Managing class webpages and mailing lists at the University of Lethbridge

For years, every class at the University of Lethbridge has been given webspace and a mailing list. While the mailing list is well-known to instructors (it is the list “XXXXNNNNx@uleth.ca” that you use to make announcements to the class as a whole), the webspace is far less well known. This document (mostly a reminder to myself) shows you how you can use online tools to manage this.

If you do nothing

First thing is to realise what happens if you do nothing. A student you has found your course online through the registrar’s office and wants to know more about your section goes through the following depressing sequence:

Default Sequence of Class Websites

The thing to realise is that this is bad for everybody. It tells the student nothing, meaning they might decide not to take your course (and even if they do, poor websites leave a bad impression). But if they persist, it is going to mean more work for you: the only thing they can do to find out what they were looking for is back up one page, then following the links for the instructor until they find your email address and send you an email asking about something you could have easily posted online.

So it is a good idea to get in the habit of fixing this space… even (and perhaps especially if) you have a class webspace elsewhere on the internet. This is a first port of call for many students. You can easily make it a helpful one.

Login

To manage your classes, you first need to login to the classes.uleth.ca admin page: classes.uleth.ca/ClassAdmin

There you will see the following login page:

Class Administration Portal

A successful login will take you to a splash page which, apparently, shows you the current (or most recent) and upcoming semesters:

Class Administration Splash

It is from this page that you will manage your mailing lists and class webpages.

Managing your class webpage

First thing to do is manage your class webpage.

You have three options here:

  1. delegate it to somebody else on campus (a student, the department administrator, etc.)
  2. redirect it to some other URL (e.g. an off campus blog, your on-campus personal space (people.uleth.ca/~$USERNAME)
  3. default to the current page (in which case you will add something to the current space)

Class Administration Web Page Management

Upload pages to your default webspace

The most difficult if the third option. This will require you to upload individual HTML pages to the space for this one class—and do it again year after year. If you want to post a PDF there, then you have to upload at least two pages (and maintain them by hand): an HTML page explaining something about the site and containing a link to the PDF page, and the PDF. This is very 1995 and so not something you want to get started on.

You so don’t want to do this, that I’m not even going to say how. If you really want to, call 2490 and ask IT for help. But seriously, you don’t want to do this.

Delegate to somebody else

This is really easy: you simply enter the uleth.ca username of the person you want to maintain the site (i.e. the bit before the @ in a uleth.ca email address). When you click save, this person now can manage your site for you.

This is just punting the problem, of course: the big difference is that now you delegate has to decide whether to upload a single page (which they probably still shouldn’t do, even if that is no longer your problem) or redirect somewhere else.

Redirect to another webspace

This is probably the best option: point the class space to somewhere else where it is easier to manage things. This could be an external blog that you use to manage your teaching (e.g. at wordpress.com or some other blog site), your personal uleth webspace (i.e. at people.uleth.ca/~$USERNAME), or even your class Moodle or Turnitin site.

Mailing list management

You can also manage your mailing list from here. You can change the posting permissions and the membership.

Class Administration Mailing List Page

Posting permissions

Your options here are

  1. Anybody on the entire internet can post to your class mailing list
  2. Anybody who subscribes to your class mailing list (normally the instructor(s), T.A.s, and all registered students) can post to the list
  3. Only Instructors can post to the list

The first option is an invitation to spammers and should only be used under very special circumstances—so special in fact that I can’t think of any.

The second option is the default option and it works well for most.

The third option makes sense if you have trouble with students misbehaving on the list (e.g. sending spam or unauthorised messages) or if you want to deemphasise the list in favour of some other communication platform (e.g. the blog and forum capabilities in Moodle). If you select this, then the list becomes a one-way channel, useful for announcements for which you don’t want any feedback.

Subscription options

This is the important set of options. You can use this to add people to the default subscription list for your class (i.e. the teacher(s), T.A.(s), and registered students.

You have two options here:

  1. add additional teachers
  2. add additional students

The first option adds subscribers to the list who will have “teacher” privileges. This is only meaningful if you have set the posting privileges above to “teachers only.” Under those circumstances, any email addresses you add here still will be able to post. You might want to use this to add additional T.A.s (perhaps unofficial ones) or guest speakers to the list.

The second option is the one you are likely to use more often. This is where you can add additional, unregistered students (e.g. friends, members of the community, etc.).

If you keep the default permissions (i.e. that anybody subscribed to the list can post), then it actually doesn’t matter to which category you add people. The important thing is that you can add people to this important tool.

When should you do this?

The best time to do this is just before the registration period opens for next semester. This is when students are going through the registrar site, looking for classes and the time when an appropriate redirect will have the maximum benefit.

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