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Web Page Assignments in Women's Studies Classes

The following discussion of objectives and resources for web page assignments
in Women's Studies classes took place on WMST-L in September 2001.  For
additional WMST-L files available on the Web, see the WMST-L File Collection.
Date: Wed, 5 Sep 2001 10:09:33 -0400
From: pat murphy <murphy @ GENESEO.EDU>
Subject: web design assignment
Hi, instead of having students in my women and law class do research
papers, I am having them do a group project to design a web page around a
class topic.  I know others have given similar assignments.  Does anyone
have any advice or handouts to share?  I'm especially interested in
guidelines for evaluation.  Thanks.  Pat
Pat Murphy, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Sociology
Director of Women's Studies
Sociology Dept
SUNY Geneseo
Geneseo, NY 14454
murphy  @  geneseo.edu
Date: Wed, 5 Sep 2001 11:20:21 -0400
From: "Dr. Viki Soady" <vsoady @ valdosta.edu>
Subject: Re: web design assignment
TO: Prof. Murphy et al:

I am answering this query ONE TIME HERE in case others are interested.
Please reach me PRIVATELY if you want more discussion.

If you go into our website at www.valdosta.edu/women and then click on WMST/
AFAM 2020 you will see a syllabus for a class that I desgned in which
students were required to create a personal webpage using a pre-designed
shell and to place their journals and  group PowerPoint Projects onto the
web.  Just click around there.  I can send you a sample web page or two if
none is still up there and anyone is interested.

cheers, Viki

Dr. A.V. (Viki) Soady
Director of Women's Studies/Professor of Modern and Classical Languages
Valdosta State University
Valdosta, Georgia 31698
FAX: 912-293-6300
Amor vincit omnia, nos cedamus amori.
Date: Wed, 5 Sep 2001 10:28:46 -0500
From: JoAnn Castagna <joann-castagna @ UIOWA.EDU>
Subject: Re: web design assignment
Hi.  This is just my opinion, but I think if I were giving this
 assignment, I'd still want some written discussion from the
 students--I'd want to know why the materials are best displayed as a
 web site, not in some other form.  I'd still want some sort of
 "literature search"--perhaps the addresses of all similar sites and
 an evaluation of same or discussion of how the new site was a good
 addition to the internet.  I'd want some sort of journal from each
 member of the group describing her/his activities and process from
 research to production.  I'll be interested in hearing from the list
 about how many skills one can/should expect students to have in web
 development and design.

 Here at the University of Iowa, we offer all entering students the
 opportunity to take a 1 s.h. credit course that includes a unit on
 creating simple web pages.  But, even with that background, and
 perhaps the opportunity to learn some skills in other classes, I'd
 still be concerned that the technical aspects of web design and
 development will become the point of the assignment for the
 students, and they won't learn as much about the actual
 subject/topic they are researching.  Finally, I imagine in the case
 of an assignment to create a web site, it might be useful to first
 identify where students can get help--unless the faculty member has
 that expertise and wants to be that resource. 

 JoAnn Castagna
 joann-castagna  @  uiowa.edu
Date: Wed, 5 Sep 2001 12:51:36 -0400
From: Joan Korenman <korenman @ GL.UMBC.EDU>
Subject: Re: web design assignment
--On Wednesday, September 05, 2001 10:09 AM -0400 pat murphy
<murphy  @  GENESEO.EDU> wrote:

> Hi, instead of having students in my women and law class do research
> papers, I am having them do a group project to design a web page
> around a class topic.  I know others have given similar
> assignments.  Does anyone have any advice or handouts to share?
> I'm especially interested in guidelines for evaluation.  Thanks.
> Pat

I've got a LOT of online resources that should prove useful for
Women's Studies students and faculty, whether they're making web
pages or looking for high-quality online information about women's

The students in Pat Murphy's women and law course may wish to look
at the resources available at my Women's Studies/Women's Issues
Resource Sites (http://www.umbc.edu/wmst/links.html ).  This resource
has 16 topic areas, including Activism, Health, International, and
Sexuality, among others, all of which include lots of information
about such issues as sexual harassment, domestic violence,
reproductive rights, lesbian issues, women's rights internationally,
ecofeminism, educational equity issues, and lots more.

