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PROFESSOR PAGES: EASY COURSE WEBSITE MAINTENANCE. A Thesis. Presented to the. Faculty of. San Diego State University. In Partial Fulfillment

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PROFESSOR PAGES: EASY COURSE WEBSITE MAINTENANCE A Thesis Presented to the Faculty of San Diego State University In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree Master of Science in Computer
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PROFESSOR PAGES: EASY COURSE WEBSITE MAINTENANCE A Thesis Presented to the Faculty of San Diego State University In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree Master of Science in Computer Science by Uma Sahitya Kunapareddy Summer 2012 iii Copyright 2012 by Uma Sahitya Kunapareddy All Rights Reserved iv DEDICATION I would like to dedicate this thesis to my family, friends and professors for their support and guidance which have helped me to achieve my goals. v ABSTRACT OF THE THESIS Professor Pages: Easy Course Website Maintenance by Uma Sahitya Kunapareddy Master of Science in Computer Science San Diego State University, 2012 Website builder applications are gaining their importance not only among business professional but also among teachers and professors. The motivation of this thesis is to develop an application which allows teachers and professors to create a classroom website in few minutes without any prior knowledge of HTML and web designing. It also allows them to edit the content of the website. One of the significant feature of this application is it allows the user to create new pages in a website which can have just plain text or list of links which is not available in many of the similar kind of applications on the internet. Plain text is handled through a WYSIWYG HTML editor which works like a Microsoft word. vi TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE ABSTRACT...v LIST OF TABLES... viii LIST OF FIGURES... ix ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS...x CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION LITERATURE REVIEW Content Management System Learning Management System Vs Learning Content Management System Blackboard Class TA Moodle Technologies Used Net Framework ASP.NET C# Microsoft Visual Studio SQL SERVER WYSIWYG HTML Editor SYSTEM DESIGN Application Architecture System Modules Login Module Create Website Module Edit Website Module View Website Module...18 vii 4 IMPLEMENTATION & DEVELOPMENT Presentation Layer Master Page Add Content Functionality Edit Content Functionality Syllabus Page Template Application Logic Database Design Installation & Setup APPEARANCE AND SCREENSHOTS Login & Registration Page Create a Course Website Page Edit a Course Website Page View a Course Website Page CONCLUSION & FUTURE ENHANCEMENTS Conclusion Future Enhancements...37 REFERENCES...38 APPENDIX ABBREVIATIONS...40 viii LIST OF TABLES PAGE Table 1. Abbreviations...41 ix LIST OF FIGURES PAGE Figure 2.1. SDSU Blackboard....6 Figure 2.2. Visual Studio Figure 2.3. SQL Server Management Studio Figure 2.4. Cute Editor...12 Figure 2.5. HTML view of Cute editor Figure 3.1. Three layer architecture Figure 3.2. Login module Figure 3.3. Create Website module Figure 3.4. Edit Website module Figure 3.5. View Website module Figure 4.1. Distribution of Content place holders on Master page Figure 4.2. HTML tag and code behind file property for Cute editor Figure 4.3. A simple version of Cute editor to add content Figure 4.4. Edit the existing content Figure 4.5. Syllabus grid view control with edit and delete features Figure 4.6. Asp.Net GridView control Edit, Update, Delete and CancelEdit events Figure 4.7. Code snippet for database connection Figure 4.8. Database Design Figure 5.1. Login Page Figure 5.2. Registration page Figure 5.3. Create a Course website page with predefined and new page features Figure 5.4. Add Content page for a predefined page Figure 5.5. Add Content page for a new page Figure 5.6. Edit a Course website page Figure 5.7. View a Course website page...36 x ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS I would like to thank Dr. Joseph Lewis for his constant support and guidance during every phase of this project. I also would like to thank Dr. Carl Eckberg and Dr. Janet Bowers for being a part of my thesis committee. Finally I would like to thank my friend Nikit Shah who inspired me to develop this application. Without his help I would not have been able to overcome certain coding and design difficulties. Also, a special thanks to my friend Abhishek Khatri and Beejal Mehta for their editorial support and motivation. 