October Newsletter - SPIDER Newsletter

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					                                          SPIDER Newsletter
                                                       October 2005

SPIDER                               Normal Service Resumes                         File-o-facts
http://spider.science.strath.ac.uk                                                  Files uploaded on SPIDER have various attributes,
                                     After the relatively quiet summer months,      which can be changed to alter when it appears to stu-
SPIDER is a bespoke VLE de-          SPIDER page visits have returned to            dents, what session it belongs to, what category
                                     around the 1.4 million mark, slightly sur-     heading it appears under etc. SPIDER also offers
livering learning material, pro-
viding online support and            passing last Octobers number. Minor
departmental management tools        changes in browser usage were noted -
to a wide sector of the university
community.                           Firefox, the open source browser based on
                                     the original Netscape browser, has had its
This newsletter outlines recent      usage figures tripled from around 50,000
innovations, updates and
changes made to the system
                                     visits to 150,000 this year. This is still
                                     dwarfed by Internet Explorer which ac-
More information on current          counts for the lions share of the 1.4m page
SPIDER development is avail-         visits, but mirrors the general trend on the   change file attributes
able via the "development diary"
link on SPIDER-DEV at                internet as a whole as users migrate from                           copy, move or delete sets of files
spider-dev.pharmacy.strath.ac.uk/    the Microsoft browser, which is seen as
                                                                                    class editors the option to copy multiple files between
                                     outdated and prone to security problems (if    session tabs or even copy sets of files between differ-
Feel free to email comments or
suggestions about SPIDER or          not kept up to date) by many.                  ent classes. This is particularly useful if classes
this newsletter.                                                                    share blocks of lecture material - staff need only up-
                                                                                    load the files once, and then copy the files and all
                                     The favoured operating system of SPIDER        their associated attributes to a second class with a
Contact                              users is still very much in the Microsoft
Ian Thompson                                                                        few mouse clicks.
e:ian.thompson@strath.ac.uk          camp, with Windows XP dominating. The
                                     number of Windows 2000 machines are
                                     dropping off compared to last year (7% vs      delay a file's appearance until after a lec-
SPIDER cluster admins                                                               ture or other relevant time, or to be hidden
                                     15%), as this OS is now being replaced
applied phys                         with XP. Mac users, although a small per-      from view after a deadline date has
Phil Riches                          centage of the total user base, have           passed. How SPIDER differs is that each
                                     shown a small growth (1.04% to 1.71%),         file also has an ”active for session“ option,
Ian Thompson/ Irene McKay            with a shift from the older “system 9” to OS   which defaults to the current academic
                                     X evident (15% increase in OS X users).        session (e.g. 2005-06). The heading un-
business                             Unix and Linux users have also grown           der which the file is displayed is organised
Jane Brittin                                                                        into different session ”tabs“, allowing an
                                     (0.77% to 1.73%) to around the same
CAS                                  level.                                         archive of content to be built automatically.
Charles Byrne                                                                       By default, all users can access any ”ses-
                                     Out of hours?
Linda Campbell                       The majority of users still show a tendency
                                     to use SPIDER within office hours (62% of
chemistry                            visits are within 9am-5pm), but a signifi-
Fraser Murray
                                     cant proportion of visits take place after
computing                            closing time (6% of visits occur between
Paul Woolfries                       11pm and 5am).
Roger Perman
                                                                                     content ‘session tabs’ under the “lecture
                                     Focus on....                                    notes” heading
Ian Thompson [temp]                  The Focus on... Section is a regular           sion tab“ to view the materials that are
                                     monthly feature used to highlight some of      available. However, any class editor, clus-
LASS                                 SPIDER’s many tools. This month...
Tricia Barton                                                                       ter editor or admin level user can alter the
                                                                                    permissions for the class to limit access to
maths-stams                          Class content                                  older session tabs. Options include
Iain Thurlbeck/ Fraser Murray
                                     SPIDER classes, like any other VLE sys-        showing all content to anyone (the de-
pharmacy                             tem, allow certain users to mange basic        fault); only showing students who were in
Ian Thompson/ Tim Plumridge          file based content, such as Word, Acrobat      the class for the relevant session the ma-
                                     pdf or Powerpoint slides. This content is      terial, or only allowing staff users to see
Ricky Martin                         able to be organised under a set of differ-    older material. This allows current stu-
                                     ent headings, such as “lecture notes” or       dents to see the material for the current
SCA                                  “assignments”, and displayed with an op-       session, while allowing students who have
Eric Norris/ Glen Coutts
                                     tional sub-heading and “note“ field. Date-     taken the class in earlier years to access
