6.1 Zone Concepts|
The basic idea behind the structure of StudyHub is one of Zones, which are the ‘bones’ of the website and where the content (message posts and files) will be placed. A Zone can be thought of as a focus of information in a module. It offers a way of dividing up your course content on the website into defined subsets of information. It is up to the Administrator to define a set of Zones that suits their own requirements (see the following section for some design rules). StudyHub is a scaleable architecture, which can be made very simple and easy to use, or very complex to accurately support a heavily developed module website.
Each Zone can consist of a number of items (the main constituents of a Zone), which are selected by the Administrator using the ‘Zone Manager’. These items are described below:
For a Zone to exist it must contain at least one or more Zone Elements or a Plug-in. There a number of tertiary options that can be configured for a Zone, including the number of posts viewable per page, colour scheme, and post sort rules, which can be used to customize a Zone further. These settings are described in Chapter 6.3.
- Forum Summary. This allows the integration of a particular forum with a Zone. Direct links to the latest forum posts will be made available from within the Zone and new posts can be created.
- Plug-in. A Plug-in (i.e. a ‘bolt-on’ mini program – see Chapter 13) can be placed inside a Zone. The specified plug-in will appear at the top of the Zone and allows students to interact with its various functions.
- Zone Elements. Elements are used to create content. Basically there are two types of element: files and message posts (consisting of a title and/or message body). Files are uploaded to a Zone and message posts, which appear in a list format reading down the screen, are what visually make up the body of a Zone.
- Element Attributes. Attributes can be used to provide extra information on Zone Elements. Attributes such as the course week, lecture or syllabus topic can be defined as required. Each available attribute is described in Chapter 6.3.
6.2 Design Rules
As the concept of Zones might initially appear to be somewhat ambiguous, a number of examples have been included in the standard distribution of StudyHub to help you to understand quickly how Zones are used in practice. These pre-defined examples include News, Lectures, Tutorials, Assessed Work, which could fit the typical layout of a course module but will obviously not be suitable for every type. You can review their configuration by consulting each entry in the ‘Zone Manager’. Some general guidelines to creating Zones are described below:
Remember that you can have as many or as few Zones as you like (minimum of one) to fit the amount of information that will be available on the website. You can always make new Zones or modify old ones at a later point. They do not have to be permanent.
- Don’t have too many Zones if you don’t have much content to put up, as it could fragment the information on your site and make it harder for students to get to the information they need.
- Create Zones for the major aspects of your course.
- Design them to reflect the structure of the course itself – go with a format which is familiar to you.
- Be mindful that one Zone will have to be displayed by default each time a user visits the site. Usually a ‘Current News’ Zone would be appropriate.
- A plug-in (see Chapter 13) can exist in a Zone by itself.
6.3 Creating a Zone
Clicking on ‘Zone Manager’ in the control panel will display the form as illustrated above. A new Zone can be created by entering the various fields in this form, as described below:
- Zone Name. This name will appear in the title bar and as a link in the menu column. It is recommended that the name be kept under 14 characters in length to prevent the link in the side bar from wrapping over two lines. The limit to the length of the name is 30 characters. Each Zone name must be unique.
- Default Start. Check this option to elect the Zone to be displayed automatically when users visit the site. Only one Zone may be the default start Zone at any one time. Making a Zone the default start will reset any other Zone that was previously elected to default start. If no Zone is made the default start Zone, the first Zone in the list will automatically be shown.
- Description. A brief description of the purpose of the Zone or any extra information about the Zone. This information will be displayed permanently at the top of the Zone on the website.
- Posts viewable per page. The number of message posts that are displayed per page in a Zone can be limited to a specified number. Leave the field blank to display an unlimited number of posts.
- View Restriction. Select what minimum class of user is allowed to download the files within the Zone. The hyperlinks to files that are download-restricted will remain visible to anyone, but if clicked they will re-direct the user to the login screen if they are not allowed to download the file. If this option is set to ‘unrestricted’, all files uploaded to that Zone will be available to anyone on the internet (unless specific directory permissions or restrictions have been placed on the downloads directory outside StudyHub). It is therefore commonplace to set the restriction to ‘members’, to ensure only Students of your course are allowed to download files. The hyperlinks to the files inside a Zone are not direct links to the actual location of the file on the web server but are rather indirect links to the StudyHub download manager, which checks whether the user is allowed to download the specified file, if it is restricted. The user is not able to determine the actual location of a file on the web server. See Chapter 4 for more information on the way the download manager can be setup.
