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Free Resources for Creating Interactive Faculty Websites

by Terence Krell, Ph.D.
tckrell@abc-xyz.com - http://www.abc-xyz.com/krell/

[ Copyright 1999, 2002 Terence Krell and www.abc-xyz.com ]
[ This document source URL: http://www.abc-xyz.com/faculty.shtml or http://www.net-mage.com/faculty.shtml ]

Here is a list of free resources that allow you to enhance the learning experience of your students by adding interactivity over the web. Also included are resources for building and maintaining interactive websites. As you scroll farther down the categories listing resources on this page, the resources require (or allow) more internet savvy and technical skill. I have tried to include a commentary to indicate for each resource how it may be used as part of the educational experience.

Too much information? Click here.

Underlined text is a link, click on it to go to the appropriate web resource. Please be patient while the page loads.

Find information on the web using these searches

Search the Web:

Get Stock Quote:
Enter Symbol(s)

Symbol Lookup

My Portfolio
Our Privacy Vow 
Find local
TV Listings!

Enter Zip Code:
Get Headlines:
Find A Person:
GoTo.com: Search made simple
border border border
border border border
border border border
-- OR --
Enter disease, therapy or topic:

Services you can use without programming or hosting your own Web site.

Free Web-based e-mail at http://www.scholars-on-line.com
Free Web-based e-mail user@yahoo.com at http://mail.yahoo.com
Free Web-based e-mail user@lycos.com at http://mail.lycos.com
Free Web-based e-mail user@netscape.net at http://www.netscape.net (Sign up instantly using your AIM username and password. Yes, it works with Interent Explorer!)
Free Web-based e-mail user@eudoramail.com at http://www.eudoramail.com
Free Web-based e-mail user@bigmailbox.com at http://www.bigmailbox.com
Free Web-based e-mail user@junglemate.com at http://www.junglemate.com Includes a planning calendar, reminder service, and bookmarks. Available in Japanese.
Free Web-based e-mail with spam screening at http://www.despammed.com with forwarding to other email adresses after spam filtering.
Free Web-based e-mail at http://www.mail.com with choice of many domains
Free Web-based e-mail at http://webmail.rlt.com/ with many domains all to the same account With one account name, you get multiple email addresses, and you can check them all in one place too.
Free Web-based e-mail at http://www.ureach.com Voicemail & FAX available Free for 30days, then a few dollars a month. One of my favorites!
Web-based e-mail, Voicemail & FAX at http://www.onebox.com(Update: as of 4/15/2002 there is a charge.)

These sites offer a free e-mail address which may be accessed using a world-wide web browser from any location and any machine. Requires no configuration or setup to use! Great for private-mail or if you are using other people's computers because of travel or finances (don't forget your password.) Instant sign-up at no charge (but they send occasional junk mail and may include a short advertisement on every message you send. TANSTAAFL.) Scholars-on-line, OneBox and Yahoo also allow you to check e-mail accounts other than the ones they host. Mail.com allows you to choose interesting domains (consultant.com, teacher.com, doctor.com, usa.com, 2die4.com, etc. but the amount of advertising and junk mail you get is substantial. Onebox and Ureach have the least advertising.

Why another e-mail account? For one thing you can refer your students to these sites so that they have no excuse for not having an e-mail account they can check regularly.

More importantly, I have discovered that when having papers, journals, or other assignments submitted by e-mail it is often best to have each individual class send their material to a different e-mail address. Then I can look at the material one class at a time checking for missing assignments, checking dates things were submitted, and when responding giving consistent feedback within a class.

Unfortunately, universities usually expect a faculty member to get by with only one e-mail address, so I simply got others from the free sites. I have students fill out a web-based form (see the Free Simple Form link below) by having them either type or paste the material into the body of the form. When they submit the form, the material is e-mailed to me at the appropriate address. And they have no idea, because the address is hidden, that it is any different than my regular e-mail address. To insure that they don't send the wrong material to the alternative addresses, I configure the return address of the free e-mail account to use my regular correspondence e-mail account.

Free E-mail List at http://topica.com

Topica.com maintains and processes e-mail lists. This service is completely free, but there is an advertising message appended to the end of each message e-mailed to the list.

What's an Email List? An email list enables a group of people to share information about a specific topic. People who are interested in the topic 'subscribe' to the list, and the flow of information can be an announcement (one way) or discussion (two way). Announcement lists allow people to broadcast or receive information on specific topics. In these lists, a single writer distributes an email periodically to an audience (and the audience doesn't participate directly). Discussion lists enable subscribers to interact and share information about a specific topic. In an open discussion list, sending email to the list address automatically forwards it to all the subscribers on the list. In a moderated discussion list, someone reads (and possibly even edits or deletes) messages before they go to the other subscribers, making sure the content is appropriate and on-topic.

