TechTips from Chef Antoine
At some point in the process, hopefully before cooking up your creation, it is wise to explore the means of delivering your final product to your guests. Same goes with the serving up of your web class. A network is agroup of interconnected computers, usually with physical cables, although it is also possible to connect with infrared or radio signals. These computers talk to each other via a common set of rules called a protocol. A protocol is a standard way of communicating. To accomplish this all the computers must be configured using a translator. Remember in Independence Day whenWill Smith uploaded a virus from a Mac Powerbook to the mothership computer? Seems even aliens use TCP/IP!
The TCP-IP connection-(Transfer Control Protocol/Internet Protocol)You can connect to the net in two ways- via a modem and phone connection or by the school intranet- T1 ethernet. FASTER is BETTER- use a 33.6 or56 K modem at least.
TCP/IP The Internet works surprisingly well in getting data to the right place and in one piece. For this you can thank TCP/IP (TransferControl Protocol/Internet Protocol). TCP/IP is the blanket term for the more than 100 different sets of technical instructions that handle the transfer of internet data. This insures that a WINDOWS or Mac network can swap data with a Unix network, for instance. Internet data is transmitted after being broken up into chunks called data packets. Sundry files can be sent simultaneously over a single cable. The Internet Protocol inserts into each data packetthe unique Internet address (IP address) of the intended recipient. This insures that all the data, though sent in spurts, will make it to the right address. They may even be sent by different paths, based on the decisions of Internet routers. The router will find a new path for a data packet when an original path is shut down. When the packets reach their destination,the Transmission Control Protocol comes into play. Before the packets are sent, TCP is called upon to mark their sequence, so this information canlater be used by TCO to reassemble them. This is important because packets can arrive out of sequence. If a packet is corrupted or missing, TCP willask that it be resent. These functions occur in a matter of milliseconds.
The server- designed to handle multiple users at one time, the information and communication that takes place will pass through and may also be stored on a server. A client server network is one where multiple clients can access one server . The server type is determined by its function-there are mail servers, ftp servers and http servers. Real Audio/Video requires a proprietary server to serve up audio video files. The only other way to stream these mediums is with the use of plug-in technology.
Access: ID's and password protection for classes must be configured and assigned by your Webmaster.
Online Testing Solutions
A caveat first- Even traditional testing environments are not impervious to abuse. Proctoring and supervision with ID check in and password protectionarea couple of options.
The Web Environments on the software page all include some form of online testing feature. The following options areincluded here as they depend on outside vendors to translate the informationor require a proprietary server configuration.
Web@ssessor- Point and clickinterface features ease of use- the down side is it requires java enabledbrowsers and costs five figures to license.
Questions- how busy is the server- response time- what are peak times? How reliable is the server?- participants can be easily frustrated. Canthe network deliver your media rich files? (CD Rom hybrids are an alternative for distribution of media rich files, which incorporate online and offline info.) What is the most appropriate method? Access times, How does the student connect? How often do students/teacher connect?
Tip One: There are myriad things that will affect the rate of throughput from a web server to your computer- so don't jump to the conclusion that the slowness you encounter is the fault of your network. The size ofgraphics, the speed of your modem, the access to the server you are contactingall figure in. It isn't called the World Wide Wait for nothing.
Tip Two: Chatting on the net: You can chat on the net by using proprietary software, or by the traditional text based IRC (Internet RelayChat). If you are interested, visit the WebChat Navigator where instructions and a good list of sites that offerWeb chatting. IRC is a little more complex, but quicker, offering thousands of "channels" (rooms of topics) to choose from. Ask your Internet Service Provider if it supports IRC and if it has a program to let you use IRC. Or select one from the several packages available at http://www.crl.com/~claybo/irc/clients.html..See also Tip Seven and Nine below.
Then select a server. Print the FAQ and keep it handy while navigating online.
Tip Three: If you move from AOL or CompuServe and use Windows95, you will need to set up "Dial Up Networking" in order to connect to your new service provider. This gives you native support for programs like web browsers, news readers, and other software that wants to be connected directly to the Internet. By using a tricky little protocol called PPP (Point to Point protocol) it tricks your computer into thinking that your modem is actually a network interface card that is connected directly to the net.
Tip Four: Web Counters. I don't recommend them, though they are ubiquitous on the net. They reference a CGI (Common Gateway Interface) program.They don't work well behind firewalls, and they require that the reference CGI be on your server. You could reference a CGI out on the web that can handle this as well.
Tip Five: Use password protection any time you want to limit accessto your site. Remember, without it, anyone in the world with web access can see it. Consider that you definitely want to limit access to student email addresses if published for class use. Get a waiver for use of students pictures on the web if under age eighteen. Check your local policy (this is sort of like insuring that only registered guest have access to the continental breakfast).
Tip Six: This is an area where you are almost completely at the mercy of others when it comes to the nuts and bolts operation. Talk to others about the reliability of connections, especially the accessibility at peaktimes to the server. And remember that if you are creating on a 64kbps or faster network connection, test your course on a modem!
Tip Seven: SLCC faculty can also use the college WebBoard for creating online conferencing that is on a password protected site. Information can be found at http://www.stlcc.cc.mo.us/cc/its/webb.htm. You can also create a listserv to accompany it.
Tip eight: Create a mirror site for your class so if your main server has a problem, you can point students to the mirror site in case the main course fails to arrive.
Tip nine: Remember that one of the main features of online classes is to keep it asynchronous- do not expect everyone to be at the table at the same time- after all how well does that work at home?