Tag Archive for intranet

Improving Inside U Prep

One difference between being a tech director and academic dean is the much smaller amount of time that I have available for tech tasks. I don’t replace MacBook hard drives anymore, but I do still run at least one school website, Inside U Prep. This summer, I had the chance to have some fun and make a number of long-desired improvements to the website. Many of these simply bring it up to the standard I wished for when I first launched the site.

In the tradition of other internal school websites, Inside U Prep meets a couple of important school needs. Inside sites provide direct access to resources that students and faculty and staff members frequently use. While the main school website prioritizes outward-facing content, intranet websites give top billing to items of internal interest. Internal school websites are less bound by the the design constraints of a public audience, since they have less need to project specific aesthetics. Its audience comes to campus every day!

inside-U-prep-screen-shot

The improvements include changes to visual appearance, user interface, and custom module functionality. Let’s get started:

Responsive theme

mobileThe prior theme (Bartik) did not change appearance on mobile devices, a liability in the current, mobile era. Fortunately, someone modified Bartik to make it responsive and then posted it as a community theme (Responsive Bartik D7).

Child theme
Short on time, I originally configured Bartik with a custom logo and manually added a couple of graphic elements. These changes were overwritten each time that I installed an update to the theme. This time, I created a child theme of Responsive Bartik. This allowed me to make the prior customizations permanent and then make precise improvements to layout and appearance. The new sans-serif look is cleaner and better spaced.

Simplify menus

The two menus now appear in one column and have moved from the primary menu and right sidebar regions of the page to the more commonly used left sidebar. Usage stats indicate that the custom modules and outward links are used more frequently than the internal resources, another reason to enhance their visibility.

Views instead of custom code

Screen Shot 2015-08-15 at 9.53.22 PMSince site launch, the resources content type has accepted link URLs, uploaded files, and HTML content. The home page displays whatever content has been provided, with a priority order. Previously, I coded this custom, but this time I created a view block for each cell, with the help of Views Conditional so that it would be more standard for me or someone else to modify this configuration in the future.

ITIP module

Screen Shot 2015-08-15 at 9.51.07 PMOne of six custom modules I have authored to provide dynamic data collection and reporting services for specific school programs. ITIP is our faculty professional development and evaluation program. The system now shows multiple years and can accept multiple submissions per item. It will soon request and share an informal project title from each faculty member and then share these to all faculty members, to promote awareness and sharing.

Course resources module

A.k.a. “textbook list.” This module collects course textbook, ebook, app, and website subscription information from teachers in the spring and shares it with families in the fall. This year, the system will show a customized course resources list for each student, instead of requiring families to wade through the complete list to identify the items to purchase for their student.

Community service module

This module makes the submission of community service hours completely electronic. The prior version was pretty bare bones, just performing the basic functions of storing student hours, sending mail messages to supervisors for verification, and producing a dashboard and reports of student progress toward the service requirement. New features include: better structured data entry and storage, normalized organizations table to reduce duplication, faster approval interface for the service coordinator, and dashboard access for advisors. With this done, we will be able to share back to students the 300+ service organizations that they have entered into this database in the past two years. Time permitting, I am very excited to try Addressfield Autocomplete, which may be able to perform a live Google Maps lookup of organization address information. This would be both really slick as well as more convenient and accurate for the service coordinator. Again, the Drupal community has been actively improving the sophistication and usability of contributed modules while I have been gone!

Screen Shot 2015-08-15 at 9.54.15 PMTwitter feeds

Live feeds from three school Twitter accounts of interest to internal audiences.

Finally configured pathauto

Human-friendly URLs.

Maxlength module

Maxlength limits user input into textarea fields, previously a weakness of this site. Users would enter unexpectedly long content into certain fields (usually adding explanations), and database insert statements would break.

Screen Shot 2015-08-15 at 9.55.19 PMDate picker module

Drupal finally created an easy way to attach popup calendar selectors to date fields. We use date selectors all the time, for example to record student community service. Date picker

I look forward to seeing how these improvements play this year and so appreciate having a few days this summer to make a brief return to my web development days.

Intranet Portal Version 7

Today, I rolled out a new version of our intranet portal home page to the school. The change was required since our main website gained social community features formerly on this site (blog, forum, directory, carpool map, photo galleries, video publishing, etc.). The site still runs Moodle and a number of custom Perl and PHP scripts, but it no longer runs Drupal or Gallery. I also took the opportunity to make it easier to read. Let me know what you think of the redesign. How do you manage your intranet portal?

The home page still shows different items depending on one’s Active Directory group membership.

My view
20100104-insideCatlin-rk.png

Typical student view
20100104-insideCatlin-student.png

Previous versions

2008-09
20100104-last_insideCatlin.png

2007-08
20100104-newinside.png

2006-07
20100104-oldinside.png

2004-06
20081223-insideUHS.png

2002-03
20100104-old insideUHS.png

What purpose does your intranet serve?

A colleague asked about school intranets the other day. Here is my response.

What purpose does your intranet serve?

The insideCatlin web site provides tools and resources for those members of the Catlin Gabel community who come to school every day, students, teachers, staff, and parents.

What are you using your intranet for?

Course web sites, committee web sites, department web sites, publishing student work to the Catlin Gabel community, sharing photos from school events and trips, online discussions, parent-faculty association meeting recordings, library catalog, volunteer signups, carpool map, surveys, senior project reports, blogs, podcasts, wikis, videos, audio recordings, community service hours, bookstore point-of-sale, IT loaner tracking, online signups for special academic programs, teacher notes on students, curriculum map editing tool, teacher access to student schedules and information, school archives.

What format are you currently using? (ie. Drupal, Sharepoint)

Moodle, Drupal, Menalto Gallery, Follett Destiny, and custom Perl/PHP scripts. Most use a common graphic interface to provide visual consistency when moving from one tool to the next. They also share the same authentication databases (LDAP + mySQL), and two of the three have single sign-on. We provide database support in mySQL, and some scripts read data from Education Edge, our students information system.

How could we use the intranet to help the teachers/ staff/ students?

That’s a pretty big question. An intranet enables community members to continue to interact in rich ways when face-to-face interactions are not possible. So list the types of interactions or transactions you wish to amplify, and then consider whether they would work within an online interface. If yes, then build it, see how it flies, and then promote it heavily.