Every class should have an e-mail list, if for no other reason than for the faculty member to notify students when class is canceled, and for students to advise other students of events. For that reason, I recommend that all faculty lists be configured as discussion type lists, so that people can respond to an announcement and have others receive it.

Email lists have been active since about 1975, and discussion lists were actually the first and original type of online community. Lists work for discussion community when there is a critical mass of interested volunteers who are self-motivated to participate. For classroom use they create an avenue for democratic announcements, as though everyone had access to the PA system. But there is no permanent record of messages, there is no central repository, and there is no accountability, which all limit their utility in the 'command performance' environment of a class. For real classroom type discussion, in my opinion, message boards or discussion areas are better. See the link below.

I recommend subscribing to lists using a different e-mail address than your regular correspondence address, and using a separate address for each class list. That will enable you to retain and sort through the discussion from each class. Alternatively, see the 'Free Web Community' link below for a site that creates an e-mail list and retains copies of the messages on the site.

Free Message Board at Delphi.com

NOTE: This service recently moved to http://www.delphiforums.com.

You can easily set up a customized message board and even add it to your Web site, using this excellent free service. It's a great way to create interactivity with your students. You can also administer your board (delete messages, set options, etc.) There is some talk of requiring a fee for this service as advertising revenues drop.

A message board is loosely organized by topic and messages are presented one per page in the order they appear. In other words, you cannot scroll through the messages, you have to click a link to see the next message. I've always found this cumbersome, but it is better than the threaded type messages used by usenet news groups. The best way to use this service is to create a private forum and have students register for it. I find that it is best to use subtopics that will organize semester long discussion. It is also advisable, if you use small group projects, to give each group it's own 'topic' as a semi private area to post and share.

I recommend against expecting students to create their own topics. You should provide the structure. Also, if it isn't assigned in a structured way, students won't do it. "Optional" seems to be a synonym for "unnecessary" in the student thesaurus.

Free Simple Hosted Calendars (UPDATE: This service just started charging $9.95 per year after the FREE first 30 days)

Create a calendar for your classes. Each class can have it's own calendar, and each student can have their own calendar that automatically shows entries for all of their classes that have calendars posted on this online service. Click the link above, and then click on the "Create your own calendar" link.

Potentially this service is really useful, especially as more faculty at your school begin to use it. What you do is create your own 'month-at-a-glance' calendar of which you are the owner. Then you create a group for each of your classes. Enter all of the activites and due dates for the entire semester for each class, and join each group or class calendar that you have created. Immediately and automatically, all of the activities and deadlines for all of the groups to which you belong are combined onto your personal calendar. If all of the faculty use this system, then students can join the groups for each of the classes they take, and all of the assignments and deadlines for all of their classes are combined onto their own calendars WITHOUT them having to enter the information!

Free Search Box Page at www.net-mage.com

This link goes to a web page I constructed that includes all of the search links in the column to the left. The difference is they are on their own page and you can give the URL to your students. You may also choose to add this link to your own page by including the following HTML code, which you may modify as needed:

<a href="http://www.net-mage.com/facsea.shtml"><b>Search Box Page</b></a><p>

I have discovered that many students feel they are searching the web properly by going to just one search engine and selecting the first link or two that matches what they are looking for. By giving them a list of easy to use search engines, you can create assignments with greater confidence that you can anticipate their results.

Services to create an integrated web site, hosted elsewhere, with no programming.

Free Simple Web Page with your links from http://www.topcities.com
Free Simple Web Page with your links from http://www.netfirms.com
Free Simple Web Page with your links from http://www.webmastercandy.net
Free Incredibly Simple Web Page with your links from http://www.webspawner.com

Topcities allows you to create your own website, free and really easily on line. Also includes a free guestbook, message board and Form Mail which allows data entered in interactive forms to be emailed directly to you. Nothing to code, nothing to upload (unless you want to) and just one form to create a web site that can be altered using the same form at any time. It doesn't get any simpler than this: Click on the link, register for a web page at http://yourname.topcities.com and enter the title of the page, a brief description of what you want to say, and as many links to other URLs on the web as you like, then click save. You can even upload an image or picture, and change the color of the background or text. If you get get more sophisticated, uploading your own HTML coded pages is possible, which might make this a good place to start. For the technically minded, you cannot operate SSI or CGI on these sites.

Use this site to create a simple web page for your students with an easy to remember and find URL. In the description, include your schedule and contact information. Use the links to send students to the calendar page, message board, or other resources you create and use for your classes.

