California Educational Data Processing Association
The DataBus - Vol. 36, No. 4
June-July, 1996

Publishing Enterprise Information on the Net

Infosystems: Web capabilities provide new opportunities for information delivery.

Ken Jones, Lodi Unified School District

How do we get the web pages published?

It used to be that we talked about how we could get onto the World Wide Web. The discussions were nuts-and-bolts about bandwidth, domain name servers, electronic mail, and the like. Most of us have gotten this initial job done and have something going on with the web. The conversation seems to have shifted now to how to maintain this new resource. Information Systems professionals in K-12 that I have spoken to are struggling with what, how, who, and why to publish information on the web.

This process was not part of our job descriptions just a few years ago. We have had our budgets reduced or maintained in recent years (certainly not increased to handle these new tasks). In addition, outside the technical community there is very little understanding about how difficult it is to get current stuff on the web. This appears to come from two problem areas. First, the tools for web publishing have a great deal of catching up to do before they will be the caliber of modern desktop publishing tools. Second, the technologists have trouble getting the many other departments in the organization who publish information to come up with a standard format or even to electronically forward the information to the webmaster.

K-12 organizations need to decide if web publishing is the business that they want to be in. If they decide it has value, then they need to figure out how to streamline the process and make it ingrained in the organizational culture. Here are some thoughts on how we might get them to do that.

IS must be responsible for finding, setting up, and training on the proper extensions to existing tools so that web publishing becomes as easy as selecting "save as". The recently published wizard for Microsoft Excel is an excellent example of what should exist for each of your desktop tools. IS will need to make sure that the end users understand where to save the information in the network, what file names to use, etc., so that each department is self sufficient.

So much is being written about "intranets" these days that this trend appears to be more than a fad. Intranets could be the mechanism for getting your organization's attention. If the method for distributing information becomes Netscape rather than copying machines, then internal users are going to start demanding current content. In our little corner of the world in Lodi, we have started linking our work order database (written in FileMaker Pro) to our web server so that users can inquire on the status of their requests rather than calling us. It has not cut down on phone traffic yet, but we do mention it to each user who calls us with a question.

Finally, if we are using legacy systems, we must adapt them to publish their information in a web-friendly format. In Lodi we are evaluating new student and operational systems. A key criteria has been the vendor's present or future plans for opening up their systems to web information distribution. We are taking a dim view of vendors who respond "What's an intranet?"

I do not know that web publishing has educational value any more than programming in CPM did when I was a kid. I do know that the intranet is an excellent delivery mechanism for internal information and may become the way that IS gets the organization's attention to the value of delivering information in the 90's.

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