Our New Department Website

Posted by Web Master
Date August 30, 2011 | Topic: Department News

Our current department website is based purely on an Apache server and almost all pages are maintained statically. On the other hand, content management systems (CMS) written in PHP and using MySQL for content storage are valuable tools for building a website that is more dynamic and professional looking.  After a few more rounds of planning, we will move our existing website to XOOPS, a dynamic Object Oriented based, open source portal script written in PHP.

XOOPS is an extensible, OO (Object Oriented), easy to use dynamic web content management system written in PHP. XOOPS is the ideal tool for developing small to large dynamic community websites, intra-company portals, corporate portals, weblogs, and much more. In simple terms, XOOPS is a self-contained online system that allows users to manage their content with nothing more than Internet access and a web browser. Just like R software, XOOPS has a core system, plus many modules for additional functionalities.

XOOPS is also well-suited to set up a department website with dynamic web content. We have developed a course module for managing all undergraduate and graduate courses and a facultygrads module for managing faculty and graduate students. Those two modules are not directly linked to end users. Instead, we have Undergraduate, Graduate, People, and Research content modules that are interactive with the course and facultygrads modules for proper content display and management.

When given an account, faculty can manage their webpages, update their research areas and publications, and manage the courses they are currently teaching. Course outlines are standardized across the whole department and past outlines can be easily retrieved for future reference. There is a handout system built-in for each course that allows instructors to add or update assignments, announcements, lecture notes, etc., without building separate course websites. For example, you can compose an assignment online without any additional steps to upload and to create a link. There are several categories of handouts to accommodate different types of documents.

Similarly, graduate students can manage their own webpage, research interests, and access restricted contents.

The website also has the following modules:

  • News module: any relevant news can be added and displayed in the front page.
  • Events module: essentially a calendar to manage events such as seminars and department meetings.
  • FAQ module: frequently asked and answered questions.
  • Photo module: photo management system, including photos shown in the front page and other modules.
  • Contacts (address) module: add useful local addresses with Google maps.
  • External Links module: add/manage external links.
  • Survey module: for conducting (anonymous) surveys or collecting applications.
  • Google Search module: use Google to search our website, in addition to XOOPS's own search function.
  • What's New module: automatically put the latest 5 items from News, Events, and FAQ modules in the front page.
  • Sitemap module: show almost all links within each module.
  • RSS Reader module: automatically retrieve outside news such Western news, CBC news, London weather, etc.
  • Internal Admin module: contents available to faculty only.
  • Internal Grads module: contents available to grads only.

Our new website has a RSS feed that provides the department's news and seminar series to the outside. For example, if Applied Math's website has a RSS Reader and has subscribed to our RSS feed, it can show a list of our news and seminars updated hourly.

Overall we hope this new department website will enhance our department's image and attract many potential students. On the management side, our responsibility has been reduced from managing links, layout, and other tedious duties, to adding and editing content. XOOPS will take care of the rest.

This article comes from Department of Statistical and Actuarial Sciences
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