University website rankings and course sites

Coms 463 Google Site course homepage clip

Coms 463 Google Site course homepage clip, T. Smith, 2010

The trend toward ranking university websites, outlined in my previous post,  has implications for course websites and online curriculum.  How does an instructor’s posting of course content on the university’s web  server contribute to these rankings?

Is the public posting of course websites going to be encouraged as rank-boosting activity?  Course information on the main university server is likely to get a lot of hits from its captive audience of students.

However, do universities trust their professors to post content that might be visually or verbally inconsistent with their organizational ethos?

Security hides many online transactions from public view.  I doubt the use of a secure Blackboard or WebCT online course management system for a university is included in the rankings because they have different root addresses.

Maybe I am costing my university hits because this term I decided to use a Google Site instead of my university-hosted website for one of my courses.

My course website’s hit counter has recorded 4000 hits within 1 month of classes (many repeat visits I’m sure), and I have fewer than 30 students in that class.   Many of those hits may be from students googling to get to their course website, or landing on it when being referred to my site from a link within their Blackboard area for the course.

I make a website for every course I teach.  Normally I use Blackboard for limited functions (email, discussions, grading) and house my assignment descriptions, course outline, and policies on the main university’s site.  I switched my course website to Google Sites this term partly because I’m teaching a course (Click on the website image above) which teaches students web authoring skills and public rhetorical skills as they use Google Sites and WordPress Blogs to author journalistic assignments.

I also chose Google Sites over my university website because it was more user-friendly.

  1. I find Drupal (their website content management system at my university) too klunky
  2. My outdated website authoring program did not do secure file transfer and so when my university outlawed unsecure FTP late last term, I was required to pass all my website updates through a second piece of encryption software.

Will website rankings persuade universities to pressure their faculty and staff to host more high-hit content on their university servers? Or will universities desire to keep that content private and secure due to intellectual property and privacy issues?

Interesting tension.

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