What's New in EduWeb 2006?

The main EduWeb 2005 program was downloaded over 1,100 times according to my website statistics.  I don't know exactly what this means, but I do know several hundred schools installed and used EduWeb in 2005.  Stu's EduWeb 2006 was released during January.  To provide its many users and prospective users an idea of what it will include, this page contains a first look at this update.  EduWeb 2006 is a smaller update than its counterpart in 2005, with this update designed to consolidate and further enhance the great new features of last year's release.  Several new features have been included in EduWeb 2006.  Let's take a look!

Getting New Students EduWeb Sites Up to Date:

One of the biggest issues with EduWeb is creating new EduWeb pages for new students that arrive at your school after your complete EduWeb structure has been built.  In previous versions, you used the "Add a New Student" utility (ewaddstudent.exe).  But the problem was that the new student would receive an empty EduWeb site for themselves, even though the rest of the class might have several topic pages already with dropped in EduWeb templates.

Fixing this to ensure all new students get all distributed templates automatically required a few changes to the overall structure of EduWeb 2006, which are mainly background changes.  The first of these changes occurs when your EduWeb 2006 structure is created.  As show in the screenshot below (left), every class folder now includes its own "masterstudent" folder.

That masterstudent folder is unique for each class.  It's like a hidden extra student in each class and it contains a complete empty student folder structure.  The next change also occurs when you first setup your 2006 EduWeb.  It involves creating a reference point to all of those separate masterstudent folders in the ewshrtct.dat file.  These are all shown as a student called zzStudent Master and you will see them at the bottom of the EduWeb Shortcut Creator list (above-right).

Next, the EduWeb Topics Utility can be used as normal to distribute EduWeb templates to every student in the class or Year.  What will happen is your templates will also be distributed to the masterstudent folder in your class automatically.  Then, whenever a new student does enrol at your school, it doesn't matter which class they join, when you use the updated Add a New Student to EduWeb utility (shown below), they will receive an EduWeb structure that already contains all the distributed templates used by that class!


EduWeb 2006 TaskForce:

There's been an update to the TaskForce section of EduWeb 2006.  In order to make TaskForce a more effective tool for staff to log support calls within your school, two extra fields have been added to the data entry form.  The aim is to still keep things very simple for data entry, but provide the administrator (computer coordinator?) with a little more information which can also be used for management purposes.  Now when a user goes to log a support request, they are confronted with a new form:

The two extra fields you see here are "Location" and "Problem With".  Both of these fields have pull-down lists that they can choose from.  The administrator can edit the contents of each list to customise it to their own school very easily.  That way, your appropriate school locations and items are listed.  These fields are useful later on for reporting, so you can easily determine which locations are causing the most trouble (but you probably already know that).  Once tasks are submitted, they appear on the TaskForce webpage in EduWeb, so everyone can see where they are up to in the queue.

Once calls have been logged in TaskForce, that's where the administrator steps in.  Now these could be tasks for the Computer Coordinator, or for an outside technician.  The administrator could be a different person altogether.  The administrator can now set a priority for each task as shown below.  It is also possible to add an action to each job to record what was done:

Under the file menu, you can still redirect EduWeb TaskForce request to any external Help Desk or support provider as long as you know their email address.  Simple!  The TaskForce webpage is then updated to show the priority of each task as well:

That's it!  If you want to use it, use it.  If you don't, don't.  But the point is, TaskForce is a lot better than writing things into a book because requests can be logged from anywhere on your network, and it's another way to get your staff to use the computers.

EduWeb 2006 Photo Gallery:

The previous EduWeb Photo Gallery Tool simply made copies of the selected photo files into the specified EduWeb Gallery.  These days, most schools take their digital photos at very high resolutions - 2 megapixel, 3 megapixel, even 4 and 5 megapixel.  These high resolution photos are perfect for printing, but are quite large in size.  A typical 4 megapixel photo is over 2.5MB in size.  When you have 30 of these photos to put into an EduWeb Gallery, you not only take up over 70MB of space on your server, you also flood your network with traffic as people try to view the photos on screen using browsers.

The EduWeb Photo Galleries use a viewing window which is only 400x300 pixels in size.  Displaying a 4 megapixel photo in this size window is slow and inefficient.  Previously, users were instructed to use a utility such as IrfanView to resize their photos to a smaller, more appropriate size like 640x480 - BEFORE they used the EduWeb Photo Gallery Tool to copy the image files across to a gallery.  The reality was that this extra processing was too hard, so people didn't bother to do it and then complained that the photo galleries would not work or were extremely slow in operation.