1 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION In the recent past if we are looking for some information, product or service, the first step was to either use a phone book to search the address of the company or store, which offers that service or product. But as the technology advances every day, it is easy to convey any information to the end user with help of Internet and World Wide Web (WWW) (See Table 1 in Appendix for a list of all abbreviations used). Internet and WWW are often considered synonyms. However, there is significant differences between them. Internet is a global network of computers which are connected through wires or wireless connections to provide services such as information sharing. Over the last few decades, the Internet has emerged as a powerful platform that has changed the way we communicate. It has become a universal communication channel to convey any information to the world. The high-speed connections and flexibility of the Internet makes it easy to access information from any part of the globe. World Wide Web is one of the major services offered by the Internet which hosts the information through HTML pages [1]. Internet and WWW have dramatically reformed educational methods and practices. It has made education and knowledge accessible even to the deepest levels of the society. In the present age, a mix of online learning with traditional face-to-face classroom learning is gaining importance. With the low investment feature of Internet, many education institutions are adopting online and distance learning education practices. Online education has made it possible for the students in any place to earn a degree in the subject of their interest. For working professionals distance learning provides an advantage of being able to continue to work without worrying about physically attending the classes. Students prefer to search information online rather than go to the library. This has taken over the concept of traditional textbook [2]. Information can be conveyed to the end user with the help of a web page or websites. The tremendous increase in the number of websites in recent years is note worthy. As of 2012, there are 612 million websites available over internet [3]. To stay abreast with latest technology, the number of people looking for information online has increased. This makes it a requirement to have a website not only for businesses but also for educational institutions. With the tremendous use of internet by students, teachers are aware that this technology should be used by students in a way to access information. Whether it is a high school or college level class, every instructor or professor should have a website to help students understand their material. It will be a number one go to place if a student is looking for information regarding a class. Educational documents, files and any other information can be made available to students through websites. A classroom website is a virtual office where professors can stay connected with their students 24 hours a day 7 days a week. It also serves as a communication platform where parents can be connected with professors and vice versa. Developing a website with detailed programming involves a lot of time and special technical skill sets. Professors have a never-ending to-do list such as writing lesson plans, assignments and projects, grading exams, administrative responsibilities etc. These factors and many more make it time pressing for them to create a classroom website. Often professors from many departments have no or little knowledge of web technologies. Some professors are self-taught in web development to create their website. In order to overcome the above time constraints of a teacher, they should have a mechanism where they can create a classroom website with no requirement of HTML knowledge. Talking into consideration the above requirements, research was started to design an application that is easy to use and meets the requirements of a professor. Many similar applications available on the web were analyzed for better understanding of this topic. This application provides an opportunity for the professor to create a classroom website in just few minutes. Later, it also allows the professor to modify and update the content of a webpage as per the requirement. The report of this application is divided into six chapters which give a detailed description of the application architecture, implementation and the final appearance. Below is a brief organization detail of this report: Chapter 2: This chapter gives an idea of similar kind of applications available for this thesis idea. Tools and technologies used for the development of this application are also discussed here. Chapter 3: This chapter describes the application architecture. 2 3 Chapter 4: Here we talk about the implementation of the application using the tools and technologies described in chapter 2. Chapter 5: This chapter gives an overview of the application appearance with the help of some screenshots. Chapter 6: Conclusion and Future Enhancements. 4 CHAPTER 2 LITERATURE REVIEW It is hard to imagine a world of education without technology. Over the course of time the development in computers and computing replaced other traditional teaching aids. One such area with its significant contributions is content management. 