Topcities is a little easier to get started, especially if you want to create your own HTML code for a page, but the graphics and page layouts are very simple.

Netfirms is for the technically advanced, and has full technical capabilities, including a cgi-bin directory. However, there are no on-line tools for creating your page; you have to upload your HTML code using FTP. If you don't know what that means, use one of the other sites.

There are several other Free Webpage sites available, but these are recommended because any advertising is relatively inconspicuous. If you don't mind the advertising or want to make use of a larger service try

Free webpage at http://www.tripod.com (from Lycos.)
Free webpage at http://www.angelfire.com (from Lycos.) A little easier to get started.
Free webpage at http://www.geocities.com (from Yahoo.)

All three have the advantage of allowing you to use the same username and password for both their free email account and the free webpage.

Unreviewed Free Webpage sites (some with strange names) include
Free webpage at http://www.0catch.com
Free webpage at http://www.freecoolpages.com
Free webpage at http://www.batcave.net.com
Free webpage at http://www.esmartstart.com/
Free webpage at http://freewebhosting.hostdepartment.com/

Have a bunch of sites you'd like students to go to but don't really want to create your own page or learn HTML? Try this: Sign up for an account for a webpage at one of the above services. Then create a series of bookmarks in your browser for the sites to which you want students to go. Edit out the ones you don't want the students to see, and upload your bookmarks file to the site. You may need to edit the descriptions in your browser before uploading, but what you end up with is a page of links at a specific URL. Simple and quick.

Did you know that your Netscape Bookmark file or Internet Explorer Favorites file is already an HTML page? All you have to do is use the edit or manage function to rearrange your bookmarks and put them in organizing folders. Then you can just upload the Bookmarks or Favorites file to any web server and rename it with a .html extension. Link to it and you have a web page with organized links.

Or, you can use an on-line bookmark service like
Free Upload bookmarks or favorites with a group-read-only password at http://www.linkdragon.com/

Check out an example of what I did at http://scholars.topcities.com

Other Services you can use to make a useful Web page requiring minimal html programming skill.

Free Simple Forms - Content E-mailed

Here's a site that let's you create a simple form and have the information filled in on that form e-mailed to the e-mail adress of your choice. Suitable for having students submit journals or messages. You will need some slight knowledge of HTML to use these services.

For a sample Journal Submission form provided by this service, altered so you can send the result to yourself, go to http://www.net-mage.com/form.shtml
For my Journal Submission form, as I use it for my class, go to http://www.abc-xyz.com/krell/journal.html

Free Complex Forms - Content E-mailed

A handy free service that lets you easily create customized E-mail forms for visitor feedback, surveys, orders, etc. Here, you can create an E-mail form with any input fields you need, including pull-down selection lists and checkboxes. You can have all your data validated for proper content and format. Options include password-protected forms and forms that can only be used from "registered" page links. You will need some knowledge of HTML to use these services.

Register a domain free at zooming.to

Making use of the international domain extension .to this FREE redirection service allows you to have people point a web-browser at http://zooming.to/yourname Is there a catch? Of course. For 7 seconds your customer sees an ad before the browser redirects to your page. But if you have a free site or page that is buried several layers deep in the URL, this service gives you an easy-to-remember short URL to tell your friends.

Resources for designing your own Web site and using the Internet.

Article on Improving Web Site Usability-Original
Article on Improving Web Site Usability-Copy

InfoWorld article "Fixing Web-Site Usability." Recommendations on improving your web site's usability are drawn from a usability study of commercial web sites. One observation: You don't have to spend a lot of money to make your site easy to use.

HTML Primer

This is a step by step guide to learning to program in HTML. Worth the time spent going through it.

A Beginner's Guide to HTML

If you are looking for a quick reference to understand how to read and perhaps write simple HTML code, this is the document to start with.

Resources for Advanced Website Creation-Design, Graphics, CGI, SSI

Ready to jump in and do advanced website creation? When I started to create a companion page to this one for those who wanted to get heavily involved in programming their own websites, the first place I went was to this site. That's when I realized I didn't need to create such a page, it had already been done here. This site includes everything you need to program a sophisticated website; tutorials, scripts, design templates, graphics and at least a sprinkling of everything else, including links to even more resources.

Searching the internet

This is an article about how to search the internet efficiently, quickly and find what you are looking for.

This site created to client specifications and maintained by:
Terence Krell, Ph.D., Official MSR Web-Master
Comments and complaints cheerfully accepted. Compliments appreciated. New business valued.

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This page incorporates dynamic content, non-dynamic content was last modified on Saturday, 01-Jun-2002 22:56:05 EDT