This paper is online at http://www.unc.edu/~hallman/www6.html.
In developing administrative arrangements to govern the management of a Campus Web service, the university should pay attention to ensuring that the creativity and utility of home pages is not hampered by unnecessary bureaucratic procedures or overly rest rictive standards.
At the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH), a centrally coordinated support system and guidelines for publication make Web publishing accessible to everyone in the University community. In a campuswide effort centered around a volunteer group called the Web-Walkers, the University attempts to present a corporate image, portraying academic excellence, cutting-edge research, and public service at the University while, at the same time, allowing full academic freedom of expression.
This paper presents an overview of the UNC-CH Campus Web service, including its development, governance, strengths, weaknesses, and considerations for the future.
The VTX service announced in August 1988 included the student handbook, event calendars, employment opportunities, newsletters, and a University facts brochure. A few public terminals were available on campus.
The service grew to include a wide range of information, such as the campus directory, Chapel Hill Transit Guide, course catalogs, and the Human Resources manual. Most of the information was entered and/or processed by the Computation Center. By December 1992, the service linked to other University of North Carolina campuses, such as North Carolina State University in Raleigh, and search capabilities (via WAIS) were provided, as well as the VTX search option.
Gopher service was provided in parallel with the VTX service from 1993 until the VTX service was eliminated in July 1994. Then the campus began to replace gopher with World Wide Web. The first campus home page was online in Fall 1994. It was replaced in December 1994 and revamped again in August 1996.
As policies and procedures were formulated, they were made public in the Campus Web. They were completed and announced just in time for the Fall Semester (1995).
During Summer 1996, the policies and procedures were revised to separate policies and guidelines from procedures, and to provide clearer, more concise instructions. No fundamental changes were made. During Fall 1996, University Counsel reviewed the policies and guidelines and made a few minor changes.
University pages: Top level pages are the responsibility of the Office of the Vice Chancellor for University Advancement, which is advised by the Campus Webmaster and Web-Walkers.
Requirements for linking pages into the Campus Web: Before linking pages for a group into the Campus Web, we require a letter, on letterhead, from the department chair, organization president, administrative unit director, or leader of the group, that designates the Web Information Coordinator and describes the procedures for reviewing and updating the group's pages. We maintain an online file of UNC-CH Web Information Coordinators.
Pages for groups: In guidelines for group Web pages, we emphasize the need for a backup person and suggest that the group's Web page designers carefully consider the links they make to Web pages outside their group's directory.
Corresponding with the University via Web pages: The home page for each person and each group is supposed to have a clickable mailer.
The Comments button on most of the top level pages directs mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, which is forwarded to the Campus Webmaster. The Campus Webmaster forwards most questions to the appropriate resource and keeps a log of the e-mail. Comments help identify inadequacies in the service. We encourage groups to process their e-mail in a similar fashion.
Not all the feedback on the new home page, which was installed in August 1996, has been positive. Some users have complained that the new graphic doesn't look scholarly or academic, while others think having the first letter of the main information categories spell Carolina is artificial. In fact, the categories were chosen first. The design team recognized that with a little topic rearranging, the home page could spell out Carolina while serving the intended purpose.
SunSITE (Sun Software, Information and Technology Exchange; a joint venture between Sun Microsystems Computer Corporation and UNC-CH), under the guidance of Paul Jones and Judson Knott, is a shining example of what bright, creative, students can do with a little guidance and direction. SunSITE was one of the first WWW sites in the world, and it continues to be in the forefront. Use of the latest Web technology at UNC-CH usually appears on SunSITE first. SunSITE managers pass on newly acquired skills to the campus via Web-Walker presentations, as well as through publications, including these:
Simple Start, a program designed to facilitate the instructional use of Internet technologies, is providing faculty and students with exciting tools, templates, and electronic discussions (or forums) for scholarly communication.
Carolina Courses Online enables students from around the world with access to the appropriate technology to earn college credit by taking courses electronically.
Student Personal Information: A variety of personal information, such as grades and bills, is available for students via a secure server.
Admissions applications and application status information are available through the Web.
The School of Medicine is launching PC applications off of a WWW-based menu.