2.1 CONTENT MANAGEMENT SYSTEM Content Management System (CMS) is a software application that allows the user to create, edit and manage the content. A major benefit of CMS is its ability to allow users to operate the application with no knowledge of HTML or other programming languages. It supports WYSIWYG editor, which plays a key role in designing the content of a web page. WYSIWYG editor used for this research is discussed in detail in Section Content is stored in a database, which can be reused for other purposes. There are different kinds of Content Management Systems available. Each one is designed for different users. Some of them are described below [4]: Web Content Management System (WCMS) to create, edit and manage web pages and websites Enterprise Content Management System (ECMS) used in an organization to handle the content, records and other information Learning Content Management System (LCMS) - to create, edit, store and manage learning content on web pages. It is used in educational institutions. Mobile Content Management System (MCMS) to store and manage the content related to mobile phones, smart phone, PDAs and other handheld devices Component Content Management System (CCMS) to manage content at a granular level or in small chunks Educational institutions also use Learning Management System (LMS) to cater to the requirements of instructors and professors. The further development of LMS is LCMS. The below section gives a brief comparison of LMS and LCMS. 2.2 LEARNING MANAGEMENT SYSTEM VS LEARNING CONTENT MANAGEMENT SYSTEM Learning Management System (LMS) is a software application that is used to deliver learning content and resources to students. Both LMS and LCMS are referred to as LMS in general, but their functionalities are different. LMS and LCMS can be described as two way and one way communication respectively. In LMS, instructor can track, deliver and manage course documents. In addition, students can use it to take online tests, for discussions using discussion threads and to access the documents posted by instructor whereas LCMS is used to create and maintain learning material. Here the student can only access the posted material. It cannot track the student participation in a course. LMS can be referred to as learner centric where as LCMS can be referred to as content centric [5]. At San Diego State University, we use a Learning Management System called Blackboard BLACKBOARD Blackboard is an online Course Management System (CMS) developed by Blackboard Inc. It may also be referred as Learning Management System (LMS). The main purpose of Blackboard is to provide both student and professor an e-learning classroom environment. It helps professors to upload and store documents, audio and video files of a classroom session. Students can submit their assignment or homework through blackboard. Figure 2.1 shows the snapshot of SDSU Blackboard. Some of the significant functionalities of Blackboard include [6]: Professors can post important course documents like course description, sessions, projects, etc Professors can post announcement regarding a course to the students Allows a professor to all the students in a course Professors may post grades on Blackboard Allows students to chat with other students in their class section Students and professors can discuss topics in a course through discussion threads Allows professors to post submission dates for assignments and exams 6 Figure 2.1. SDSU Blackboard. 2.4 CLASS TA One of the powerful course management system developed at San Diego State University is Class TA. It is an AJAX based application where every feature is developed with a primary focus on faculty productivity [7]. As Class TA uses AJAX methodology, any page request sent to the server is handled asynchronously, sharing small amount of data with the server. One of the major benefits of Class TA when compared to Blackboard is, it reduces server overload and provides fast access. Class TA offers many features where an instructor can create a class in a few minutes. Its desktop is well organized with a collection of classes. Through the drag and drop file sharing feature, information can be moved from one class to another. Also when a teacher uploads a file, students can access it by simply dragging it to their desktop. Features like discussion and announcement blogs, grade histograms, quiz builder and roster make Class TA an interactive teaching tool where students and instructors can interact with each other effectively. 2.5 MOODLE One of the many Learning Management Systems available is Moodle (Modular Object-Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment). Unlike Blackboard, it is an open source 7 free web application that can be used to create educational websites. Moodle also offers many modules than Blackboard where a teacher can deliver the course information to students. Some typical modules of Moodle are below [8]: Course Delivery Module Through this module a teacher can deliver all the course related documents to students. It also provides help desks and grading tools to the teacher and administrator. Communication Module This module provides the actual interaction between a teacher and a student. Students can submit assignments through this module. It provides a real time chat communication feature and discussion forums. Curriculum Design Module This module provides some templates and page designs from where a user can choose to design the website. 