The above screenshot shows a dozen photos taken at just 1 megapixel.  You can see each photo is over 500KB.  These 12 photos alone will make a gallery that is over 6MB in size.  If there were the maximum 30 photos, this gallery would be well over 15MB.  Now remember that most schools take their photos at even higher resolutions.

This new version of the EduWeb Photo Gallery Tool looks almost identical to the previous version, except as well as copying the selected photos into a gallery, it also automatically resizes the photos to 400x300 regardless of their original resolution and filesize.  Because this process is now automatic when using the tool, the EduWeb Photo Galleries are guaranteed to be small, fast and efficient and they require no expertise on the part of the user.

Another new feature included in the new version of the Tool is the ability to overlay a caption on all of the photos.  This translucent caption is user-specified by simply filling in the box at the bottom of the form.  Because the new Photo Gallery Tool is performing much more than the previous version did, it is a little slower in operation, taking about 3 seconds to process each photo.  However, the end result is far more desirable than in the past.

Here are the same photos as they were copied into the selected photo gallery using the new Gallery Tool.  As you can see, the size of the photo has been reduced.  The new size is now 400x300 pixels (the same size as the gallery view window) and the filesize is roughly 10% of the original.  The entire gallery is well under 1MB in size, making for a very fast gallery, suitable not only for the school intranet but even for the school's internet website.

Here is the EduWeb Photo Gallery with its write-up on the left and the photo viewer on the right.  You can see the translucent caption has been overlaid at the bottom of the photos automatically.

EduWeb Templates Toolkit:

The new EduWeb Templates Toolkit includes templates that are easily modified into student topic pages ready to be transferred using the EduWeb Topics Utility. A Step-by-Step guide titled "How to Create and Distribute EduWeb Templates" has been newly updated and is included in the toolkit, together with blank templates. This Toolkit (1.00MB) is very simple to follow and provides an excellent starting point for teachers who would like to create (and hopefully share) their own EduWeb templates. It is a separate must-have resource available from the EduWeb Downloads page.

Updated User Documentation:

A brand new Using EduWeb 2006 user guide has been produced and is available on the Downloads page.

Summary of EduWeb 2006 Changes and Acknowledgements:

The main development for EduWeb 2006 commenced on January 15th, 2006.  The changes you see above including this webpage were completed on January 19th following four very long days and nights.  Unlike previous years, this update has had less planning as I was in holiday mode for far too long.  While I designed and developed all of these new features from a software point of view, I was not responsible for the idea behind most of the changes.  They came from EduWeb users and I thank them all for their continued support.  Here is a summary of all of the changes that make up EduWeb 2006:

EduWeb 2006 Changes: Suggested by:
Include a "masterstudent" folder in each class folder, rather than a single masterstudent folder for the whole school Barbara Shaffer
Update the EduWeb Topics Utility to also drop distributed templates into the class "masterstudent" folder.  Also includes better error reporting Barbara Shaffer
Update the Add New Student utility to use the class's "masterstudent" folder when creating a new student in EduWeb.  That way, the new students will automatically be provided all templates that have been distributed Barbara Shaffer
EduWeb TaskForce Update - new fields and task prioritisation Greg Sharkey
Replace Photo Gallery Tool with new version that automatically resamples/resizes high-resolution photos to appropriate web format Stu Hasic
Updated Student and Staff Links Pages Stu Hasic
Replaced "Educational Website of the Week" link with new URL Stu Hasic
General update and cleanup of all intranet pages Stu Hasic
Update of "Using EduWeb 2006" documentation and complete EduWeb website overhaul and refresh Stu Hasic
EduWeb Templates Toolkit Stu Hasic

EduWeb 2006, will be available before school resumes in NSW.  If you have any comments or suggestions about these changes, please e-mail me. 

Have a great 2006!

Stu Hasic.
Sydney, Australia.

Stu's EduWeb is designed and developed  by Stuart Hasic - stu_hasic@yahoo.com.  It is available free of charge for public schools in the state of New South Wales in Australia only.  Other schools interested in Stu's EduWeb should contact the developer directly. (c) 2001-2006 by Stuart Hasic