SPIDER newsletter Oct 2005           dependant display options allow staff to       the material they actually used for revision
SPIDER Status                        purposes. This is of particular use if so-    drive like any other drive on your com-
                                     lutions or other result-based material        puter. See http://webdrive.strath.ac.uk
Page visits                          have been made available in previous          for more information.
October 2005        1,455,483        sessions, or if there have been signifi-
Monthly 2005                         cant changes to materials.
January              1,109,057
February             1,012,323
March                1,110,545       New Tools
April                1,026,083       A number of extras have been added to
May                  1,028,573
June                   280,072
                                     SPIDER during October.                                   access your H: drive via the web
July                   169,710
August                 202,628       Staff tools: User group switcher
September              486,100
                                     The open nature of SPIDER means that          Add student to classes
Monthly 2004                         generally speaking, all users see most of     Although SPIDER is successfully inte-
January                670,745       the same things in classes and other          grated into the Oracle registry database
February               700,745       parts of the system. However, some-           for access to student data and class lists
March                  921,142
April                  702,324
                                     times staff have the requirement to see       information, a small proportion of stu-
May                    638,881       the site exactly as a student would, as       dents still find they don't appear on some
June                   167,310       certain tools and features are only visible   of their classes lists. Admin users have
July                   124,638       or available to other user groups. In the     always been able to manage class lists,
August                 167,754
September              285,340
                                     past, staff could simply request a second     but they can now quickly add a single
October              1,325,512       account, or a shared departmental, tem-       student to any number of classes, with-
November             1,701,827       porary student account was created.           out the need to update each list inde-
December             1,194,879       This will no longer be required, as the       pendently.
                                     new user group switcher tool allows any
Monthly 2003
July*                   25,593       staff user to temporarily become a mem-
August                 111,082       ber of any group with lesser access privi-
September              147,304       leges. This means admin level users
October                822,565
November               910,088
                                     can switch to any user group, and regu-                      Admins can easily add a
                                     lar staff can become any of the different                    student to any number of
December               897,199                                                                    classes with one click
                                     student groups. They can then view
Busiest day                          SPIDER exactly as if they were a a user
Dec 13th 2004:     95,221 visits     in that group. From within the group
                                     switch tool page, users simply select the
*SPIDER went live mid-July 2003
                                     group they wish to become, and click          Filter management
Users                                ”go“.                                         All users on SPIDER can customise their
Total registered     11,435                                                        filters to determine what news and dis-
Staff                   710                                                        cussions they are shown on the home
Students              9,923                                                        page. The classes page now shows if
Alumni                  802
                                                                                   the user has each class in their news
Classes                                                                            and discussion filters and allows a one
Total: 706                                                                         click update to match the filters to their
applied-phys          39
bioscience           143
business              26             user group switcher tool
CAS                   10
chemeng                1             Switching back to the original group is
chemistry             71
computing             15
                                     equally straightforward. SPIDER re-
economics             30             members that you have switched, and a
education             60             link on the home page returns you to the                              Users can now see
maths-stams           75             switch tool.                                                          and quickly update
pharmacy*             60                                                                                   their filters
physics               92
SCA                   81             Web drive
                                     IT Services introduced web-based ac-          In Development
*includes 8 duplicate classes for
IMU twin programme                   cess to users’ network H:drives in the        Changes in the pipeline include updates
                                     late summer using ”Web-DAV“ technol-          and wider accessibility to the programme
                                     ogy. Access is available using the Inter-     (degree) management tools, improve-
SPIDER uses Linux, Apache,                                                         ments to the private messaging system
MySQL and PHP aka "LAMP"             net Explorer web browser or Windows
                                     Explorer using windows 2000 or XP.            and ongoing tweaks to the assignments
                                     Mac OS X (10.4+) users can also access        tools.
all code developed in house by Ian   the drives. The URL to the web drive is         As always, anyone wishing to suggest
Thompson, Tim Plumridge, Ian
                                     not easily remembered so to simplify ac-      new features/ improvements to SPIDER,
Thurlbeck and Fraser Murray
                                     cess, SPIDER now has a link to the drive      or to submit anything for publication in
SPIDER newsletter Oct 2005           under myStuff (students) or staff tools.      the newsletter, just contact us at:
                                     After logging in, you can access your H:      e: spider-vle@strath.ac.uk t: x2969


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