2.6 TECHNOLOGIES USED The idea of this research project is derived from Learning Content Management System. The focus of this section is to discuss in detail about various technologies and tools used in the development of this project Net Framework.Net framework is a comprehensive programming model developed by Microsoft. It includes a large library and supports several programming languages. First beta version of.net framework was released in November 2000 and in the following years; many versions have been released from version 1.0 to the most recent 4.5 beta version [9]. Common Language Runtime (CLR) is the central part of the framework, which manages memory, code execution, safety verification, and compilation and thread execution. When an application is run for the first time, CLR compiles the code into Microsoft Intermediate Language (MSIL). When the code starts to execute, just-in-time compiler converts the MSIL code into native code. The second major component of the framework is class library which contains a variety of reusable components, avoiding the trouble of creating new components [9]. The class library and CLR together constitute the major components of.net framework. 8 The major advantage in employing.net framework for web development is it reduces the complexity of web applications with the help of reusable components and resources. The support for 25 different languages allows the programmer to select a language that is compatible with their application. Integration of.net with ADO.NET (ActiveX Data Objects.Net) helps in creating effective data driven websites or applications with less effort. That is one of the major reasons.net framework is chosen for this thesis. The configuration files in a.net application help in determining the security of the application. The framework also provides simple deployment tools that make the deployment process much easier [10]. Let s look into various.net technologies and tools used here ASP.NET Asp.Net (Active Server Page.Net) a part of.net framework, is used for creating web pages and web applications. It is a server side scripting technology [11]. Applications or websites in Asp.Net can be developed using Visual Studio IDE. For this thesis, I have used Visual Studio Many Asp.Net web pages, also termed as web forms are programmed to build up the described thesis idea. Web Pages are contained in files with.aspx extension. These files contain HTML mark up for static content, mark up for server side web controls and user controls. The functionality of these HTML pages is handled in a separate class file called as Code Behind file that can be written in either C# or VB. I have used C# language in this thesis which has a file extension of.aspx.cs. The relationship between the class file and web page is established Page directive at the top of.aspx file. Page_Load() method is invoked every time the aspx page is requested [11]. At times a programmer might need controls that are not provided by Asp.Net built in web controls. In those cases, user can create a custom control known as User control. User controls are similar to Asp.Net web pages with.ascx extension. They also contain HTML mark up and can use built-in server side controls C# C# is one of the many languages supported by.net framework. It is an object oriented programming language developed by Microsoft and is based on C++. But its 9 features are much similar to that of Java. Some of it other features include interfaces, polymorphism, garbage collection, automatic memory management, etc [12]. Error catching and handling in C# is much easier when compared to other.net languages. Instead of just try-catch block as in C++, C# additionally supports finally clause to ensure the execution of the code in finally block. C# rarely uses pointers. But when they have to be used, they can only be used in unsafe blocks. Code inside the unsafe block can be executed with appropriate permissions. This is one of the major advantages of C# making it simple to use Microsoft Visual Studio Microsoft Visual Studio is an IDE created by Microsoft, helps in developing.net windows and web applications. It supports all the programming languages supported by.net framework. Numerous versions of Visual studio have been released with different framework versions of.net. Visual studio 2002 was released with.net framework 1.0 and was again revised with.net framework 1.1 version released with Visual studio Later Visual studio 2005 and 2008 were released with.net framework 2.0 and 2.0, 3.0, 3.5 versions respectively. Visual studio 2010 was released in June 2010 with support for.net framework 2.0, 3.0, 3.5 and 4.0 versions. The most recent beta version of Visual studio 2011 was released on November 2011 and it supports framework version 2.0, 3.0, 3.5, 4.0 and 4.5 [13]. I have used Visual studio 2010 with.net framework 4.0 for this thesis project. Toolbox, code editor, solution explorer, etc constitute an integral feature of Visual studio. Figure 2.2 shows the distribution of these features on Visual studio IDE. Toolbox contains web server controls and other items that can be used
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