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Vol. 24, No. 14 Feb. 10, 1999

Number of Online Course Materials Will Double This Spring


By the end of the fall semester, Web-related materials for 278 courses were listed on Columbia's Web network. This spring, AcIS expects the number to double.

This influx of materials has prompted Columbia's Academic Information Systems (AcIS) to better organize the electronic information to make it more accessible to students and more manageable to faculty as e-mail, Web pages, even original multi-media projects increasingly become integral elements of classes.

The results are already obvious to many: While registering for the spring semester, students no doubt noticed improvements in the revamped online Directory of Classes ( The updated version featured a new page design, additional fields, a new search engine and new navigation aids. To organize and catalogue the growing pool of Web-related materials developed by instructors for their classes, the directory now lists courses that have Web content and their URLs in a new field, "Related Items."

By filling out a single-page, password-protected, online Web form within the system (, faculty can now submit the URLs of Web- related class materials with all additions posting within 24 hours. Through the directory, faculty e-mail addresses, personal and course home pages and online syllabi are all instantly available, and class resources such as Music Humanities' online reference project Sonic Glossary, or the home pages of organic chemistry courses, containing movies of chemical reactions and other handy tools, are all easy for students to locate and bookmark.

Noting a trend as courses increasingly spill into electronic medium, AcIS has also enhanced the Columbia University Bulletin Board system, (CUBBoard) which made its debut last fall.

CUBBoard, a web-based bulletin board system developed to offer a simple, flexible, and secure method of setting up and using discussion forums, is now much more robust, according to AcIS manager Maurice Matiz.

"Improvements made were the result of a collaborative effort," he explained. "Thanks to bug reports and suggestions submitted by faculty, we were able to identify and fix problems and add new features."

Through the pilot project, discussion forums became popular class supplements, with 55 classes opening online chats last fall. One class posted more than 1,000 messages. By the end of the first week of the spring semester, 30 more classes opened their discussions to this electronic forum.

AcIS can restrict access to discussion groups based on class classification automatically. Students use their network ID and their password to enter into the system. Like e-mail, messages are sent to a bulletin board's e-mail alias, allowing users to post complex messages that can include text, html, images, tables and graphics.

CUBBoard operates with improved threading indexes, so users can more easily follow discussions and post follow up messages easier. Also, AcIS incorporated more error checking features and established a back-up storage that will allow the system to be rebuilt should network problems arise.

Although CUBBoard was developed as a tool for classes, it is not restricted to class-related use. All groups, including faculty, staff, and students, who wish to have an archived, ongoing discussion forum, may submit a request, which will be processed in a day or two. (

URLs for class CUBBoards will be automatically submitted to the Directory of Classes. "Think of this tool as the beginning, with many more soon to become available to faculty," said Matiz.

"Our goal is to build adaptable, flexible network tools that take advantage of the existing University system, allowing us to smoothly evolve into future needs." For CUBBoard related questions, consult the AcIS help desk at 854-1919.