The School of Information and Library Science and the School of Journalism and Mass Communication teach students how to use the Internet and World Wide Web as communication tools. Many of the Web pages for departments and research projects were developed by students of these programs. A wonderful variety of Web-based information services created as final projects by students enrolled in INLS 181 is available online.
Student organizations are encouraged to create home pages.
Committee recommendations: The Committee for Coordination of University Web Documents submitted its report in December 1995, but it seems to have fallen into a hole. For example, in addition to the Web-Walkers, which is a voluntary group, the Committee recommended the appointment of two more formal advisory committees: one to monitor governance-related issues and one to address technical and support issues. These committees have not yet been appointed. Other recommendations in the report have similarly stalled. Further, the report itself has not been made available online.
Inadequate campus network: Although UNC-CH is a major research university, funding for the campus network has been very slow in coming. Fiber optics are finally being installed. Even so, several major units are not on the campus proper and require ISDN or T1 services. For example, News Services was never included in the old campus network because their offices are on the wrong side of the street, and the new fiber network hasn't gotten there yet. The same is true for the Student Union, which houses the student newspaper, the Daily Tar Heel.
Lack of priority within Information Technology Services: Information Technology Services' highest priority items include completing the fiber optics network and providing reliable e-mail services but do not include any explicit statements regarding the World Wide Web service. Clearly, the areas Information Technology Services is focusing on must have priority over Web service development; however, they leave very little staff time or funding for the Web.
Lack of priority in the administration: While the University administration is committed to providing information technology infrastructure and services for the campus, the Campus Web lacks information from and about campus leadership.
Campuswide lack of staff: The World Wide Web has not reduced the time it takes to prepare publications; in most cases, the effort has increased. Underfunded, understaffed organizations do not have time or Web development skills and typically lack a strong Web presence.
Electronic documents as the primary source of information: A shift in the process of preparing publications will result in publication and maintenance of documents online first, and producing printed copy, as needed, from the online version. This is how Vital Events, the newsletter of the Carolina Population Center, has been published since September, 1995. For large campuswide publications, like catalogs, departments may wish to maintain their own sections, with the printed copy resulting from the publications office gathering the sections into a central collection.
Expand use of hyperlinks: Campus information lends itself to extensive use of hyperlinks, such as course catalogs to class schedules, to syllabi, to class projects, to class forums, to faculty vita, to faculty research, to public service, and so on. Web Information Coordinators are challenged to find ways to automate the generation and maintenance of such links.
Provide new forms of public service: University Web pages provide a wonderful opportunity to extend knowledge-based services to the citizens of the state and to enhance the quality of life for all people in the state (one aspect of the mission of UNC-CH). "Ask-an-expert" services can be provided in a variety of forms. For example, a few of the UNC-CH libraries (such as the Academic Affairs Library, the Health Sciences Library, and the Carolina Population Center Library) will field questions from the public, as well as the University community, as time allows. Duke University's Healthy Devil and Columbia University's Go Ask Alice provide a wide-range of health information for the public, together with an opportunity to ask questions. These services could be expanded to include electronic forums on Web pages for a larger range of topics, particularly for Research Centers.
Students, as well as faculty and staff, could provide training to members of the local community who are not knowledgeable about the Internet or its resources, and who don't realize how Internet resources can be used to improve their lives.
Collaboration: Community networks, such as RTPnet, provide an opportunity for collaboration among universities, local governments, libraries, schools, churches, and other non-profit agencies.
Judy has worked toward a community information service, RTPnet (previously known as Triangle Free-Net), for the local area for more than six years. She is Executive Director and Vice President of Public Information Network, Inc. (the parent organization of RTPnet).
She authored a chapter on CWISs for the book The Internet Unleashed, published by Sams.net, now in its Second Edition (ISBN 0-672-30714-6), 1995. Judy also authored the chapter "A Regional Free-Net and Internet Access," published in The Internet Initiative: Libraries Providing Internet Services & How They Plan, Pay, and Manage, by the American Library Association, 1995 (ISBN 0-8389-0668-0).
Last modified: 1996 Dec 13