There's also a "Law Sites" page (http://www.umbc.edu/wmst/uplaw.html )
in the Updates site for my book _Internet Resources on Women_ .
It, too, should be very useful for the students in Pat's course, as
well as for professors teaching such courses.  It has annotated
links to such resources as "Family Law in the 50 States," "Feminism,
Law, and Bioethics," "Gender Equity in Sports," "Gender Law and
Policy," and the "Harvard Database on Law and Population."

Professors interested in offering courses on Women and Law may find
it helpful to take a look at some of the online syllabi in the
Center for Women & Information Technology's syllabus collection.
The collection contains more than 600 syllabi for women- and
gender-related courses.  Those that include particularly good
Internet resources are marked with a ++.  The syllabi are organized
by field, with more than two dozen fields represented, including
Law.  The URL: http://www.umbc.edu/cwit/syllabi.html .

Finally, I've taught a course entitled "The Internet for Humanists"
(English 348) in which I ask all the students to make web pages.  I
insist that they learn basic HTML and that they use HTML to make
their pages.  They may NOT use Front Page, Netscape Composer, or
other web page makers.  I want them to know HTML well enough to
understand how to maintain their pages, change their pages, and make
changes even if later on they use a WYSIWYG (what you see is what
you get) web page editor.  I provide a lot of online resources for
them.  You can find them on my "Useful Links" page for the course:
http://research.umbc.edu/~korenman/links348.html .  Look especially
under "Web Creation Resources."

I agree with JoAnn Castagna that students should not let
technology overwhelm content in the web page assignment.  In my
assignment, I ask that students provide ANNOTATED links, explaining
why they chose the links.  A more extensive discussion in a separate
written assignment might also make good sense.

I hope some of this proves helpful.  Those of you who are unfamiliar
with the Center for Women & Information Technology's resources
should take a look at http://www.umbc.edu/cwit/ , especially at the
Curricular Resources and More Resources About Women sections.


Joan Korenman                korenman  @  GL.umbc.edu
U. of Md., Baltimore County  http://www.umbc.edu/cwit/
Baltimore, MD 21250          http://www.umbc.edu/wmst/

The only person to have everything done by Friday was Robinson Crusoe
Date: Wed, 5 Sep 2001 16:48:02 -0300
From: Katherine Side <KSIDE @ MSVU1.MSVU.CA>
Subject: Re: web design assignment
Hi Pat,

I had students work together to create a class web site last year, in
a course in Women's Studies Methodologies. It can be viewed at:


While I share many of the concerns that have been expressed, I
found it was helpful in this particular course for a number of
reasons. Students actively participated in the design of the project.
They conducted archival research, making use of an under utilised
university archive and making the materials in it more accesible
(This archive does not yet have a separate web site yet.) For their
assignment, titled "Educating Women at Mount Saint Vincent
Unviersity" they also located fomer students, set an interview
schedule, conducted interviews, transcribed the interview data and
wrote up the data.  In short, they learned many practical research
skills and were able to share their work with each other, and with
the larger university community, in a different format.

The students submitted written assignments, which I graded no
differently that I would any other written work.What is posted on the
web site are full (depending on how complete they were) and partial
components of these assignments.

I don't have a lot of experience with this. Tthis was my first time
designing a web site & I'm not particularly computer savvy. But, for
what it's worth, here are some of the things that  I found helpful:

It was helpful to look at a lot of other sites first and figure out what I
was able to do and what was beyond my ability level and the time
that I could allot to this.

I took a course in HTML (for the reasons that Joan has already
pointed out).

I bought a really good HTML manual that is not only a 'how-to' book
but also a resource guide that I can use later. I still use it. ( I can give
you the reference if you want.)

I learned from the students. Some of them had no experience with
web sites, while others did. The student in the class who happened,
in her paid work, to be a web site designer proved invaluable in
getting me started.

I found out what university resources were available by asking
around. My university  still does not provide web space yet to faculty
(it's coming, apparently!!) so I had to locate the web site on
commercial space. There are some problems with this -  I don't
control the advertising on the site, and there's lots of it. Generally,  I
found that people were more than willing to help. The university web
designer talked to the class about good web site design; the
archivist gave the class a tour of the archive and proved helpful in
locating sources; the computer technician scanned photos for the
site;  the university alumi office helped us to locate past grads who
were active in the alumni association. All in all, it was a good

I also found that I got better with practice. I made a web site this
summer for my niece's bat mitzvah and it was much easier the
second time around!

