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Choosing a Web Authoring Tool

BY: Barbara Draude, manager, Academic & Instructional Technology Services; Brenda Kerr, Instructional Technology Specialist; Curt Curry, Systems Analyst

There are many tools available to develop web materials, varying in components, features, learning curves, security, etc. ITD: Instructional Technology supports several of these tools for faculty or staff.

The first decision a faculty or staff member needs to consider is the purpose of their "web presence" and then decide which of these tools are best suited to their interests, time demands, and needed features. Below are brief descriptions of products that are available and supported on campus.

Desire2Learn (D2L)

Microsoft Office 2000 products (Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and Access)

Office files can be saved in HTML format for uploading onto a web page. These files can be used within other authoring tools, or can be transferred directly to a web page.

The option requires the faculty/staff to know the individual programs, the techniques for transferring files, and such things as setting "file permissions." The online editing features of FrontPage extensions can be used (even if not using FrontPage's authoring tools) for online editing of materials produced with the Office products.

A 4-hour ITD training Workshop teaches many concepts that are transferable to building web sites with other web authoring tools. Participants learn to use Word, PowerPoint's built-in feature to make graphics that illustrate educational concepts, PowerPoint's animated web presentations, and Excel's interactive web spreadsheets, charts, and pivot tables.

Netscape Composer and MTSU's Web Page Builder

This option uses the composer feature of the Netscape Communicator product available to faculty. After generating a home page, this authoring tool allows the faculty/staff members to continue the design process on their own.

This program is free and fairly easy to use. It does require knowledge about the techniques for transferring files from your PC to the server, and setting "UNIX file permissions." It does not allow online editing. Training in this tool is included in a 6-hour ITD Training Workshop.

Macromedia's Dreamweaver

This final option is a tool available for the more advanced web designer. Dreamweaver is a very powerful authoring tool for professional web design and production.

No ITD training classes on Dreamweaver are taught at this time, but the program is available in the ITD Instructional Technology area for faculty/staff use. It does not allow online editing, though the publishing feature automatically uploads your pages. Knowledge of file transfer and setting "file permissions" is required. This program would require more faculty/staff learning time.

>>> ITD's Dreamweaver FAQ

As more and more materials are being placed on web pages, authoring tools are continuing to evolve. Experienced web authors often use a variety of tools to reach their final product. Faculty/staff should consider their personal interests and skills in deciding which of the products best meet their needs.

For more information or assistance in choosing a program, please contact either ITD's Instructional Technology specialists or Web specialists.