- Download Restriction. Select what minimum class of user is allowed to download the files within the Zone. The hyperlinks to files that are download-restricted will remain visible to anyone, but if clicked they will re-direct the user to the login screen if they are not allowed to download the file. If this option is set to ‘unrestricted’, all files uploaded to that Zone will be available to anyone on the internet (unless specific directory permissions or restrictions have been placed on the downloads directory outside StudyHub). It is therefore commonplace to set the restriction to ‘members’, to ensure only Students of your course are allowed to download files. The hyperlinks to the files inside a Zone are not direct links to the actual location of the file on the web server but are rather indirect links to the StudyHub download manager, which checks whether the user is allowed to download the specified file, if it is restricted. The user is not able to determine the actual location of a file on the web server.
- Colour Scheme. You may choose your preferred colour from one of the five predefined colour schemes available (blue, yellow, green, grey, purple).
- Forum Summary. Select one forum to be associated with the Zone from the drop-down list of existing forums. The eight latest posts in the specified forum will then appear in the Zone, together with a ‘discuss’ link in each message post, which will allow a new post to be made directly to the forum.
- Plug-in. From the drop-down list of existing forums select one plug-in to be used inside the Zone. The specified plug-in will appear at the top of the Zone on the website. The same plug-in can be used in multiple Zones.
- 1st Sort By. Select the attribute to primarily sort message posts in the Zone
- 2nd Sort By. Select an attribute to secondarily sort message posts in the Zone.
- Sort Direction. Specify the direction (ascending / descending) of the message sort.
A number of Zone Elements can be used in a Zone. Elements are defined as the primary constituents of a Zone. Any of the following elements can be enabled for a Zone:
- Post Title. Title for a message post.
- Post Message Body. The body of a post in the Zone.
- Downloads. Enable this element if the Zone will be used for file downloads (uploaded by an Administrator).
These are the secondary constituents of a Zone, which are used to define further the elements above. Any of the following attributes can be enabled for a Zone but they must be accompanied by one or more Zone Elements:
A minimum of the Zone name and a Zone element and/or plug-in is required to create a new Zone. Element Attribute(s) must be accompanied by Zone Element(s). After the relevant fields have been entered click ‘Create New Zone’ to add the new Zone to the website structure. The Zone will appear at the top of the list and a link on the side menu will also be displayed. The order of the Zones can be changed by ‘modifying’ each existing Zone, which will move it back to the top of the list. Any Zone order can be achieved by re-modifying each Zone in reverse order to how they need to appear. When a new Zone is created, it is instantly viewable by visitors but will display ‘There is currently no information available for this Zone’ as no content has yet been added to it.
- Post Timestamp. This attribute will automatically stamp each message post with the current time and date. The timestamp will be unaltered if an existing post is modified.
- Post Author. Each message post will be stamped with the name and email (if allowed) of the administrator who made the post. The author’s name will be updated if an existing post is modified.
- Course Week(s). Use this attribute if the course weeks are to be involved in the Zone.
- Lecture(s). Use this attribute if lecture numbers are to be used in the Zone.
- Due in / Due out dates. Use these attributes if the Zone will be dealing with some form of time-dependent information (e.g. deadline dates for a coursework hand in / hand out, a field trip or excursion etc.)
- Topic. Use this attribute if the course syllabus topic number is required for the Zone (e.g. in the case of a Syllabus or Lecture / Timetable-type Zone)
- Reference(s). Use this attribute if content in the Zone will refer to reference / hyperlink entries made in the Reference Manager.
6.4 Zone Management
Each existing Zone is listed in the ‘Zone Manager’, as illustrated in the example above. The various settings for each particular Zone are detailed in the table. Each Zone can be modified and / or deleted even after content has been added to them. Clicking ‘modify’ next to the desired entry will allow you to change every aspect of a Zone. When modifying a Zone, the rules applying to each setting remain the same as during creation (see Chapter 6.3).
If a Zone Element or Element Attribute, which has already been used in the content of the Zone that is subsequently removed will remain in the database (and can be modified). Changes in the sort rule(s) will automatically re-order the posts in that Zone.
Be very careful when deleting a Zone as this action will delete permanently all content that has been added to it including all file uploads.
6.5 Manually Ordering Entries
Existing Zone, File, Reference, and Forum entries can be manually ordered as required by clicking the positioning arrows that are displayed in the ‘Action’ column next to each existing entry as illustrated above. It is possible to move an entry up or down by one place at a time or shift it to the top or bottom of the list by using the corresponding arrow icon. New entries that are created are placed at the top of the list by default.