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Building Context for the CALI Website

Building Context for the CALI Website

One of the most important aspects of building complex websites is to get the viewer’s context right. Context helps the viewer know where they are in the site and how they can navigate. It signals what is important and provides a consistent look and feel for a given area. Providing proper context helpers the viewer navigate through the site and locate what they looking. provides an excellent example of what I am getting at. The homepage provides a general overview and a gateway to other contexts. Once you decide what you are looking for, say magazines, the context shifts with you. The page is all about magazines, with most elements supporting your search for and buying of magazines. Search is limited to magazines, secondary navigation provides deeper access to magazines. The viewer is inside a world of magazines. It is important to note that returning home or accessing personal information is just a click away, but the links are unobtrusive without being hidden.

WebMD provides another example of carrying context through the site. Selections from the drop down menu put the viewer into a specific context that is carried across the interface. Search and navigation are context specific. WebMD includes the additional breakdown of context by groups, men and women, with links to other areas of the site but it does not get hung up on differentiating between the groups. So, a selection of ‘Fitness’ under either ‘Women’ or ‘Men’ puts the viewer in the same context, focused on health and fitness.

When I think of the CALI website in terms of context, the first thing that jumps out at me is Lessons. Most of what CALI does is in the context of Lessons. Students run Lessons, use ScoreSave to capture their results, and check the site to review what Lessons they have run. Faculty use CALI Author to create Lessons, collaborate in Fellowships to create LessonGrids and author Lessons, AutoPublish to make Lessons available to their students from the CALI website, LessonLink to generate unique trackable URLs for Lessons, LessonText to review the content of Lessons, and they use the website to track their students use of Lessons. Lessons are the core context for the CALI website and this not likely to change for some time.

Other contexts that exist for viewers of the CALI web are Excellence Awards, the Conference, About (information about CALI), and Tools, currently InstaPoll and MediaNotes. Beyond these areas are a collection of contexts that exist off the main website including Classcaster, A2J, and teknoids. In addition, the site provides some separate context for students and faculty. It is worth noting here that faculty is really a term of art that refers to faculty, librarians, technologists, and administrators at member schools.

Moving forward, a redesign of the CALI website needs to include these existing contexts: Lessons, Awards, Conferences, Tools, Faculty, and Students. The About context will be available through header and footer links. CALI is committed to adding at least 3 new contexts: eLangdell, Spaces, and My CALI. eLangdell is a collection of tools for creating and modifying course materials. Though initially available for faculty, these tools will be made available to students also. Spaces is a community context in which folks from member schools can create and participate in communities to share and collaborate on materials. My CALI is a user context that connects the logged in viewer to all of their information as stored on the CALI website. Like the About context, links to this context will be contained in the header area of the site. These new contexts represent a future focus for CALI.

Some content will be cross linked in these varying contexts. For example, the Lessons context will vary according to login state, and faculty or student status. The Lessons context will look something like this:

The Faculty context will cross link to the Lessons context and more. The Faculty context will look something like this:

Using Drupal as the platform for the future development of the CALI website puts a wide range of tools at our disposal for developing the context that the CALI website needs. A combination of taxonomy and menu with some clever use of URL parsing will allow for a consistent user interface.