinent to each section.

NAVIGATION

The opening page presents a bewildering number of navigation choices that include four horizontal menus, a pull-down menu of links to individual schools, a left-hand "in-progress" section, a right-hand menu for targeted user groups, and a central menu of "what's new?" items.

The site also offers three links on the opening screen to the school calendar, which is not necessary, and duplicate links for other choices that should be consolidated, including "about us," "site map," "search tool," "contact us" and "administration."

Although the school calendar is easily accessible from the opening screen, there is no convenient way to access specific months without paging through preceding months, and there is no link to return to the main menu.

QUALITY OF THE INTERACTION WITH THE USER

A number of the pages are painfully slow to load-even with high-speed connections-so some page content might be trimmed back.

Many of the selections are in pdf form-such as the entire "secondary art opportunities" section-which adds extra access steps when the content could have been written in html.

The horizontal menus generally remain in place as users navigate the site, so it is usually easy to move directly to other sections of the site.

SCHOOL-TO-HOME INTERACTION

The sections directed specifically to parents and the community work well, and "contact us" links for district administrators are prominent.

The site provides extensive directories for contacting staff members that can be searched by name or school.Clicking on a particular electronic address also conveniently sets up an e-mail message to that individual.

CREATIVE USE OF ONLINE TECHNOLOGIES

Aside from the opening screens for each school, which include color photographs, the pages are heavily textoriented, with token graphics that are not directly related to the content.

The only multimedia content on the site consists of several film clips on topics such as the senior honors project, so future development might explore how online audio and video could be used.

UP-TO-DATE INFORMATION

Major content pages are generally kept current, but many linked pages contain outdated information-such as announcements about programs that will "start" in 2004.

The site has information on the elementary curriculum, but only art and technology are addressed at the secondary school level.

Jordan (Utah) School District www.jordandistrict.org

DESIGN

The district Web site offers amazing amounts of usable information, and provides easy to find links to sites for each of its 87 schools.

NAVIGATION

The two main menus are carried from page to page, and a site index and search tools are prominent, so it is easy to jump to other content areas.

Information can be accessed in multiple ways, which is useful, but the interactive district calendar should be a main menu item, instead of being listed on several pages. Similarly, the curriculum content across the site needs to be pulled together into a single section.

QUALITY OF THE INTERACTION WITH THE USER

The site offers a strong selection of district documents, policies and handbooks, though many are in pdf form, which adds unnecessary access steps.

Relatively few online instructional applications are provided for students, so such options need to be expanded.

SCHOOL-TO-HOME INTERACTION

A district "contact us" menu option is always on the screen for making general and site-related comments, and teacher and administrator directories are available through the individual school sites.

The district also offers the Power- School program that allows parents to track their children's grades and attendance online on a daily basis.

CREATIVE USE OF ONLINE TECHNOLOGIES

Aside from the sparing use of photographs- which are not specifically related to the content-the single promotional video and the interactive calendar, the site is heavily text-centered. It would therefore be worthwhile to explore how multimedia technologies including speech, music, film clips, live cameras and online simulations could enhance teaching, learning and communications in the district.

UP-TO-DATE INFORMATION

The site is generally kept up-todate, though a number of the pages can no longer be found-such as past news announcements and newspaper stories-and the content needs to be better organized for specific user groups. For example, the resources for parents and students are identical, even though their needs are quite different.

Indian Prairie (Ill.) School District www.ipsd.org

DESIGN

The home page offers a separate menu with content directed to user groups of parents, students and staff, and selection boxes for key topics including emergency closings, the lunch program and the state "report card."

NAVIGATION:

The main menu remains in place from page to page, and presents additional options as selections are made, and a comprehensive site map and search tool help make it easy to jump to other topics.

Almost all of the main selections lead to pages with menus that in turn lead to other menus, so the desired information is often several layers deep within the site. Some content could be reorganized to make topics more accessible.

QUALITY OF THE INTERACTION WITH THE USER

For some reason the home page is unusually slow to load-either directly or by paging back-so this needs to be corrected, and some of the home buttons do not work. Also,even short documents are offered in pdf format.

SCHOOL-TO-HOME INTERACTION

The site provides multiple opportunities for users to send comments to the district and the Board of Education, contact teachers and administrators at each school, and subscribe to various electronic newsletters.

The district offers a selection of online courses through Blackboard services that can be accessed at home.

CREATIVE USE OF ONLINE TECHNOLOGIES

With the exception of the opening screen, and the showcases for student work, the site is heavily text oriented which presents barriers for individuals who are visually impaired.

Although the site content is strong, the district does not yet take advantage of online multimedia technologies that can enhance teaching, learning and communications substantially.

UP-TO-DATE INFORMATION

The opening page highlights news items and events pertinent to the district, each of which is dated to insure timeliness, and links to documents that can be downloaded such as reports and permission forms.

While the major sections of the site are kept current, some links don't work as they should and need to be updated.

Odvard Egil Dyrli is senior editor, Web site editor and emeritus professor of education at the University of Connecticut.


Advertisement