Also, be prepared for this assignment it to take a lot of time. I spent
a disproporate amount of time on this one course, much of it
learning and sorting out technicalities that I'm sure take the experts
no time at all.

I'd be happy to talk with you further about the assignment, if you'd

Katherine Side
Katherine.Side  @  MSVU.ca

Department of Women's Studies
Mount Saint Vincent University
Halifax, Nova Scotia
B3M 2J6
Date: Wed, 5 Sep 2001 19:26:32 -0700
From: "Susan D. Kane" <suekane @ U.WASHINGTON.EDU>
Subject: web design assignment
The most important thing about creating a web site assignment, imho, is
that there should be some REASON to make that particular material
available on the web.  In other words, there should be some purpose, other
than learning the technology, for creating the site.  Will the students'
work be valuable to other students?  Is there a need for students to share
work across space and time?  Are they creating a unique resource that
would be useful or interesting to others?  Which others?

Ask students to submit answers to questions like: Who is the audience?
Is your content and design appropriate for your intended audience?  Will
it meet a defined need? What do you hope to accomplish?  Has someone
already done what you're planning to do?  If so, do you plan to do it
better?  What story are you trying to tell?  What will happen to the site
after you create it?

Many excellent websites tell SELECTIVE stories about a larger project that
involved more research and more content than is appropriate for display.
It's one thing to ask students to make a poster about X.  It's another
thing to ask students to research and understand X, then to make a poster
that conveys X to people who know less than they do.  The second
assignment forces students to a.) do more work and b.) do the important
intellectual work of selecting, out of everything they know, what to tell.

Planning a website is similar to planning a research project.  If your
research question is vague and poorly defined, your research will follow
suit.  It's good to simply give students the technical skills and let them
practice them.  It's evey better to do that in the service of some larger
goal that uses the web to its best advantage.

Finally, the web is a visual medium.  Great content can be masked or
hidden by a bad design.  If there is someone at your institution who
teaches user interface design, get them in for a guest lecture. They can
talk about things like what kinds of navigation work for most people,
about color blindness and accessibility issues, about how to make the most
of limited screen real estate, about how much text people can or will read
online.  Ask students to submit preliminary designs on paper, of both
graphic layout, and the site architecture.  Ask students to run simple
usability tests with their friends.  If you can't get expert help, you
might want to check out Yahoo's resources (sorry I don't have specific

Web Design and Layout



Susan Kane                suekane  @  u.washington.edu
Reference/WS Librarian            Box 353080
University of Washington        Seattle, WA 98195
Date: Thu, 6 Sep 2001 09:20:13 -0500
From: Phyllis Holman Weisbard <pweisbard @ LIBRARY.WISC.EDU>
Subject: web design assignments
Another assignment that could be invaluable for students is to have them
examine a specific topic as found on the free web (e.g., domestic violence,
sex trafficking, abortion, women workers in export factories, etc.) and
_evaluate_ what they find.  While _we_ know that much of the web is
unvetted, many students seem more accepting of whatever they find there.
Many libraries have online hand-outs to help evaluate websites and have
librarians willing to come to classes and demonstrate how to do so. Our
hand-out at the University of Wisconsin-Madison is a one page checklist at
  UC-Berkeley has an excellent tutorial at
http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/TeachingLib/Guides/Internet/Evaluate.html .
There are many more out there.
You can make the assignment better by including a "Are these the best
resources on this subject?" -type question, and have the students examine
non-free fulltext databases with peer-reviewed articles, etc., and "even"
print material.


    Phyllis Holman Weisbard, University of Wisconsin System
    Women's Studies Librarian
    430 Memorial Library, Madison, WI 53706
    (608) 263-5754               pweisbard  @  library.wisc.edu
Date: Thu, 6 Sep 2001 16:13:12 -0300
From: Katherine Side <KSIDE @ MSVU1.MSVU.CA>
Subject: Re: web design assignments
I like Phyllis's suggestions and can add another component that I
added when I ask students to evalate web based resources. I also
ask them to go to the library and use other resources (i.e., journal
articles & texts)  to verify the information that they find on the web.  I
also ask students to comment on what they gain by reseaching a
topic or line and to comment on what they might miss by doing so.

Katherine Side
Katherine.Side  @  MSVU.ca

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